Friday, March 16, 2007

10,000 Bad WSOP Stories

If you want reliable news about poker do NOT go to the mainstream press.

Two days ago the WSOP top staff held a little teleconference and somewhere in there the number 10,000 was mentioned. I have now seen over two dozens press stories about that little 45 minutes of words and only one of those stories does not lead with the number 10,000. Despite the fact that WSOP commissioner Jeffery Pollack was clear and clear again that 10,000 was a high-end working number, that it was not a prediction, that numbers may indeed be down, that they measure their success by something other than numbers. Didn't matter, all the stories but one, blasted out the number 10,000!


First, none of these were news reports (save one) they were sensation pieces worthy only of the Enquirer or Hollywood Tonight. They were headlines for a toss-off filler story.

Second, very few of the "mainstream media" who asked the majority of the questions knew anything about poker, they had no experience and no context for the game and in particular for the World Series of Poker.

Three, the WSOP staff goofed. The number 10,000 never should have been mentioned. All the coverage they hoped to get from the teleconference was washed away by the mention of 10,000.

Four, to the rest of the world, poker is a game that fills up late night TV on some of those high-numbered cable channels.

Too often we think what is important to us is important to everyone else. It isn't.

Too often we think that news is reported to inform us. It isn't. News is a commodity that is used by various media outlets to fill-in between their advertising and political agenda.

If anyone cares. There will be less than 5,000 players in the Main Event of the 2007 World Series of Poker. If someone offers you an over/under bet at 4500, take the under.


BJ Nemeth said...

I think the mainstream media (AP) guy wrote his article ahead of time -- "The WSOP is coming soon, and they expect X number of players with a first prize of $Y." He just needed to plug in X and Y.

I understand why the mainstream press works that way, because of the time constraints on an article that is going to be buried in most papers. In that context, big numbers attract a reader's attention.


I listened to Dan's recording of the conference call, and Harrah's could not have made it more clear what that 10,000 number represented. It wasn't a prediction, a goal, or a cap -- it was a working number. If 4,000 players show up, they'll be ready. If by some miracle 11,000 players show up, they'll find a way to handle it.

But the mainstream press wasn't interested in anything but filling in the gaps of their pre-written stories.

You're 100% right -- Harrah's never should have mentioned "10,000" in any context. But it could have been worse. If Harrah's had let slip any clear indication that they expected fewer people than last year (rather than the vague implications), *that* would have been the lead story. And that would not have been good for poker.

I'm annoyed that the mainstream media screwed up the story, but it's probably a good thing for poker that mainstream audiences think it's going to be a huge event with 10,000 people in it.

Gene said...

I think the dramatic decrease in the Main Event field will drive home to Joe Average what effect the UIGEA has had on the game. If the casual out-of-the-loop poker fan expects 10,000 players at the Main Event and only 3,000 show up, he/she might ask, "How come?"

As ESPN almost certainly won't broach the subject, maybe folks will find their way to more enlightened sources of information. And maybe think a bit harder about how much government interference in their lives they're willing to accept.