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Golf in the Philippines and a Disturbing Poker Trend

26 Aug 2007

I experienced two vastly different days of golf while here in the Philippines. On the first day, we had a blast playing the local course, a short par 60 that is a lot tougher than you’d think. Loads of obstacles and the greens are like hills with massive breaks everywhere. They built the course on what seemed like an old park. It’s a good idea as it’s close to the casino whereas the other courses are an hour drive.

Joe Hachem and I played a match there over a few beers along with some of the PokerStars crew. We rented clubs, and let me tell you this, I appreciate my clubs so much more now after having used rentals. The Callaway clubs that I use are so forgiving, but the irons I was using were blades and they are much tougher to hit.

We played till dark in the pouring rain. I’m talking absolutely pouring, but that rarely stops die hards from getting off the course. The next morning I woke up early as I normally do here and was at the golf course at 5:30am along with a local here who is a mighty good golfer that used to compete on the Asian tour and also captain the Filipino team. He was very gracious and took me to his private club. Now, I’d never played golf that early in the morning before and didn’t realize how much the early morning dew affects the roll. I’d hit a solid drive and then you could actually see where it landed and where it ended up… like 10 yards of roll! It was so much fun.

From a cultural perspective, though, I just couldn’t get over the caddie situation. Here you must have a caddie, and while you ride around in a cart they carry your clubs all around the course. That wouldn’t seem too odd I guess, if it weren’t for the fact that all of the caddies were middle aged women. Mind you, they read greens like nobody’s business! The first time my caddie picked up my ball and said, “inside right, fast putt” I was kinda blown away. Not that it should be a big deal, but I found it a little funny that despite not speaking very much English she understood 7-iron, right edge, double break, etc. Some degenerate male golfers might think, “what more could you ask for!!!!”

She didn’t speak English, but after making an 8 on a par four I jokingly said, “Par” to which she replied, “Double par. One for me and one for you.” LOL, I couldn’t stop laughing! I later asked her if she was any good at golf and she said that she was terrible. So I asked another question, was she better than me or worse than me. She goes, ’Oh, same like you.” LOL, too funny!

We ended up playing 27 holes that day, but in the pit of my stomach it just felt so awkward to drive around in a cart while a mother of three is running behind me carrying my clubs. A young kid I wouldn’t feel much guilt, but this woman was tiny and near 40. She never complained at all, and I found myself asking her if she was ok several times only to realize later than even if she was tired, she’d never let on.

The round was taken care of and so were the caddies, but I had no idea how much they made for the day. So, I tipped them as I would any caddie at Shadow Creek for example. In the U.S. you get a , “Thanks,” which is genuine, but that same tip for this woman felt like a life changing experience. When I discreetly handed her the tip and she looked at it, she could barely speak. She looked around to see if anyone else saw it, as though taking it was somehow wrong. She gave me an awkward thank you at first, but then later you could see her whole demeanor change. That tip likely represented 2+ months of wages for her yet it was a pretty typically tip for a caddie in the U.S. I think.


Today I’m gearing up to go to Barcelona and I’m hoping that my sleeping clock fits well in time for the EPT’s first event in Barcelona. This will be my first ever appearance on the EPT and I want to give it my all. Fatigue is your worst enemy as a poker player and my only worry is that upon arriving in Barcelona I won’t have too much time to prepare for the event.
On another note, there is a disturbing trend surrounding poker tournaments and how they are covered that was started at this years WSOP and will now also be the norm on the WPT circuit. Harrah’s sold a package to Bluff/PokerNews to buy exclusive rights to cover the WSOP, and it appears that the WPT has taken a page out of that book recently agreeing to an exclusive coverage deal with CardPlayer.com. So for a company like Pokerwire.com, that essentially means the end of their business and I think that’s a shame as the crew working on chip counts and updates for Pokerwire were the best in the business in my opinion. They knew all the players names, whether they be online stars or old school pros, they got the details of important hands right, and the updates were timely.

Pokerwire wasn’t always on the ball, though, but luckily for the poker fan you could always get updates from one of CardPlayer, PokerNews, Bluff, PokerPages, Gutshot, or various other sites. The more competition, the more likely you’ll get ample coverage.

Selling these rights to just one company, while it makes the tour/tournament money, isn't good for any of US. We never, and I mean never see any of that revenue come our way, and as with any monopoly, the product always suffers. Having three or four sites trying to give you the best coverage guarantees that each site will be forced to improve their coverage to keep up. With only one provider of information, it doesn't make a difference at all if they do a lousy job or a great job.

For example, in the old days there was just ONE phone company. The rates were ridiculous and the service was slow and terrible. It didn't matter, because if you wanted to make a phone call you had no choice but to pay. When that changed, and more and more companies started offering service the prices went way down (better for the consumer) and the quality of service went way up (better for the consumer).

I totally respect why CardPlayer would want to do this, as I feel as though their hand was forced by the WPT as PokerNews was forced into the same thing with Harrah‘s and the WSOP. CardPlayer wants to remain competitive and the deal they signed will be good for the company. Personally, I just hate the idea of these rights being sold to one company or another.

Could you imagine, for example, a site like www.neverwinpoker.com outbidding for the rights to cover the tournaments? I'm sure the updates would be hilarious, but I imagine that updates might have to come in between tokes! (kidding of course guys)

Most people I’ve talked to agree that this isn’t in poker’s best interest at all. In fact, it can only stunt poker’s growth long term to have less sites cover tournaments due to the fact that what they can cover will be limited by the host tournament. Before you throw a hissy fit, though, I think it’s important to understand who is to blame. The blame starts with Harrah’s and ends with the WPT. From their perspective, they are doing what makes the most business sense for the company and that only makes (dollars &) sense. However, those interests are not aligned with what’s best for you, the poker player.

They would be, if somehow the revenue was shared with the players, but after years of poker growth and still little to no revenue going back to the players, it doesn’t seem as though either of these large companies has any immediate plans to give the players anything in return for their cooperation.

Up until this year, Harrah’s actually did provide players with an opportunity to get something in return with the $2 million free roll for the Tournament of Champions. That is a significant amount of money and enough to make players feel as though they are appreciated. However, this year there was no TOC so the $2 million that would go towards the free roll disappeared.

As for the WPT, they also tried to give players a free roll with the PPT, but that obviously has folded so that money is gone as well.

I think Harrah’s and the WPT have both done a lot of good in terms of promoting the game of poker and it’s players, but in this case, selling the coverage rights to just one site is a move that I don’t feel good about.


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