Poker Writers: Please Curb Your Enthusiasm

Bill Mann has had enough. My esteemed colleague has just read his zillionth article on WPT Enterprises (Nasdaq: WPTE  ) this month. In the last one, "The author beats to death the whole 'let's make poker references while talking about the stock' thing." And I guess it's up to me to do something about it.

Bill: Hey, Jeff! You know what would be really funny? You should write an article on poker and make a point of not using poker cliches.

Jeff: Yeah, Bill. That would be funny.

You know what's funnier is that when I started covering casino stocks regularly a couple of years ago in September 2003, my generally excessive interest was treated with some scorn here at Fool HQ. And it's not because casino stocks don't make for good investments -- the stock prices of virtually every casino operator in the game have multiplied since then. The issue was that nobody in the stock market cared about casinos and gambling at the time, and I was basically talking to a wall.

But nowadays, all anybody seems to want to talk about is poker.

And supposedly, there is now demand for such material: Since I first wrote about the World Poker Tour and current 62%-owner LakesEntertainment in January 2004 (see "Betting the World Poker Tour"), coverage from the financial press has picked up considerably from zero. Maybe a dozen or so new poker-specific magazines have also popped up on the market, including Bluff, All In, and Deal. And in the past month alone, I counted no less than six articles on online poker just on our own Fool.com website, although I must point out that the last three were related to the recent stock activity regarding Motley Fool Hidden Gems selection Cryptologic (Nasdaq: CRYP  ) .

I gotta tell you: The general level of journalistic creativity in the financial market is astounding. When 71-year-old poker legend Doyle Brunson may or may not have led a group of investors in making an unsolicited and unconfirmed $700 million bid for WPT Entertainment last month, writers from no less than three different financial news services cleverly labeled the bid to be a "bluff."

One wisenheimer went as far as to say that "The bid turned out to be a complete bluff; WPT management couldn't get Brunson's group to reveal its hole cards, and the deal was folded away in days."

I mean, come on.

"Makes me want to swerve my car into a bridge abutment," remarked Bill Mann.

Beer, video games, and poker chips
And it's not just the writers.

A couple of years ago, I bought a pair of acrylic poker-chip racks from the Gamblers General Store near downtown Las Vegas and brought them back home on the plane because that was the most convenient way to obtain them at the time. Today, there is an entire store in the local mall dedicated to poker paraphernalia, and everybody from Best Buy and Target to online retailers Amazon.com and Overstock.com carries poker chip sets, too.

And it doesn't end there. It seems like every other bar on the block has a Texas Hold 'Em tournament night, including the bar I happened to be hanging out at the other night. WPT Enterprises' World Poker Tour has an official beer in Anheuser-Busch's (NYSE: BUD  ) Michelob AmberBock and has even signed a deal granting video game publisher Take-Two Interactive (Nasdaq: TTWO  ) the right to produce console video games based on the WPT.

And once again, supposedly there is a market for such a thing, because Activision (Nasdaq: ATVI  ) is set to release a game based on Harrah's (NYSE: HET  ) World Series of Poker for the Microsoft Xbox, Sony PlayStation 2, and PC on Aug. 23. For a mere $29.99 a copy, Xbox and PS2 owners can take their games online to decide once and for all who is the best "play money" console poker player in the world.

Of course, anybody who has ever tried to play Hold 'Em for play money knows how futile it is. And the $29.99 price point is a good indication that nobody expects the game to be taken seriously (the PC version will sell at $19.99).

May the poker writers' bubble burst!
Bill Mann and I are not the only ones concerned about the sanity of mankind. A peek into Bill Simmons' "The Sports Guy's mailbag" on Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) ESPN.com from Wednesday confirms this. In the mailbag, Brian Koppleman, co-writer of Rounders and Tilt, asks: "Do you think it is time for a moratorium on all poker metaphors? Not just in your column, but in all columns in all the magazines and sites?"

I think we can all answer "Yes, yes, and yes."

As Teddy KGB said: It hurts, doesn't it? Your hopes dashed, your dreams down the toilet. And your fate is sitting right beside you.

May the poker writers' bubble burst!

For more cliche-free Foolishness by Jeff Hwang, click on the following:

Fool contributor Jeff Hwang owns shares of Overstock.com. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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