WPT at LAPC: The Good, the Bad, and the Usual

by , Feb 23, 2009 | 10:24 am

The WPT L.A. Poker Classic main event is in full swing at the Commerce Casino in cloudy-but-mid-70’s SoCal, and the turnout for the $10K main is spectacular. It started on Saturday with 696 entrants according to PokerNews and 695 according to WPT Live Updates, but either way, it’s the largest turnout second only to the 791 number in 2007. With TD Matt Savage at the helm, players are excited about the structure and anxious to get into the money today or tomorrow.

As noted previously
, more media outlets made the trek to L.A. with the understanding that the Savage-run tournament would offer a lifting of the usual WPT media restrictions, the ones that typically keep non-official media out of the tournament area with the exception of 15 minutes per level. Turns out that Savage’s wishes on behalf of Commerce weren’t enough to override WPT contracts, so companies like PokerNews have been very limited in their ability to cover the tournament or provide chip counts. (F-Train is one of many frustrated reporters on scene.)

It was interesting to note, however, that a WPT executive commented on the beauty of the media-filled stage at the back of the room. But when he realized that it was not the norm, that WPT restrictions usually prevent much of the poker media from coming to WPT events anymore, he seemed to understand the problem. Whether he can or will do anything about it going forward remains to be seen.

For now, catch the official tournament reports from the WPT Live Updates team.

20 Comments to “WPT at LAPC: The Good, the Bad, and the Usual”

  1. Kevin Mathers

    I guess the WPT executive doesn’t bother to go around the US to see the media area of other WPT events?

  2. California Jen

    No, but it’s not that person’s job.

  3. Poker Shrink

    Jen you would defend a sick rattlesnake from a mongoose.

    The last few “open media” tournaments the WPT ran before the heavy media restrictions were ridiculous. Anyone with an alleged poker blog had access and the “media” were three deep around pro heavy tables. There has to be some kind of restriction in those tight rooms used by so many WPT casinos. There are also much better ways to break the tables as the tournament progresses to allow more access for media and rail for the fans. The problem is that no one wants to think about these issues except a few enlightened tournament directors: Savage and Sommerfeld most notably.

  4. California Jen

    Shrink, I’m not saying that it should be a free-for-all, as the WPT and the casino both have the ability to issue press passes with some discretion. But you touched on one of the ways that could allow for more media – strategic table breakdown, as well as more room between tables. I just firmly believe that less media coverage = fan disinterest, followed by brand disinterest.

  5. BJ Nemeth

    FYI, it’s not fair to say that an unnamed WPT executive made that comment, because people infer that it’s Lipscomb or somebody else high up. It was a guy from the legal department who isn’t involved in the tournaments at all. He made an offhand comment that there were a lot of media here, and then someone informed him that this was more than usual.

    I don’t know why PokerNews brought so many reporters, because the media guidelines haven’t changed in a year and a half. I love Matt Savage as a TD, but he may have been offering more than he was contractually allowed to offer. When PokerNews signed up for their media credentials, they had to read the media guidelines again, and sign the contract when they picked up their badges.

    We can rehash the debate about the pros and cons of restricted media access, but keep in mind that PokerNews has had *very* similar restrictions in place (to their benefit) during the last two WSOPs. And no matter how close an outside media outlet is to WSOP TD Jack Effel, they can’t bypass those media restrictions.

    Let’s just be clear — the WPT media guidelines haven’t changed since late ’07. But I don’t think PokerNews has covered a WPT tournament since the WPT World Championship in mid-’07.

  6. California Jen

    BJ, you’re probably right that I should have noted it was NOT Lipscomb who made that comment. Sure, it was someone from the legal department, but it’s not as if he doesn’t have pull.

    If I understand the situation correctly, PokerNews brought those reporters and showed up to cover the tournament because of an invitation from Matt Savage and Commerce and somewhat of an understanding that they would be allowed more access than they’ve been given. I’m not sure exactly where it turned into a misunderstanding.

    My intent here was not to bring the debate back to the fore, but I did want to point out that more people showed up to cover this particular WPT event under false pretenses. The WPT media guidelines have been in place for a year and a half, but that doesn’t mean they are any less off-putting now than they were when implemented. It was encouraging to think that the casino and/or TD might be able to allow more coverage, but alas, the WPT rules stay in place for now.

  7. BJ Nemeth

    For the record, I don’t see it as a turf war, and I like all the reporters for PokerNews, having worked with them in the past.

    I’m sure they’re frustrated with the media guidelines, but they shouldn’t be surprised by them.

  8. BJ Nemeth

    I would be shocked if the legal counsel has any “pull” regarding the media access. And he wasn’t analyzing the situation; he just made an offhand comment because he saw three tables filled with people here. He may have even made the exact same comment if PokerNews was *not* here. (Most everyone else here covers all the WPT events.)

    “… I did want to point out that more people showed up to cover this particular WPT event under false pretenses. … It was encouraging to think that the casino and/or TD might be able to allow more coverage …”

    I just felt that this article implied that the WPT somehow screwed over PokerNews, but I don’t see any evidence whatsoever that was the case. The story here seems to be that Matt Savage offered more than he was allowed to (the “false pretenses”), and PokerNews didn’t confirm ahead of time with the WPT that the rules had changed. (Because they didn’t.)

  9. DanM

    BJ, you sounded pissy in your first comment, but now what you are saying makes sense, at least a little bit.

