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Monday, October 09, 2006 

Are Circuit Events Drying Up?

A close friend and dealer at the Tunica event offered this question to the folks at PokerXtreme.com and went on to say the following:

Are Circuit Events Drying Up?

Awol77 write “Adam, you might be able to shed an opinion on this one...
Last year this event brought over 300 players who forked over $10k to play. This year there were 200 players paying $5k. No television cameras either. All in all it was a pretty weak showing.

I did hear that the Apollo Group bought Harrahs on Wednesday. Maybe they will do something with it. Harrahs has no interest in poker so maybe they should think of selling the WSOP. It might be a good move for them and poker.”

My response to the above was as follows:

Short answer? Yes

I did some poking around on this topic after I returned from Tunica. I really wanted to explore the reasons why this field was so small. To be exact, the field consisted of 196 players paying a $5,000 entry fee. The popular consensus on various blogs and other outletts tends to lean toward the lack of television affiliation and for the most part, I agree. Without television, fewer big name players attend, less big cash games, poor local economy as a result. Hell...they probably made more money off of the dealers then they did the regional players making it in for 2 days.

Did you know that Circuit Events do not cover dealers accommodations? A daily rate of $34 per room is deducted from the monetary gains a dealer makes while working for the WSOP. Multiply that by 14 plus days with 60+ dealers, and you get the idea. At least, this is how it broke down in Tunica. Compare that to the WPT providing suites for dealers at no cost at all. If you can’t treat your hired help properly, how do you expect the public to react? And don’t event get me started on the dealer debacle at the 2006 WSOP in Vegas.

Compare the coverage this tournament received to WPT events or the World Series of Poker in Vegas. They've reduced the circuit event to nothing more then what farm leagues are to Major League Baseball. I think I saw 2 larger publications reporting there for the main event and two well known and respected bloggers. Hell, one of reporters/photographers was directly affiliated with the WSOP.com site where they charge you nearly $40 for your own photograph. The draw and appeal are gone without national coverage. Without Gabe Kaplan, we are nothing, lol. Joke.

The Circuit Events should be just as special as the yearly WSOP on a somewhat smaller scale. Each player at a WPT event truly feels they have a chance to make a "Life Change" if they take down first place. Circuit Events in their current state do not offer that key incentive. I hate to use this analogy, but a circuit event should be like a Broadway show that takes it's show on the road. No matter which city it ventures to, each show is sold out well in advance. Along with that comes marketing for each venue sometimes over a year in advance. Spend the marketing dollars to generate the interest, get the key players there along with a television audience and make these events special. Do you need an event every month? No. Cut the events down and make each specific event "special".

What I'm getting at here is that without the right owners, circuit events will continue to dwindle. Without the right marketing/advertising front runners, circuit events will be obsolete in less than 2 years. To take a $10k event and reduce the buy-in to $5k is not the answer. Spend the money to make the money. Appeal to the prima donna's, make them happy and attract the regional and national players. Get the t.v. deals lined up. Consider new markets such as video web casts, podcasts, etc. Hell, look how successful Live at the Bike is. For a monthly subscription, you have live poker ALL THE TIME. People are eating it up. With the right support, the circuit events should be HUGE. This SHOULD be what the PGA Tour is to golf.

In the end, you need an innovative group of people that not only have the marketing savvy, but a love and passion for the game and the desire to push it forward. I plead to the powers that be not to let this become a stagnant event. You have the brand, you have the technology....use it to make it better! In today's day and age, I should not have to wait 3 days after a tournements main event ends to determine the winner. The technology is available for live updates. Get the chips implemented and start with the circuit events. This alone would be huge! While some might think various markets are saturated with poker, I beg to differ. I thoroughly believe with the added benefits of technology, poker will become far more interactive from a players pespective as well as a fan's perspective.

Is the Apollo Group the answer? Who knows. Really depends on their vision for poker. This could make or break a great vision.

Sorry for the rant...


Hey Adam, Ben from Knoxville here. I think you may be a little off on the line of the circuit events dwindling. I don't think this past Tunica event was marketed as much and I believe it was a shorter amount of time than some others. I say go back again in January and you'll see a much busier event in total. 1st in the $500 opening weekend event paid out $170K I believe. I can't remember what Negreanu made for 1st, in the main event of that circuit. I could be wrong though, I think Jan in Tunica is probably very busy for poker anyway, with both WSOPC and WPT being in town.

Honestly Ben, I hope you're right. And I'm certainly not giving up on these events. They still very much cater to my game and style. But my question would be though, Negreanu participated when he knew cameras would be present...this year, will he even be there? We shall see. In the end, it boils down to the front office and how they proceed. After re-reading my line of thinking...I still very much believe that with the right marketing team, the circuit events could overtake WPT popularity.

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