TelevisionWeek's new blog by World Poker Tour boss Steven Lipscomb marks this publication's second blog by a member of the television industry. As the founder of WPT, Steve often is credited with starting the televised poker boom. He's also known to say a controversial thing or two.

Just as Rich Goldfarb, senior VP of sales for National Geographic Channel, offered candid insight into the upfront advertising selling period, Steve plans to pull no punches in discussing the people, practices and pitfalls of the television business.

And remember: TVWeek.com encourages you to respond to what you read here. So feel free to post comments on Steve's blog.


World Poker Tour

September 2006 Archives


September 25, 2006 9:47 AM

I sat next to Kim on the plane back from a wedding in Hawaii last week-end. And I believe Kim is responsible for all of the problems in our country today.

Kim is intelligent, attractive, articulate and thoughtful. And she doesn’t vote. She registered some time back when she lived in a different state, but hasn’t voted for a while. Can’t really remember when she voted last. But, she’s very unhappy with the state of affairs in our country . . .

Ouch! These people make me nuts!!!!

I firmly believe that the Internet is about ready to rock Kim’s world. In the next two presidential election cycles, I predict that enterprising groups are going to find a way to go far beyond what Howard Dean did (raise money) and actually develop tools that will make people feel less disenfranchised. And people are going to start voting – in huge numbers.

Consider the sad fact that most political elections (even national elections) in the U.S. are decided by 12 to 24 percent of the potential electorate. Depressing . . .

So, Internet geniuses . . . it is time.

Let’s build the tools that will finally give us a smell test (or B.S. test) to ferret out the truth. Let’s begin developing the networks of the disenfranchised that will double election results overnight. In the flat world of the Internet, issues may actually have a chance, and money may become much less important.

Or so we hope.

And, Kim is waiting . . .

Blitz, Zing, Zap . . . Arrgh!

September 22, 2006 5:16 PM

The sounds of a dying deal . . .

I have been talking about a big deal in the works for some time. Every deal has its lessons. This is one of those deals that is full of them (some old lessons and some new):

We’re easy to make a deal with: When a company says they may be big, but they have the ability to make deals quickly . . . watch out. It will be like turning an aircraft carrier in a swimming pool to get any creative deal making out of them.

Tell me up front if it’s a “deal breaker”: If something is important to you in a deal – say something. Be open about it. Don’t just assume that everyone else is thinking the same thing. They likely are not. And, if it is important to you, it is likely important on both sides of the deal. If you add it in the later stages of a deal, it appears disingenuous (whether it was or not). This negotiation ended because of something the other side never mentioned in any negotiation – or put in any of the term sheet drafts that we negotiated ad nauseum prior to saying “we have a deal.” Then, they added it to the final contract and called it a “deal breaker.” So, the deal “got broke” over something that would have saved both sides an awful lot of time and resources if they had just discussed it in the early phases of negotiation.

Don’t shuffle me down: Make the deal with the people who started the deal making process. We are all busy, but if the principle or the high-level person who starts the deal making process has to duck out before it gets done, your likelihood of making the deal decreases appreciably.

Don’t fall in love with the deal: Poker players are fond of saying “don’t fall in love with your cards.” Because if you do, you often make the wrong decision and lose money. The same principle applies to deal making. Just as your pocket queens are much less appealing with a king and an ace on the board, your deal may be much less appealing once you have negotiated the terms. Once this deal was off the table our team started realizing that based on the final terms negotiated we will almost certainly make more and have more control by bidding various pieces of the deal in the marketplace. That is an interesting lesson that has taught me to reassemble our larger team to ask that cost-benefit question before we come to terms on future deals.

Don’t tolerate delay: Even if it is a big deal, delay just wastes everyone’s time. If the deal is going to happen, everyone should be willing and able to help make it happen quickly. I think it is reasonable to set a specific timeline to make or not make a deal – and then force everyone to keep to that schedule. As I wrote in another post, the longer it takes to make a deal, the louder the anti-deal voices become on both sides. The second time this deal-making process was delayed, we should have left the table.

Negotiations teach you about your business: Some of the opportunities that are already emerging after this deal may not have been on our radar screen but for the deal that we did not make. I think it is important to keep your mind open during the negotiation process to alternative avenues (outside of the deal) of achieving the same or bigger goals.

