Since the inception of the Epic Poker League I haven’t written or said much about the league for reasons I don’t want to disclose. But given the recent chapter 11 bankruptcy announcement from the company behind the league, Federated Sports, I feel I should at least explain a tweet I published earlier today:

“Imho, the main underlying reason why Epic failed is because they didn’t believe in their own idea. So they dressed it up with prize money”

Epic’s mission is/was a noble one. The creation of something akin to the PGA would be good for poker. It can never be the game changer some claim because it is an exclusive enterprise within a very inclusive industry.
WPT changed the game because I could be one of those guys. Epic is based on the assumption that I really can’t. But it would definitely fill a need.

Unfortunately their plan of execution was counterintuitive to their mission. They needed to alter the players’ traditional motives for playing and yet they retained the very same model that generated their original, financially orientated mindset for the lack of a much better term.

Professional poker players traditionally obsess over risk, edge and value. Top golfers don’t. They look for glory.  They don’t avoid the British Open because the world’s top 100 golfers will be playing. They want to play it specifically because it is a very tough tournament to win. Golfers not qualified would gladly pay to play I think. If they could.

If you want to run a poker league based on pitting the best of the best against each other in order to determine who is genuinely number one, it is a very wise idea to make sure the players are in on that script.  Epic didn’t make sure. They sold one story to the audience and an entirely different story to the players.

Since the Chapter 11 announcement, a lot of Epic Poker associated players have been talking about the $400,000 overlays and fretting over the fact that the promised one million dollar freeroll may not happen. None that I have come across have expressed regret over not being able to prove how great they are in this tough, tough league.

The Epic Poker League failed because the people in charge of it apparently didn’t think their own idea was realistic. They didn’t truly believe a league fuelled by honor, pride, glory and sense of accomplishment could work. They couldn’t get their heads around the notion that players would play in a league designed to crown truly worthy champions unless they actually played it because it was EV+ to do so.

HIGH ON THE DOLLAR

What would have happened, for example, if Epic’s pitch to players would have gone something like this instead:

“Hey, look, we really want to promote the skill and competitiveness of poker, so you top players in the world will be playing for say $100,000 in each event. No buy-in. Best against the best. For undisputable honor and a high standing within the poker community.”

Had no one bough into that? And if they wouldn’t have, did Epic really every have a case in the first place?

The $20,000 buy-in was so high it’s been rumored that very few of the qualified player could afford to pay it out of their own pockets. So most of them were staked. How professional is that?
The only reason it was so high must have been because the team behind Epic simply couldn’t fathom that the playing community, the pros or the TV stations would even be remotely interested if they couldn’t front it with seven figure prize sum.
So they decided to inject the league with the most powerful steroid known to poker – dollarin. And they paid dearly for it.
An Epic failure of faith in a good idea that may have lead to a tragic, but self-inflicted ending.

Someone is bound to pick up the torch and give this idea a much more honest shot at working they way it is supposed to. Maybe it never can, but I for one think it is worth another try.