Individual Sports

House of Cards: Why So Many Event Directors are Turning to Poker

17 Apr, 2019

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

f you thought you were seeing more card decks in sporting goods stores, convenience stores and more, you’re right on the money. Card games – particularly poker – are growing in popularity across all age groups in the U.S. Here’s the deal on why they’re so popular.

The fact that the World Series of Poker awarded $266.8 million during its most recent iteration is nothing new. In fact, according to the blog, US Poker, 2018 marked the sixth time the total WSOP prize pool was north of $200 million. During its 49 years, the WSOP has awarded just shy of $3 billion in prize money.

The 2018 WSOP hosted a record 10 events that produced a $1 million-plus first-place prize. It surpassed the previous record of seven events from the 2016 and 2017 WSOP. What’s more impressive is four of the ten events paid multiple $1 million prizes.

And, the blog further notes, the 2018 WSOP hosted a record 10 events that produced a $1 million-plus first-place prize. It surpassed the previous record of seven events from the 2016 and 2017 WSOP. What’s more impressive is four of the ten events paid multiple $1 million prizes. More interesting numbers: U.S. players took home $187,417,000 this year, easily claiming the top spot. Germany ($12,454,810) and Canada ($7,995,246) rounded out the top three.

But seriously, poker. Why is it so popular? It depends on who you ask. In 2016, the blog, CultureUnderground thew out some ideas:

Interesting backstories: The players who wind up making the big grade are not necessarily people who have made their living in casinos. Chris Moneymaker (yes, that’s his name of record) made it to the final of a major global poker tournament and won. The prize? $2.5m. And as the blog notes, “He may have been an amateur player, but the fact that he was an accountant certainly helped him think quickly, calculate probabilities and manage his chips effectively. His story has been inspiring thousands of people to give poker a try since 2003 and has in fact been dubbed the Moneymaker effect.”

The ability to train the brain to master a new skill: Taking up a new activity or hobby has been proven to improve brain function. In fact, the reason people take up Sudoku, table tennis, crosswords and more is because they want to keep their minds sharp and avoid problems like Alzheimer’s Disease.

But that’s not all. Thanks to seeing gambling prominently featured in movies like Ocean’s Eleven (and subsequently, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen and Ocean’s 8), as well as plenty of others, poker and other games have skyrocketed in popularity worldwide. Multiple Internet sites offer the opportunity to play remotely as well. Match poker, played electronically, was even mentioned as being on a possible path to the Olympics, and currently has Observer status with the Global Association of International Sports Federations.

There are other reasons poker’s popularity continues to climb:

It’s not too difficult to understand: Those who want to know the basics of poker can check this page from the WSOP which details not only how to play, but the different formats of the game, such as Texas Hold’em and Seven Card Stud.

It can be played regardless of physical disabilities: This thread on Reddit shows poker is popular among those with physical disabilities (not just paraplegia and quadriplegia but visual and hearing impairments).

There’s plenty of help for those setting one a tournament for the first time: Event owners who want to set up a tournament can find a reliable event partner by doing their research and checking references; there are also plenty of do-it-yourself sites.

It’s a great fundraiser: There’s plenty of interest and that translates into plenty of potential for income if you want to host a poker night to raise funds for a team, a tournament or another cause. Scour the Internet for terms like “how to set up a poker fundraiser” and you’ll get all kinds of hits.

Legal issues: Check with your organization’s attorney to make sure charity or fundraising gambling events can be legally offered in your state. In addition, you’ll want to ascertain you have the correct insurance (since you are, after all, hosting an event and want to be covered).

“Our Short-Term Special Event program would cover card game events,” notes Mark Beck, SVP, of K&K Insurance. “Anyone conducting them should make sure to follow all state and local requirements and regulations. Our TLA (Teams, Leagues, Associations) program will cover incidental fundraising activities that support the team/league, but casino/card games are excluded, so the insured would need to apply for separate coverage under our Short Term Special Events program since they generally involve more exposure. That is how our coverage at K&K works but any organization purchasing coverage should check to see if gambling events are included in their coverage, including any additional need for liquor liability, as other insurance organizations may handle gambling events differently.”


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