by Russ Fox
Epic Poker: A Tournament Too Far One of my favorite books is Cornelius Ryan’s A Bridge Too Far. It details the World War II Battle of Arnhem, a failed Allied offensive. With the announcement of Federated Sports + Gaming filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy we have a poker equivalent of Operation Market Garden.
The Epic Poker tournament was designed to bring something like the Professional Golf Association (PGA) to the poker community. Like the PGA, you would have to be a high-ranked tournament player or win an entry through a qualifying tournament in order to enter an Epic League event. The Epic series featured added money of $400,000 per tournament and a $1 million season-ending freeroll for the top 27 players during the four-tournament Epic series. I watched a bit of the third Epic tournament and it was clear that Epic spared no expense. Their motto was “Players first,” and they meant it. Matt Savage, arguably the best tournament director, ran the tournaments. Players received generous comps, and free drinks were provided for the players. The ending stages of the tournaments were shown on television through a time-buy on Velocity and CBS—which means that Epic paid to have them shown, like those late night infomercials for Genuine Imitation Samurai Swords. Money was spent like there was no tomorrow.
Many questioned what Federated’s strategy was. After Black Friday, there was no chance of getting sponsorship from an online poker site. Maybe Federated was planning an online site of their own because they did have a Facebook app for online play. While I am convinced we will see legalized online poker soon, even the most optimistic observer would have said last summer that online play in the US wasn’t happening before the end of 2011.
Sometimes the skeptics are right: There was no coherent strategy. Federated’s bankruptcy filing likely ends the Epic Poker League. Jeffrey Pollack’s statement (http://bit. ly/AiFTLC) said, “[I]t is our full intention to complete, as planned, Season One of the Epic Poker League. However, we do not yet know when Event 4 and the Season One Championship will be staged.” If you understand the mechanics of Chapter 11, the answer is obvious. Federated filed for Chapter 11—a reorganization of the entity. In Chapter 11 the debtors of the company usually emerge as the owners. Contracts can and are often abrogated.
Business units that are unprofitable get shut down. In the end, a leaner and meaner company emerges. This is all subject to the approval of a bankruptcy court; the bankruptcy plan must be approved by the creditors. Federated does have a money-making division. The Heartland Poker Tour is profitable. If you were a creditor of Federated, would you vote to continue to spend money on the Epic Poker League or would you vote to shutter it? I’ve been a CFO and one thing is quite clear: If you lose money selling something you’re not going to make it up in volume. Expect the Heartland Poker Tour to continue while the Epic Poker League will wither.
For players who have qualified for or expect to qualify for Epic’s Season One Championship, this means that you should not expect to play in the event. Nor do I expect Event 4 to happen any time soon. You’ll have a better chance waiting for Godot. The concept of the Epic Poker League is quite good. However, like the Tournament of Champions, it was an event that was before it’s time.
Russell Fox is the co-author of “Mastering No-Limit Hold’em,” “Why You Lose at Poker,” and “Winning Strategies for No-Limit Hold’em.” He’s a federally licensed tax preparer specializing in gambling, with a blog at taxabletalk.com. E-mail Russ at email@example.com