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Daniel Negreanu: Epic Poker League Will be Epic Failure

Written by:
Jagajeet Chiba
Published on:
Aug/11/2011
Epic Poker League

Never afraid to speak his mind, poker pro Daniel Negreanu has spoken out against the newly formed “pro-only invitational” Epic Poker League.

Negreanu has decided to sit out the newborn event and it is no secret that he and Epic Commissioner Annie Duke have little love for one another.  A few months back, he referred to Duke as a “f***ing c***”. 

Negreanu wrote on his blog:

Many of you have asked me why I have chosen not to support, or participate in the Epic Poker League, and while I have a laundry list of reasons, I'd point out that I chose not to take part in the World Team Poker event for one sole reason: I didn't think it would be a success. The same holds true with the Epic Poker League. Not just because of the bizarre choice in name, but because I don't believe this product will resonate with the public and based on my intimate knowledge of how these types of things work, I don't think it's possible to bring in enough revenue to survive. The only legitimate chance the league has to survive is if regulation happened in the U.S. and they were able to create an online poker site.

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Negreanu points to the costs involved in running such a league and the obstacles involved in finding deep pocket sponsors. 

The WSOP is the world's most prestigious brand at this point with hundreds of hours of poker programming on TV, and yet they have been unsuccessful in bringing in major money from mainstream sponsors.

He goes on:

I'm always careful about what I attach my name and likeness to, and after doing my due diligence on the "business plan" I don't think this league can succeed. Of course I could be wrong... but I'm not.

There is, of course, a bit of irony in Negreanu’s statement in regards to who he chooses to align himself with.  After all, The Canadian-born poker pro acts as the primary spokesperson for PokerStars, a company that was forced out of the US market back in April after its co-founders were charged with money laundering and bank fraud. 

Negreanu eventually takes a back-handed slap at Annie Duke by failing to mention her among the so-called “elite” players who will not be participating in the league.  Ms. Duke, after all, helped bring a whole new audience to the online poker realm through her appearance on the Celebrity Apprentice two years ago, where she made the final cut against Comedian Joan Rivers. 

To this day, while the die hards may be in awe of names like Galen Hall, Randal Flowers, Matt Hawirlenko, Sam Stien, and Isaac Haxton, when the mainstream audience thinks of poker they think of names like Chris Moneymaker, Phil Ivey, Scotty Nguyen, Johnny Chan, Mike Matusow, Gus Hansen, and Doyle Brunson (none of whom played in the first event).

Negreanu also fails to mention Phil Hellmuth (especially after his stellar performance at this year’s World Series of Poker), probably the most recognizable name in poker today, who is taking part in the tournament. 

Mr. Negreanu closed with the following:

I get the enthusiasm, and understand why the hype has convinced people otherwise, but the league's financial structure is fundamentally flawed from a revenue standpoint and is doomed to be an #epicfail. For the truly elite players, this is free money for them in terms of EV, but the vast majority of entrants are just not good enough to show a profit against this super tough field.

The saddest fallacy at this point is that a lot of these players believe that the 'exposure" they might attain from being on TV could land them some kind of endorsement money...unfortunately, after Black Friday, that ship has sailed in the U.S. If a random player with a less than interesting story/personality wins the first TWO EPL's, that isn't going to get him any closer to a lucrative sponsorship deal of any kind. I don't want to call anyone out, or hurt anyone's feelings, but there are ample examples of absolutely incredible poker players involved in this league that will simply never make any endorsement money from poker, no matter how good they are, or no matter how much they win.

- Jagajeet Chiba, Gambling911.com

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