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Top-10 things Aaron Todd was wrong about

20 September 2010

By Aaron Todd

So Phil Laak just won his first World Series of Poker bracelet at the WSOP Europe. The £2,500 buy-in Six-Handed No-Limit Hold'em championship gave Laak about $270,000 in prize money, and got a huge monkey off his back. I mean, even his girlfriend had a WSOP bracelet … you're not much of a poker pro these days, if you haven't gotten your hands on one yet.

Of course, the win also put me in my place. Less than two weeks earlier, I put Laak down as No. 2 on my list of the top-10 over-exposed poker pros — players who get more airtime than their performance on the felt truly merits. Oops.

It got me to thinking that I've gotten quite a bit wrong over the last few years. So here is my mea culpa — the top-10 things I've been wrong about at the Casino City Times over the past five years.

10. Electronic poker tables are the wave of the future
I'll admit it, I drank the Kool-Aid on this one. I was sure that PokerTek's PokerPro tables were going sweep into casinos from Foxwoods to the Bicycle. I played on one of the tables at the poker expo at the WSOP in 2006, and talked with the company's CEO at G2E later that year. I actually considered buying some stock in the company after talking with White – the price at the time was about $12/share. I'm glad I didn't. The stock closed at $.55 on Friday. PokerPro tables have made some headway on cruise ships and a few small casinos in the Midwest, and the WSOP-branded heads-up arcade games can be found in bars and pubs, but the tables have never really taken off in casinos with substantial poker rooms.

9. ComeOutPoker
In September, 2006, an online poker room opened expressly for the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender (GLBT) community, called ComeOutPoker. The site, which was a part of the now-defunct Bugsy Club network, had an interesting version of Hold'em titled "ComeOut Hold'em." The game was played in exactly the same way as Texas Hold'em, except that straights were eliminated from the hand hierarchy. While I didn't make any predictions about the site, it still deserves mention on this list.

8. Negreanu's protégé is the next big thing
In 2006, Daniel Negreanu ran a promotion through his old poker room, Full Contact Poker. The winner, Brian Fidler, got $40,000 in tournament buy-ins plus a chance to learn from Negreanu. Fidler started off with a bang, winning a WSOP Circuit event in Lake Tahoe for more than $200,000. Since then, Fidler has posted three cashes for a total of $12,626. Of course, he may have only played three tournaments and cashed in all three. But even if that is the case, Fidler certainly hasn't become a household name.

7. Phil Laak is overexposed
I've already laid out the case for this one. Laak is a great self-promoter, a genuinely interesting person, and one of the brightest minds in the game. His recent WSOP bracelet takes him off the "greatest players that haven't won a bracelet" list, and also gives me another chance to say "I was wrong."

6. The $50,000 Poker Players Championship will draw a record number in 2010
No article to back this up, but you can listen to our Casino City Gang podcast to hear my prediction. I thought that the improving economy, combined with the fact that the event was being broadcast by ESPN again this year, would give players more opportunities for sponsorship and result in a record field of at least 150 players in the WSOP's biggest buy-in event. Guess what? I was wrong. The tournament drew 116 players, the second-smallest field the tournament (previously a $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event) has drawn.

And speaking of the H.O.R.S.E. event …

5. Final table of the $50K event should be played as a mixed game
I was convinced that the first $50,000 event, a H.O.R.S.E. tournament that played no-limit Hold'em at the final table, was a made-for-TV disgrace. The next three years, the format was changed to just H.O.R.S.E., even at the final table. But after showing the event in 2007 and 2008, ESPN opted not to broadcast the 2009 event, as viewers weren't tuning in to watch the mixed game. The increased complexity of stud and split-pot games didn't play well on TV. When the event switched to an eight-game format in 2010, it also switched back to no-limit Hold'em at the final table, and as a result, found its way back on ESPN.

4. Subscription-based poker will thrive in the U.S.
Part of the reason I keep falling for these ideas because I live in the U.S., and no company can run an Internet poker site from within U.S. borders without some sort of gimmick. In this case, the gimmick is that players would pay a monthly fee to have access to tournaments. The model just doesn't seem to work. PurePlay and the ZEN Network still exist, but SpadeClub recently closed its doors, and it seems that PurePlay is just waiting to throw the switch to run real-money games if/when Internet poker is licensed and regulated in the United States.

3. Duplicate poker will thrive in the U.S.
Do you see a theme here? I wrote a lot of articles about sites that looked to get around the UIGEA by offering poker in a slightly different way. By running poker tournaments in the same way you'd run a duplicate bridge tournament, e-pokerusa.com clearly made poker a skill game. But it just didn't seem right to win a hand and lose chips (chip counts were determined by players' ability to maximize value on winning hands and minimize losses on losing ones), and the site never gained traction and shut down a few years ago.

2. Elimination blackjack is the next poker
I tried to like elimination blackjack. I really did. But it was unbearable, both on TV and in person. The game just doesn't translate well to tournament play, and is really cumbersome to play without a dealer. I don't think I've seen an elimination blackjack tournament on TV or live since writing this story.

1. Thwart Poker
I really can't believe that the first story I wrote for the Casino City Times was about Thwart Poker. While the site still operates, it's hard for me to believe that throngs of people are playing it. If you want to learn more about the game, read the original article. But I was so wrong on this one, I'm going to sit out rehashing any more details about the game again.
Top-10 things Aaron Todd was wrong about is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd has covered the gambling industry since 2006. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and (his personal favorite) Badeuci.

Since graduating from St. Lawrence University, Aaron has worked as a journalist covering the gambling industry and as a communications specialist in college athletic departments.

A native of a small town in New York just south of Ottawa, Aaron lives in Needham, Mass., with his wife and three children. Write to Aaron at aarontodd@casinocity.com, and follow him on Twitter @CasinoCity_AT.