    I’ve long believed (for at least a year) that there’s a big difference between a closed television production (which the WPT final tables are) and an open event (like the WSOP). The closed-set people can do and should be able to do pretty much whatever they want in terms of restrictions, regardless of whether or not they are the right ones.

    Hey, and so long as we’re skewering talking Matt Savage … I think we might have gone two easy on him during the last episode of TPB. I forgot, I have a beef with him … he supports one-at-a-time flops! I know Linda Johnson is no fan of these Euroflops, nor am I! Three-cards-at-once is the only way for me!

  10. BJ Nemeth

    Yeah, I probably got overly defensive in my first comment — my apologies.

    If you want to debate the open-vs.-closed media rules, that’s a separate and older issue. (And one on which we agree, for the most part.) As Dan has told me before, let’s have a debate like it’s 2006!

    My only problem was that this post made it seem like the WPT someone misled PokerNews and then pulled the old switcheroo. And that didn’t happen. And no matter what caused this little kerfluffle, Matt Savage still has my highest respect.

  11. F-Train

    I signed nothing before being given my media credentials, BJ. Nothing.

    That’s not really the issue, but I just want to make it clear that I wasn’t handed any media guidelines or signed anything that told me what level of access I had. We had every reason to believe when PokerNews started coverage of this event that we had open access. Whether Matt Savage over-promised is a different issue.

    I don’t think this post implicates WPT at all. It helps that I am 100% sure that the discussions that “brought PokerNews here” were held with Commerce, and not with WPT. Matt knows the value of broad tournament coverage. However, to say that it’s not a turf war is willful blindness — Commerce and WPT each want to control access to the floor. The question becomes who should rightfully be able to do that.

  12. Poker Shrink

    Well if anyone at the Commerce had any balls, there would be the open access they promised. I mean do you really think WPT is willing to stand up any casino or card room that is still willing to have them? They get what they want at Bellagio, because that is also what Jack McCelland wants. But at Commerce if Matt and the casino really wanted those media changes they would have had them.

  13. DanM

    I don’t know that the WPT is that un-influential, Shrink. I mean they may have their problems, but they still take those final 6 players of a big event and turn it into a commercial for the Casino.

  14. Poker Shrink

    They do indeed take the final six players and make a tv show, so why do they care what happens before they are even in town? Until the final table the casino should run the event as they choose, its their house.

  15. DanM

    Absolutely. I agree with you completely on that. Give their own cameras and BJ priority throughout it all, but I personally don’t think they have the right to overrule the casinos in the open-to-the-public events and start shutting people out until they get to the TV production, which is the final table.

    Maybe they could stretch their dominion over the course of the entire televised main event (especially if they actually filmed some early levels, a la the PPT), but it doesn’t seem like they should have any say in the preliminary events.

  16. BJ Nemeth

    F-Train —

    My apologies on the “Turf War” comment, because I completely misunderstood you. I thought the implication was that a turf war existed between the WPT and PokerNews, and not between WPT and Commerce. Yes, the WPT and Commerce do seem to be at odds on this one issue, so I concede your point.

    And while you may not have personally signed for your badge, someone from PokerNews did. And PokerNews should be familiar with these media restrictions, because I believe those restrictions are what kept PN from covering the WPT for the last season and a half. PN certainly can’t plead ignorance of the rules here.

    FYI, when I say “PokerNews,” I am referring to the corporate entity itself, rather than specific people. I have worked with a lot of people at PokerNews, and I have a lot of friends over there. The PokerNews tournament reporters are professional in their duties, and I really respect that.

    The same goes for “WPT” in this discussion; I’m referring to the corporate entity, and not any individual employees.

    If you’re wondering why there are media restrictions in the first place, then why don’t you ask those who run the WSOP? Or the NCAA? Or Major League Baseball? They all have similar media restrictions in place. Media outlets can’t just show up for a college basketball game and do live web updates whenever they want.

    What does the WPT have to gain from an exclusive media deal? The same thing that the WSOP, the NCAA, and Major League Baseball do — Money.

    And why does the Commerce follow the WPT’s media rules? The same reason that the WPT doesn’t take a cut of the prizepool — there are existing contracts in place that cover these things.

    Dan: I have a feeling you and I might be discussing this on Thursday about 1:15 pm PT. 🙂

  17. F-Train

    I think you’re missing the mark BJ. I never claimed to wonder why there are media restrictions in place, and I am well aware of what the WPT gains from them. I simply said I feel that the restrictions are short-sighted. Apparently, so does Commerce. Whether Commerce contractually agreed to abide by such restrictions is something that I can’t necessarily take at face value. Not that I’m calling you a liar — I just know, from ten years in the legal industry, that these things are usually not as cut and dry as many believe.

    Though it is appreciated, don’t feel the need to clarify “PokerNews”, “WPT”, etc. Nobody’s taking anything personally.

  18. BJ Nemeth

    Sorry, the last few paragraphs were directed primarily at Dan. Dan and I have argued several times in the past over the legality and ethics of exclusive media deals.

    I know this isn’t getting personal, but I still like to clarify that from time to time. I’d hate to ruin a friendship over a misunderstanding in a comment thread.

  19. DanM

    Assholes … the all of ya! I find out everything I need to know about the WPT from Steve Lipscomb’s TV blog and Mike Sexton’s MySpace page.

  20. Mean Gene


    So long as there are media restrictions at poker tournaments, that at the very least means there is poker media to restrict. I will make lemonade from this pile of lemons. Which of course is easy for me to say as I’m sitting here in the frozen wastelands and not at the Commerce.