Daniel Negreanu on the Epic Poker League

Poker Players | estimated reading time
2011. August 12. |
Already during the monumental Quadjacks interview we have summarised, Daniel Negreanu expressed his views on the Epic Poker League, the latest project from commissioner Annie Duke and chairman Jeffrey Pollack. In his recent blog post, the Canadian pro goes into details about his views on the EPL.
Although it would probably be safe to assume that Daniel Negreanu not playing the Epic Poker League is the solution that suits everyone involved the best, given the facts the he could have hardly been ignored when taking the world’s top 200 players into consideration and that he and league commissioner Annie Duke are on less than friendly terms, he seems to have a number of additional reasons as well.

Earlier this month, in an epic interview presented by Quadjacks.com, Negreanu, opposing Mike Matusow, stated: “If I play in this thing, I'm supporting it, but I don't think it will get to season two. How are they going to create something that makes enough money to keep this sustainable? This thing, I don't know.... There is no idea how they will keep this running. My question is: where is this money coming from? I don't believe in it, I don't believe in the concept...”

Negreanu vs Epic Poker League

Just a reminder: The Epic Poker League is an invitational set of events for the top 200 players of the world, selected according to different criteria for the different membership statuses. The $20,000 rake-free, $400,000 added, 6-max first event has just come to its final table with some of the greatest names of the industry competing for the $1 million first prize: Erik Seidel, Gavin Smith, Jason Mercier and Huck Seed, to name some of them.

Now, Negreanu has since posted in his blog why exactly he had refused to take part in the League, apart from the aforementioned, seemingly obvious reasons. “I didn't think it would be a success,” he writes. “Not just because of the bizarre choice in name, but because 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.

“Jeffrey Pollack wouldn't admit that to you publicly, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to do the math here. Millions of dollars being given away to players, money spent on a TV time buy, money spent on staff, etc. with no way of recouping those funds through licensing or sponsorship. Networks aren't going to pay you for poker programming because the necessary ratings just aren't there…”


He then goes on to explain that even the renowned WSOP has trouble finding mainstream sponsorship. “The Epic Poker League has 7 hours on CBS and 13 hours on a network that is yet to launch. That pales in comparison to the hundreds of hours of coverage [of the WSOP (ed.)] on ESPN. Does anyone really believe that Jeffrey will be able to pull in enough money from sponsorship to sustain the amount of money going out the door? I'm always careful about what I attach my name and likeness to, and after doing my due diligence on the "business plan" I don't think this league can succeed. Of course I could be wrong... but I'm not.”

Negreanu also believes that the only chance the EPL has is to generate a new “boom” but he is sceptical about it happening anytime soon: “The best thing that happened to the EPL to date was Black Friday. If Black Friday didn't happen, the first event wouldn't have gotten off the ground… People talk about another boom in the U.S., but the more realistic view sees poker as a popular niche sport followed religiously by die hards, that will never quite regain the popularity it once enjoyed... and that's OK. Many parts of the world are experiencing a boom much like the one we had here in the U.S., but there is no reason to think that the EPL will be able to create a boom in the U.S. that rivaled the original Moneymaker boom.”

He explains that there is a gap between the truly elite, knowledgeable players who might win in such a hardcore field, and those showmen the mainstream audience would like to see onscreen (who are still excellent players but are likely to run –EV in such a contest). Therefore, those with a real chance in the EPL would normally attract only a smaller circle of fans and so they have a lesser TV value, which keeps the sponsors away.

“I get the enthusiasm,” the Poker Kid summarises his opinion, “and understand why the hype has convinced people otherwise, but the league's financial structure is fundamentally flawed from a revenue standpoint and is doomed to be an #epicfail. For the truly elite players, this is free money for them in terms of EV, but the vast majority of entrants are just not good enough to show a profit against this super tough field.”

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