Thursday, March 24, 2005

Pro Choice

What is a poker professional?

It should be a fairly simple question to answer, but as with much in poker, it contains more grey areas than appear on Simon Trumper's cranium.

There was a time when it was simple, a pro was a guy - always a guy - who played the game, won decent amounts, and had no other surce of income. But in these days of corporate sponsorship, where a player so completely devoid of both talent and personality as Debbie Rogers can command a sponsorship deal, it's time to examine the question properly.

There have always been "backing" arrangements, where players were entered into cash games or competitions by other individuals, with the player generally copping half of the winnings, and poker being poker, the backers got stiffed more often than not. Peter Costa was at one time the Tiger Woods of stiffing, having been put into a few comps by the ever-trusting Laurie Butters, winning them, and then for one of many possible reasons (dice, blackjack, pai gow...) failing to stump up with the readies. Incidentally, the subsequent denial of these easily verifiable facts by Laurie on the Pokerineurope forum, was perhaps the lowest point in the history of the poker forums (an honour for which there is a great deal of competition).

But corporate sponsorship is basically a giant freeroll for the recipient, where, because they don't have to put up their own money, they are in effect being employed by the sponsoring party to play competitions for them, as well as undertaking to perform various marketing tasks at the company's behest. So these lucky people are perhaps the first in history to be formally employed to play poker.

Mind you, it's not only in poker that these definition are tricky, as evinced by boxer Amir Khan being offered a £280,000 package to remain an amateur!