By Randall S. Kasper, Esq.
In the evolution of any sport, there are epic off-the-field moments that forever change the respective genres of the industry. More often than not, these “business-side” events are viewed as mundane by the masses, who prefer to focus on the performance of the players or teams. Little fanfare accompanied renaming the NFL Championship the Super Bowl, migrating NASCAR from the beach in Daytona to a dirt track (and then a paved surface), playing baseball under lights or the NBA absorbing the ABA.
Recognizing these seemingly innocuous changes as monumental typically happens years later in a collective conscience aha moment. The visionaries retreat to their offices to brainstorm their next advancement and become footnotes or at best have a trophy named after them.
To their credit, the innovators most often prefer to remain behind the scenes; they are simply trying to better their corner of the world for the masses. Aug. 5 marked an epic moment for the poker industry as cards were in the air for the inaugural series of the Federated Sports & Gaming’s Epic Poker League.
The Epic Poker League will change our industry in such a positive manner; properly understood it will immediately be recognized as monumental. Much attention will focus on players, but the nature of our game combined with the sheer number and depth of innovations (announced and yet to come) will render it impossible for Jeffrey Pollack, Annie Duke and the incredible team they have assembled to become footnotes to this story.
When the EPL was announced, it was met with generally positive acceptance, but heavy skepticism. Who needs another league? Why exclude players? What are they doing that will actually be good for poker? We have the WPT and the WSOP, two incredibly run companies with fantastic events, why should I care about Epic? A reminder: It was Pollack and Duke at the helm; rest assured they could place their trust and confidence this league would live up to its name.
Between the announcement of the league and the inaugural event, look at what they have delivered:
• They developed the most accurate, fair and objective ranking system our industry has seen (Global Poker Index), based on data compiled by the most reliable and responsive tournament recording service, the Hendon Mob (thehendonmob.com).
• They instituted a 2-, 3- and 5-year tour card system, which will not only ensure just recognition for the 230-plus players who qualified, but will serve to inspire hundreds of top professionals around the world to qualify and cause countless thousands of others to strive for the dream.
• They announced an inaugural season schedule that includes five series at the Palms, each series including a pro/am open to all comers, a charity event and $2,600,000 in guaranteed added prize money from non-endemic sponsors.
• They acquired the Heartland Poker Tour, which will be utilized to engage a much wider mass of players and provide them the opportunity to earn their tour cards.
• They announced the first Standards and Conduct Committee for a poker tournament series and implemented the most liberal and fair logo policy for its players.
• They added Michael Craig as executive director of the content for the league’s website (epicpoker.com). He’s widely recognized as a top writer in the industry and his plans for the site are visionary. For the first time, great players who aren’t poker celebrities will get their just kudos. Beyond that, we’ll be able to follow players on the cusp of qualifying for the league on their journey to achieve this career milestone.
• They announced a television deal for all events to be broadcast on CBS and Velocity with a star-studded team.
All this in just a few short months, and there is much more to come. Epic is a league for all players, the entire industry and fans. It’s designed to work within the existing poker landscape, to serve as an example that our industry is a great one, but that it can improve as it matures.
In stark contrast to the recent developments in online poker, Epic illustrates and highlights the giving nature of our community, its democratic and inclusive process, charity and a move toward professionalism, which will enhance credibility for poker on a universal level.
— Randall S. Kasper, Esq. is co-founder of Poker Players International, the world’s largest poker agency (ppipoker.com). You can email him at randy@pokerplayersinternationa l.com.