01/01/2006

Another Year in Paradise

Ashley Alterman 'The Poker Cynic'

I've commented before on the lack of originality shown by producers of poker on TV, but having watched Simon Trumper talking about poker etiquette, I take it all back.

In a bizarre attempt to recreate the Mel Brooks film The Producers, crazy horse, Ram Vaswani, European Poker hot shot, found a jockey for the Bellagio $15,000 main event in December. Gambling visionary Ram is on a hot streak, turning lead into gold, and made this a winning proposition, collecting his share of the jockey’s purse.

Barney finished what was a tough year on a high note scoring well in the same main event at the Bellagio coming 18th ; not to mention making a major contribution to the field of selling dodgy videos with Phil (I know nothing about this, but I know a man who does) Tufnell.

John Gale has been demonstrating that one swallow does not a summer make (after winning a WPT title early in 2005 in the Caribbean), and has become addicted to winning large amounts of money every time he enters a tournament. The last major cash John made was $252,000 in the $5000NLH in the 5 Diamond Classic coming 2nd.This is Johns third six figure cash this year for a total of $1,346,000 not to mention the $100,000 for the smaller places - pocket money.

Andy Black has rejoined the Irish Team as a result of the $1.7m he won for his 5th place at the World Series and is now reinvesting in the tournament circuit. "A few of us Europeans play the WPT" Andy explained for the benefit of the provincial UK audience, now that he had played at least two of the events, and has the bankroll to play as many more as he chooses. The Irish don't normally allow people who have only finished 5th onto the team, but given the increased fields and prize money not to mention prodigious talent, an exception was made.

Party Poker demonstrated how to get the lot in 2005 by manipulating the market, their associates and their customers with apparent ease. First, you set up an Online Poker Site and aim to be the biggest. To ensure you have more players than anyone else, you allow other sites to use your site and become a skin or satellite. You pay the other sites a percentage of the rake that their players generate, so they earn money, your site earns more money, and your customer base increases. It appears that you have 70,000 players on line, but in reality 30 or 40,000 of them are from other sites and are earning you less than your core business. However, when going public your net worth is vastly increased by the addition of all these players, so Party benefited from this strategy and did very well from their public flotation.

Now comes the real stroke of genius. One weekend in October, Party cut off all its affiliate sites that it had been paying a rake back to, and lost about 30,000 players at a stroke, but now all its customers were paying the full rake. Most players found that the sites they were on were not providing them with enough options once the Party Poker games were withdrawn. So people started to return to Party Poker, or join it for the first time, and ignore the sites that they had been playing on. Within about two weeks the numbers of players on Party Poker had returned to the 65- 70,000 level they were at previously. So you allow your competitors to grow your business for you, and feed you with an ever increasing stream of players, before cutting them off at the knees, and then sit back and watch as the players leave the sinking ships of the other sites, and join Party Poker because that's where the action is. Ruthless efficient and smart. Words that can never be applied to UK casino management. If in doubt, visit Luton.

I look forward to playing more live this year, even though civilised conversation is not always possible. The chance to broaden my mind by playing with natives from Lancashire to Las Vegas is too good miss. The main problem is that the ones with something to say never talk, and the others never shut up. One often learns as much from the ignoramus as from the expert, but personally, I'd settle for an Ipod to drown out the noise. Optimism is laudable, but it’s good to have back up.

If you are going to be playing poker, I wish you luck; you’ll need it. If you read this and you don't play poker, you are already well ahead and don't need any help.