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Poker Pros – Wake Up and Smell the Coffee!

Posted by Mike Sexton & filed under Mike Sexton, The Rail.

Recently, I’ve been disappointed and frankly, disgusted, with what I perceive to be a lack of professionalism by some poker pros. I feel many have no vision for the future or an understanding of the present. They can’t see the forest for the trees. They don’t see the big picture – growing our industry and making it a better place to play and/or work in and doing what it takes to bring sponsorship into the poker world. They just live in their own little worlds.

Some examples

Here are some recent examples of things that have irked me. I played in the LAPC and was sitting next to a two-time WPT champion on Day 1. He was supposed to do a segment on our show called “5 Questions” the next morning. (This is where our anchor asks questions to a top pro about a number of topics. This segment obviously promotes the pro and benefits any sponsor he/she may have.) The producer came over to our table and verified the shoot time of 11:30 am and introduced the anchor (Marianela Pereyra) who would be doing the interview. Everything was jake.

The next morning, the crew came in to put up the set at 9 am, Marianela Pereyra drove an hour to get to the casino, did hair and make-up, and ‘voila’, the pro was a no show. He apparently was up all night and didn’t answer his cell phone or the banging on his door. The WPT was out productions costs and had to re-do the segment later at additional costs – and ‘yes’, with another pro. (Note: This is a nice guy who just spaced out. He made a mistake and apologized.)

At a recent WPT final table, I looked at the six finalists and saw four wearing T-shirts and another in a sweat shirt. At other final tables this season, I’ve seen players wearing shorts and flip-flops. Look, I played poker for a living for a long time. I understand wanting to be comfortable while you’re playing, etc. Is it to much, however, to expect players to wear collared shirts, long pants, and shoes and socks on a televised final table?

Why not a dress code for poker?

Every sport has a dress code. Why can’t poker? And don’t tell me, “I’ll wear what they want when they add money to the prize pool.” If it wasn’t for televised poker, the prize pools wouldn’t be half what they are today. Players need to recognize it costs a lot of money to produce a WPT show and that these shows benefit them. They also need to know that television is what promotes our industry and helps it grow. IMHO, they need to do their part to help make the TV show better. And to me, showing up for their player interviews and dressing decent at a final table isn’t asking that much.

Remember 10-12 years ago? Prior to the WPT, nearly every casino in the country was cutting back on staff and/or eliminating poker rooms altogether. Because of television, poker popularity exploded and poker rooms began expanding and popping up everywhere. This not only enabled more people to make a living playing poker, but created many more jobs, and not just within poker rooms, but with poker portals, media outlets, new poker magazines, player rep’s and assistants, etc.

The Box is our friend

TV really helps promote our industry. Players need to realize that their actions and/or behavior have a ripple down effect on the entire industry. If we lose the TV shows, you’ll see poker become less popular which will cause a wave of cutbacks on jobs within our industry. Like it or not, players who make televised final tables and win big tournaments are the players who represent our industry in the public eye and in the media. I believe they need to be more responsible, become leaders, and do their part to help the industry grow and help us gain sponsorship.

We’ve had sponsorship in the past, primarily from online sites, but I believe sponsorship could be a force in the future once online poker is legalized and regulated (which is going to happen). When that legal ‘gray area’ is eliminated in the minds of business’s, I think it’s possible we might obtain sponsorships not only from online sites, but from beer companies, soft drink companies, energy drink companies, automobile companies, clothing companies, airlines, casino’s, etc. That probably won’t happen, however, unless we ‘earn’ sponsorship by proving we are a marketable industry.

If you were a corporation contemplating where to put advertising and marketing money, would it be with unshaven, irresponsible, and slobbish looking poker players? I doubt it. Boxing trainer Angelo Dundee once said to Sugar Ray Leonard in the later rounds of a fight, “You’re blowing it kid. You’re blowing it.” (Sugar Ray came back to win that fight.) Well, in my view, we’re blowing it unless we get our act together.

What to do?

So what can players do to help?

  1. Be professional (such as being courteous to poker staffs and not verbally abuse other players),
  2. Be responsible and on time,
  3. Fulfill all media requests,
  4. Sign autographs and take pictures with fans when asked,
  5. If you’re fortunate enough to make televised final tables, dress nicely,
  6. Continue to support charity events and
  7. If poker is your profession, to paraphrase John Kennedy, “Ask not what the poker industry can do for you, ask what you can do for the poker industry.”

Poker Pros – “Wake up and smell the coffee!”