With just 137 of the 254 eligible players competing in last week’s inaugural Epic Poker League Main Event, there were obviously a lot of people who decided to pass on the new tournament. There are any number of reasons someone might not have wanted to play: prior commitment, didn’t want to pony up the $20,000 buy-in, didn’t feel that a field full of pros had a positive EV, or simply just didn’t feel like it. One of the most noticeable absences was fan favorite Daniel Negreanu. Unlike other who simply didn’t play, he was not shy with explaining why he opted out of the event.
On Thursday, Negreanu provided answers in a lengthy blog post on his website, Full Contact Poker. In the intro, he summarized by writing, “…I don’t believe this product will resonate with the public and based on my intimate knowledge of how these types of things work, I don’t think it’s possible to bring in enough revenue to survive. The only legitimate chance the league has to survive is if regulation happened in the U.S. and they were able to create an online poker site.”
He elaborates, saying that the Epic Poker League is simply spending far more money that it can bring in. The league is adding $400,000 to each of the four Main Event prize pools plus $1,000,000 for championship tournament. Add that to the other costs of running the events and the time buy with CBS, and Negreanu feels that this is too much to recoup via sponsorships. As he noted:
“The WSOP is the world’s most prestigious brand at this point with hundreds of hours of poker programming on TV, and yet they have been unsuccessful in bringing in major money from mainstream sponsors. Ty Stewart, a straight shooter/great guy, and the man behind all of the sponsors the WSOP has been able to bring in over the years, struggles to entice mainstream sponsorship. We have Jack Links and Dearfoam slippers, but there isn’t a Lexus, or Caddilac [sic] type brand that’s stepped up to the plate at this point.”
Negreanu believes that league management, which includes former WSOP head Jeffrey Pollack (Executive Chairman) and Annie Duke (Executive Vice President and League Commissioner), are hoping that they can parlay the Epic Poker brand into an eventual online poker site, when and if online poker is fully legalized and regulated in the United States. Until then, he says, Epic Poker will need to figure out a way to popularize the young generation of players with the general public, who still don’t know many names past Chris Moneymaker and Johnny Chan.
In a post on the Two Plus Two poker forums, Negreanu added, “This concept cannot work, and it’s failure will make network execs wary about every giving poker another shot. So the inevitable fail of this league does put a black mark on our industry in terms of how its viewed by the mainstream. PPT, Face the Ace, Epic is akin to strike three.”
“This isn’t a question of ‘Am I rooting for it to fail’ or not,” he added. “From the people I’ve discussed this with, very smart people with a legitimate understanding of our industry, it’s drawing completely dead. There is nothing for me to ‘root for’ or against. If I thought I could help a brand create a new league/series that helps put money in players pockets and will work, I’d absolutely back it. Something like that may happen, it’s just not this.”