The poker industry Poker

Poker’s image crisis

Written by Ben Blaschke

A friend of mine sent me a link a few days back to a story in a local newspaper discussing an up-coming poker tournament, and immediately I was taken aback by the photo that accompanied it – a young, sleazy looking guy sitting in a dark room smoking a cigarette and hurling two playing cards across the table.

Although the photo was an absurdly inaccurate representation of any casino poker room I’ve ever come across, it struck me that this is the image many out there who haven’t ever really played the game have of poker. Rather than the glamorous surrounds of the Venetian poker room, the impressive new digs of PokerStars LIVE Macau at City of Dreams or the incredibly well organized chaos that is the annual World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, many people still think of poker as a game played in dodgy back street bars with the risk of a bullet coming your way should you win money from the wrong guy.

While the idea of playing poker for a living seems like a dream come true for those who dabble from time to time, were you to tell the uninitiated you were a professional poker player they would look at you with a mix of apprehension and dread. And don’t even think that particular job title is going to get you anywhere if you’re applying for a loan at the bank!

This remains one of poker’s greatest challenges across the globe, not only in regards to attracting new players to the game but also pushing for governments in some countries to legalize such pursuits as online poker. It certainly remains a huge problem in the USA right now where although a small handful of states have made moves to liberalize the industry, many, many more are resisting. It’s the same in Australia, across Europe in some certain parts of Asia.

The only way the game we love is truly going to move forward is for us to change perceptions. That’s easier said than done, but wouldn’t it be great if names like Chris Moneymaker, Johnny Chan, Daniel Negreanu and Phil Ivey were one day as recognizable to the everyday man or woman in the street as the likes of LeBron James, Wayne Rooney or Manny Pacquiao? At least then they might be able to get the real message across.

And what about you? What do you know of poker in 2013? You’re probably reading this because you love the game, but perhaps that classic image I first evoked of the sleazy guy with a cigarette wasn’t too far from the mark?

If so, do yourself a favor – one afternoon soon when you’re looking for something to do, why not head down to your nearest casino and have a bit of fun at some low limit cash game tables? You might be surprised by what you find.