US sports TV network ESPN, the home of the World Series of Poker, has launched a play-for-free online poker site with a freeroll tournament offering player a seat at Harrah’s 2005 World Series of Poker. The 11-week Degree® All-In Poker Challenge on ESPN.com is a series of weekly qualifying tournaments that lead to a final 500-player tournament in May, with the winner earning a seat in the Harrah’s 2005 World Series of Poker.
The site has been developed by Canadian-based software firm Micropower and will also offer users advice and tips including exclusive columns from ESPN’s “Jackpot” Jay Lovinger and poker guru Phil Gordon.
ESPN also plans to launch a wireless poker game later this year, where players will be able to play-for-free against up to nine computer opponents.
The game will be available via several major mobile service providers between its March launch and early summer.
The ESPN play-for-free site is the first time a major US broadcaster has entered the online poker sector, and it expected to be the first of several similar projects launched during 2005.
It also puts ESPN into direct competition with firms such as Party Poker, Poker Stars and Full Tilt Poker, who have spent heavily on marketing their play-for-free sites on US TV.
The dot net sites from existing online poker firms have been seen as a way around advertising restriction for eGaming in the US.
There are hopes it will simply grow the Togel Singapore market, and ESPN online poker is part of a major poker marketing drive entitled ESPN Poker Club, which also includes a major new TV drama series TILT, DVDs of the WSOP and a range of consumer poker products.
ESPN’s television networks will show 38 original hours of professional poker during 2005, beginning with the US Poker Championships on March 24 and continuing with 32 hours of coverage of the 2005 Harrah’s World Series of Poker from July.
To book or not to book
My esteemed colleague is protective of his previous life as a sports book manager and so he should be. But he makes my argument for me. Things have to lighten up.
The books have changed over the last 10 to 15 years and, don’t get me wrong, I like the corporates just fine. The bottom line is making everyone happy. I just think the players need to get a few more breaks, otherwise there will be fewer customers and that hurts the gaming business.
On the subject of prop bets, why shouldn’t the player have the right to win a parlay that books may consider a disadvantage to the house? Parlays are difficult to win in any form. Hey, you can go 3-1 (75 percent) and lose. The minimum number of teams you can parlay is three, which gives the house a distinct advantage. And, that’s fine. No problem.
When dealing in baseball and the run line vs. the “over/under” comparison, the player doesn’t necessarily have an edge. The books are scared there would be a massive loss should a Randy Johnson-Curt Schilling match-up wind up “under” and either the Red Sox or Yankees win, say 1-0, 2-1 or 3-2.
Why not throw the players a bone? There are no guarantees in betting. If the house is so concerned about losing big, they can do one of two things. Either place a cap on the amount a customer can parlay, or don’t put up the match-up at all.
The sports book managers and directors are quality people and totally professional to deal with. They do come under enormous scrutiny from their superiors, as they should because of the large amount of money they handle each day. That’s understood and appreciated.
When I reflect upon what Vegas used to be, I recall the number of times my dad was comped at the Sands in Atlantic City. He would never tell me just how the hotel room was paid for: a trade-off for table game bets (he was a craps player). All I knew was that we were treated well and I always had fun.
That’s the way it was when I came to Vegas for the first time on my own. I wasn’t comped at first, but when I decided to sit at a $25 blackjack table the free deck of cards and extra night stays started coming my way. Again, that’s part of the method to make the customer happy and want to come back. That’s the way it should be.
Things have changed to some degree. The sports book managers are less likely to speak about policy because of the conservative nature of the higher-ups to clear all information. That policy relates to interviews and to wagers.
The smaller books, particularly the one-man operations, are more likely to cut the player a break. The Plaza is more likely to have a nickel line in baseball than the major Strip hotels. It’s the Plaza’s way of bringing the people downtown, and that’s intelligent marketing.
I have no general beef with the sports books or in the way Las Vegas gaming is run. Vegas has always been able to stay one step ahead of the other guys – that’s why this town is the entertainment capital of the world.
What I do believe is that Vegas bosses can’t be afraid to sometimes take one step back in order to take two forward. Throw the bettors a few lines and they’ll bite. Be more liberal with comps for the squares and let’s have more 99¢ specials not just early morning breakfasts.
A little of the old won’t hurt a lot of the new. The house is concerned with making money. Taking some of the restrictions off parlay betting will make that happen.