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

March 2008 Archives

History, Baby . . . History!

March 6, 2008 7:33 PM

Wow, what a week on the World Poker Tour:

Last week at the Commerce Casino, Phil Ivey made it to an historic eighth final table (more than anyone – ever) and proceeded to win the title (and the $1.4 million that went with it). Phil is often referred to as the best poker player in the world – and he probably is. A remarkable stat surrounding his final table run is that Phil has never cashed in a WPT event in which he did not proceed on to the final table.

That’s incredible – freaky even.

Then, you talk to the old guys who remember (five short years ago) when there was only one million dollar first prize event a year. They know that no one has ever come close to a million dollar repeat at that event. And, it’s like that for a reason . . . it’s hard to get there . . . and even harder to seal the deal once final table play begins. To make it there eight times is a clear indication of how talented this guy is.

But I think the most impressive moment of the season for Phil Ivey will be what people see in the first WPT episode that airs on GSN Monday March 24th at 9:00 p.m. I don’t want to ruin it, but it shows why Phil is such an amazing player . . . and why we feel honored to have him as a WPT Champion.

Then, just two days later (again at the gigantic Commerce Casino in LA) at the WPT Celebrity Invitational, Van Nguyen became the first woman in history to win a World Poker Tour event. Her husband, superstar player Men “The Master” Nguyen, discovered that it’s harder to sweat a player than it is to play yourself – by far. Several times we thought he might keel over as Van’s chip stack vacillated on the way to the final table.

Even with the numbers skewed so heavily in favor of male participants, six years is a long wait for one of the great women players to get over the hump and break the curse. So, now we expect to see the women out there in the winners circle to continue to grow.

And, I have to give a shout out to all the celebrities, players and VIPs who attended the Invitational. It’s such a great party. We wait for it every year . . . and there’s just something special about it.

We’ve already begun planning next year’s extravaganza. Not sure it can get much better, but we’re going to try for sure . . .

REMEMBER: WPT Season Six begins airing Monday, MARCH 24TH at 9:00 p.m. on GSN – go to WPTonGSN to find how to get it in your area.

Stars, Superstars and Poker

March 3, 2008 10:35 AM

My mother raised me to be an egalitarian – with the sense that no one is better than you are and you are not “above” anyone.

Unfortunately, that perspective is entirely counter to the celebrity society we now live in. When we started the World Poker Tour there basically were no poker celebrities. A few people had heard of Amarillo Slim because he had been on the Tonight Show as an oddity guest a few times. And, thanks to the new movie, Rounders, some people had heard of Johnny Chan (in the same way that movie goers came to know larger than life fictional gun slingers).

But, today the world has changed. At the WPT final table Thursday were three of the greatest players in the game – two of them named Phil. And, those two Phil guys are as big as poker celebrities may ever get. Phil Ivey is, by reputation, perhaps the best player in the game. He carries himself like an NBA all-star, travels with a posse and elicits the same envy from guys and sighs from women that any sports superstar would in a crowd. The other Phil, Phil Hellmuth, may be the savviest guy in the game. He has literally built himself into one of the biggest brands in poker.

And, while all this is happening around the sport of poker, I have been clinging to a belief that all players are created equal. And, the reality is . . . whether I like it or not . . . they are not – certainly not in the public’s eyes . . . or their own.

Phil Hellmuth wanted to wear a hat with his initials on it at the final table. We have struggled to be egalitarian and strict with our logo policy (even keeping people from wearing World Poker Tour logos in places other than the left breast pocket dictated by the rules). But, this guy is the Poker Brat. He asked for special consideration . . . and, though I said “no” to him in our telephone conversation . . . I called back a few minutes later and changed my mind.

A few months before, I allowed poker great Dan Harrington to wear his lucky Green Boston Celtics hat at the final table. Not because it was a player’s lucky hat, but because it was Dan Harrington’s lucky hat – that had become part of his poker persona. To require him not to wear it (or to tape up the logo as we had done in another episode) seemed silly. I am well aware that more calls will come to me from our WPT event surrounding logos at tables, but that is the world we live in.

And, my answer will likely be: when you become a Dan Harrington or when you become a Phil Hellmuth -- and you have established a non-commercial brand as a trademark of your poker persona, we’ll be happy to let you wear it on your hat . . . .

And, somehow that feels right. And, somehow that feels wrong . . .

But, it is what it is . . . .