PUBLISHERS COLUMN: Poker players should be more aware of image

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Remember when Andre Agassi used to have a lion’s mane for a hairdo, before genetics played its cruel hand and forced him to shave his head? He sported hideous neon apparel as he darted around the tennis court, looked into the camera and said, “Image is everything!” Agassi and Canon were on to something.

Mike Sexton, one of poker’s greatest ambassadors, recently called out poker pros, essentially telling them they’re missing the boat when it comes to corporate sponsorships and that it’s their fault. His main point was many pros at our prestigious events do nothing to enhance their (and poker’s) image, especially when they make a televised final table. Their appearance (clothing, attitude or hygiene) lacks the image or professionalism needed to attract corporations. How can Ford Motor Co. or Coca-Cola be willing to throw money at prize pools when, for instance, players wear flip-flops and shorts at the final table of a nationally televised charity event that has history’s largest payout?

Granted, one of the most attractive aspects of playing poker for a living is strolling into a poker room when you want, wearing what you want. And it’s fine if players want to continue to do that, just don’t complain about a lack of seeded prize pools like what the PGA Tour secures every week.

Among Sexton’s suggestions was a dress code. If you want corporations to desire a partnership with the poker industry, then make yourself attractive. One way to do that is to enforce standards. Why not start small and ask final-table participants to wear presentable clothing? This is already done, for the most part, in that players are restricted to the size and types of patches they can wear. How many times have you seen black tape adhered to the half-screwed-on baseball cap of a young player at a WPT final table? A dress code is just one step above this.
Even Agassi had to wear all white when he played Wimbledon. Do you think he would’ve skipped the world’s most prestigious tennis event because he couldn’t wear his fluorescent bicycle shorts on Centre Court? How many players do you believe would skip the WSOP main event because they had to agree to wear proper attire if they made the Octo-Nine? Sure, the WSOP and WPT could insist on a dress code for televised events, but players ultimately need to take responsibility for themselves, and maybe then they’ll see the corporate money.

We’ll see you at the tables.

— Christopher Cosenza and Scott Long