In the mid 2000's the game was everywhere, fueled by the money of online poker rooms. Poker opportunists were everywhere too. But, there was no vision, just a gold rush - and like any rush, it stopped. Whilst there are more than 100 million casual poker fans in the world, the game suffers from a tainted image that doesn't reflect its reality.
My vision is to change that image and to make people see that not only is Poker a game but it's a sport and great proposition for entertainment too. The industry needs a shake-up and that's what I'm here to do - tip it on its head, rebuild and reinvigorate the game so that it gets the audience it so rightfully deserves.
Poker is a Game.
I've been a poker entrepreneur for 11 years and I've lived through the ups and downs and the cyclical revolutions of the game. A few months ago, I conducted some surveys to prepare the launch of our future businesses. More than 30% indicated that they either played poker themselves or know friends that do. More interesting, it was 52% for the 18-24yo and 55% for the 25-34yo (*).
Poker is and always will be a game, to be played with friends or family. Even the advert for the last season of Modern Family was a picture of all the actors playing poker together. It is mainstream.
Poker is a Sport.
Is Poker a sport? That's a rhetorical question. Yes and no. It is a mind sport, a skill game. You can watch it on ESPN, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, Eurosport and many other channels. Is it because it's broadcasted on a sport channel that makes it a sport? No. Poker is a competitive game, like any other sport. You play tennis, you play football, you play rugby, you play poker.
Being a high-level poker professional today requires a very healthy lifestyle. When you look at the best poker players, the players that are travelling all over the world and make a living from these competitions, they are all very fit and most of them are training every single day to be physically and mentally prepared for the competition. After all, each hand, each game is a fight against another opponent. The game of poker today, is not the same it was 10 years ago. The top players aren't either.
Poker is Entertainment.
More than three million people play poker everyday - for free - on Facebook without any hope of earning money or prizes. Millions of people are watching poker shows on TV and most important, more are watching real-time poker competitions on livestream. It is thrilling to watch poker, there is an inspirational aspect that makes you believe - rightfully - that you could be sat there, next to the champions.
No other game, no other sport, gives you that opportunity. Poker has a strong entertainment value proposition. It is very easy to understand and it is very easy to try.
What's next for poker?
Consumption of games, sport and entertainment has changed significantly in the last five years. The emergence of eSports, the mobility of consumers, the need of fast pace content and strong engagement forces the poker industry to re-invest itself. Poker is no longer competing against casino games or sports betting, but against the video game industry and a broader entertainment proposition.
Poker has a large but fragmented global fan base that needs aggregation, innovation and disruption to be re-activated. I believe we need to enhance the game, create proper fan engagement - that doesn't exist anymore - and build content to fulfill an existing appetite.
* GCS - 1,004 surveyed - General Population in US - August 2014