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An Epic Collapse

February 29, 2012

It was only a matter of time.

In theory, the concept behind the Epic Poker League was pretty good. Create an invitation only tournament series for the world’s best poker players and let them compete against one another for boatloads of cash and, more importantly, bragging rights.

And they might have pulled it off, if it wasn’t for those pesky feds.

Unfortunately, the EPL was doomed from the start because their timing, to put it frankly, sucked. Announced before Black Friday, but launched well after the DOJ had shut down FTP, Stars, and UB, Epic entered the market at just about the worst time possible. Yes, they were promoting a new series of televised poker tournaments featuring some of the biggest names in the game, but the problem was, the game and its players were suddenly viewed as pariahs by people outside the industry and neither TV networks nor corporate sponsors wanted to go near it with a 10-foot pole.

Epic did finally get a “deal” with CBS/Velocity, but they were paying for the airtime, which cost them plenty. Even then, the show was aired on a fledgling network that many people didn’t know about/get on their cable systems, or was aired on CBS at unfriendly hours such as last Sunday’s 10am broadcast. Poker enthusiasts are, by and large, not morning people, which means that early morning broadcasts aren’t likely to generate substantial ratings.

Couple that with all of the EPL’s other expenses — hotel rooms for their players and media folks, tournament overlays, food comps, etc., and the bills added up pretty quickly. Without the big name online poker sites or any other serious sponsors to help defray the costs, today’s announcement was kind of inevitable.

Say what you will about Annie and Jeffrey, but I have nothing against either of them, and I think they were actually trying hard to create something that was honestly good for poker. I know the league provided jobs for many of my friends, which was certainly good, and I feel bad for folks who are very likely going to see their paychecks disappear. What’s more, I think the league’s televised shows were – aside from Pat O’ Brian – much better than what the WSOP produced this year and could have done a lot to polish the game’s reputation in the wake of Black Friday.

So, am I happy about Epic’s collapse? Not at all.

Can I say I’m surprised it happened? Not at all.

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