View Full Version : Poker Drawing Them In (Hartford Courant Article)

10-08-2004, 07:07 PM
Poker Drawing Them In
link (http://www.ctnow.com/news/local/hc-lasvegas1008.artoct08,1,5560387.story?coll=hc-headlines-local)

October 8, 2004
By RICK GREEN, Courant Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- Talk about the power of poker.

Phil Helmuth, bona fide poker royalty, can't make it away from the felt table without being mobbed for autographs and posing for pictures with buxom models and middle-aged men with big bellies.

"Poker is crazy. It's unbelievable," said Helmuth, who won his first World Series of Poker in 1989 at age 24. "I have two commercials starting next week on ESPN," he said late Wednesday as he tried, unsuccessfully, to make his way from a celebrity game at the Global Gaming Expo.

Poker is fueling a gambling revival that is attracting young people to casinos, delighting industry executives and giving rise to everything from a planned poker reality show to countless Internet sites and low-stakes kitchen-table games across the land.

"The peak hasn't even come yet. You can't go anywhere now without talking to somebody about poker," said Eric Morris, publisher of Bluff, a new poker magazine. "This is the only form of gambling I know that's so widely accepted."

The big players are taking notice. Major casinos are reopening or expanding their poker rooms. Online poker has quickly become the most popular and lucrative Internet gambling option - while also grooming a fresh crop of young customers who flock to casinos and card rooms to try their hand in real games.

"You can't go in a college dorm without finding a poker game," said Gary Loveman, president and CEO of Harrah's Entertainment. "It is the third most highly viewed sport, if you want to call it that."

Some worry that all this hype amounts to more than just sport.

"The only thing we are concerned about is seeing these young folks, college students, get a little crazy about poker," said Ernie Stevens, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association.

The future is certain to bring more poker, more poker TV shows and more technology to the tables, said Mark L. Yoseloff, a former Coleco Industries executive in Connecticut who is now chairman and CEO of ShuffleMaster Inc., which manufactures automatic card shufflers, table games and products that help casinos electronically track card play.

The spread of faster automated shufflers will speed up play, bringing 15 percent more poker hands per hour to the table - pleasing both players and casino owners. Player tracking will give casinos unprecedented information about their players and how much they wager, Yoseloff said.

"You will be able to [track] every hand, every card played and every bet," said Yoseloff, a mathematician by training.

Helmuth, who will play at Foxwoods Resort Casino next month, said the game's appeal is simple and egalitarian.

"It's because men and women of all races and nationalities can play poker," said Helmuth, who dropped out of college to become a poker champion. "Unlike the PGA Tour, anybody can play."