Enough lessons: Not a bad batch for one deal . . .

People Are Business

September 22, 2006 5:14 PM

The best and the worst moments of running a business stem from the people we hire and fire. One of the things I am most proud about is the personal environment we have created at our company. I have lost count of the number of people who have spontaneously walked into my office and told me that this is the best job they have ever had (from PAs to producers to accountants).

The only way to create that kind of environment is to be willing to fire people who will poison that environment – no matter how difficult it is. And, no matter how nice you try to be about it . . . that makes you the bad guy to some people – and is likely to make you some enemies. But, I am a firm believer that we are better judged by the people who do not like us, than by the people who do. And, this is one form of collateral damage that I believe is well worth the pain and suffering.

Just another plane ride . . .

September 12, 2006 1:14 PM

By Steve Lipscomb

Just another plane . . .

When we stepped onto the nearly empty flight to San Francisco today, the effects of 9/11 were evident.

How many people decided not to fly today?

How many people started to book a flight, then realized . . .?

I wonder how many?

I mourn the losses of that day: the lives, the aftermath . . .

But, most of all I mourn the innocence. Our lost innocence.

Five years and counting . . .

More Than You’d Expect

September 11, 2006 6:51 PM

The poker community — the real poker community — is a group of people more diverse than any group I have ever encountered. All races, genders, ages, creeds and backgrounds. This is true Americana — the melting pot that doesn’t melt. And, sometimes with the blinders of success or bad beats, we forget what it’s all about.

But, last Tuesday night at the Bicycle casino, the poker community revealed its beautiful underbelly. A hundred and fifteen poker players showed up at the Bike with a thousand dollars in hand to take care of one of their own — in the Paul Hannum memorial poker tournament. It was a night to be proud of being a member of the poker community; a night that captured the best of who we are.

Jennifer Tilly won the tournament. Then, with amazing grace, she donated her $25,000 prize back to the Baby Hannum fund that benefits Paul’s soon-to-be born daughter (info at BabyHannum.com). When Gavin Smith, player host of the tournament, came in second place, he pledged at least half of the winnings from the WPT tournament entry he won to the Baby Hannum fund. Later that night, Scotty Nguyen suggested and most of the players at the Legends of Poker final table agreed to give a portion of their winnings to the cause. And, the stories go on and on . . .

What an extraordinary night of class. How fortunate we felt to be a part of it.

On behalf of Paul’s family and friends and everyone at the World Poker Tour, thank you to everyone who participated or helped or donated a prize and thank you to the Bicycle Casino for hosting the event and Kristin Cranford for making it all happen.

Paul would have been honored, humbled and proud . . .

The Art of the Deal II

September 8, 2006 12:03 PM

My partner and friend, Lyle Berman, believes that deals do not get done unless you lock the attorneys or deal makers in a room to get them done. Otherwise, “they’ll paper each other to death”. I keep trying to prove him wrong, but damned if he may not be right again.

His theory deepens to include what he thinks are the two biggest deal extenders or killers:

(1) What he calls “meisels” (translated “might as wells”) – those times when people negotiating deals put something in the deal because you might as well to see how they respond; or

(2) What he calls “off my desks” – that strange phenomenon of someone sensing that once they have turned a draft of a contract around and sent it to the other party – it is out of your hands and you needn’t think about it until the papers mysteriously return to your desk (or email in box).

I actually agree that the age of email, redlines and blackberries has sometimes made it more difficult to finish a deal. And, one absolute rule of deal-making is that both sides of every deal have a reason to make and a reason not to make that deal. The longer the process takes, the negative voices get louder – because the deal advocates get tired and the people who are always negative start to be heard.

Still waiting to finish our big deal and we are fighting the rise of the voices that do not want to make the deal.

Either way, I will be able to discuss the process.

On the Road Again . . .

September 8, 2006 11:49 AM

Three days of corporate road-show, with back-to-back meetings from 7am to dinner – talking about our stock . . .

Wow. What a process!

One of the great benefits of being a public company is that you get to tell your corporate story on an ongoing basis to financially interested shareholders. That means you have to know your story (i.e. your business) every day. In markets that shift and change as much as technology and media, that is a strategic advantage.