Patching – A good thing or a bad thing?
While I was at the NAPT – Los Angeles last week, I saw an interesting thing take place at the final table of a poker tournament. A player was asked to remove a patch. I’d never seen that before. I got the reasoning behind it, but I’m not sure if its a valid reason or not.
Let me lay the ground work for the story. It should be noted that the first 4 days of the NAPT Main Event were played at the Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens. ”The Bike” has had a long-standing relationship with the World Poker Tour, whereby the WPT has exclusive rights to film poker tournaments for television for their tournament series. So when the NAPT decided that they would conduct their tournament at The Bike, the players were under the impression that the tournament would not be televised at all. It’s no big secret that the tournament series is presented by PokerStars, and so it stands to reason that their host of pro’s were all on hand to participate in the event. But joining them was a large contingent of sponsored pro’s from Full Tilt, UB, Victory Poker, and a host of other sponsored tournament pro’s, who all made their way to the Grand Ballroom of The Bike to play cards, and they were all wearing their patches.
It turns out that there is a form which the players sign at the beginning of the tournament, in which the players are to indicate whether or not they are sponsored by a site. If the player declares their sponsorship, then they can wear a patch for their sponsored site, even if it is a competitor site of PokerStars. As play wore down, there were only a few sponsored players remaining in the field. In fact, when we got down 19 players, there were 3 players that were sponsored by PokerStars (Jason Mercier, Anh Van Nguyen, and George Lind III). Other than that, there were no sponsored pros, nor were there any other players wearing a patch. However, on that day, there were agents lurking with the news that the final table would be moved from The Bike to the Crystal Casino in Compton, so that the final table could be filmed for television. With the news that the event would be on ESPN2, agents began having conversations with the 15 non-sponsored players about whether they were interested in wearing a patch for the TV final table.
When I was at the World Series of Poker for the main event, this was common practice. As the “Featured Tables” were announced, it was a rat race for the agents to find the players that were at those tables, so that they could sign quick marketing agreements with the online rooms, and get their patches slapped on them. The deals brought additional income to the players, and puts money in their pocket simply for sitting down and playing cards, and getting the company logo on TV.
When the day of the final table arrived, and the 8 players that actually made the final table of the NAPT arrived, there were 4 players that were wearing a patch. Two of them were PokerStars Team Pro’s. Jason Mercier entered into the table 2nd in chips, and was easily the most notable player of Team PokerStars remaining. And Anh Van Nguyen had also made it through, although he was much shorter in chips. The third player wearing a patch was Ray Henson, and for the first time in the tournament, it was a Full Tilt Poker patch that he wore on the left side of his shirt above the breast. Henson is best known for a deep run at the 2007 WSOP Main Event where he finished in 12th place, and booked $476k for the score. It was the largest score of his professional career, but he’s cashed in a number of events since then, and entered into the final table with a little under $1 million in career live tournament earnings. While Henson was not a Full Tilt Pro, apparently he had indicated that he was sponsored by Full Tilt Poker on the declaration sheet that he filled out on day 1.
The final player that was wearing a patch that day was Joe Tehan. Tehan was not a Full tilt Pro either, but he was also sporting the Full Tilt logo on his shirt for the first time in the tournament. However, shortly before the start of play at the final table, Tehan was asked to remove the patch. I had asked about why he wasn’t allowed to wear it, and the person with knowledge on the situation asked to remain anonymous. Basically here’s what he told me, “this should be a lesson to all players who participate in PokerStars sponsored events. If a player wishes to participate in an NAPT or any other PokerStars tournament and wear a patch for another poker site during that event, then they must declare their sponsorship deal at the beginning of the tournament. Players will be allowed to switch from whatever site that they were wearing to a PokerStars patch, however they will not be permitted to add a patch without declaring that site on the declaration sheet at the beginning of the tournament, or switch from PokerStars to another site.”
As a result of not filling out the patch deal at the beginning of the NAPT, Joe Tehan was asked to remove the Full Tilt patch. This cost Tehan an undisclosed amount of money for the denial of the sponsorship agreement, as well as cost Full Tilt Poker the television exposure when Tehan went on to win the event, and wasn’t wearing a patch.
I’m not really certain what side of the fence that I fall on here. Basically, I don’t know whether I’m in favor of the patching deals or not. But it was pretty obvious to me that in this particular instance, there shouldn’t have been a problem with Tehan wearing the patch because it was not announced until the final day of play that there would be a televised final table. As a result, there was no interest in the sites to have patching deals given to any player other than their “Team Pro’s”. But when the tournament staff decided to change their minds mid event, and place the final table on television, the terms of their tournament changed as well. I think that with the change, it should have been permitted for a player to negotiate a sponsorship agreement for that TV final table.
It’s obvious why PokerStars didn’t want Tehan to wear a Full Tilt patch. I mean, to give a platform to their biggest competitor to advertise on a stage where PokerStars is putting up all the cash to put on the tournament doesn’t make a lot of good business sense. But this cost the player money which makes it extremely unfortunate. What are your thoughts on the patching of poker players? Should patches be reserved for only players that are “Team Pro’s” of the sites? Or should the sites be free to sign anyone that they choose to? Was it right for PokerStars to make Tehan remove his patch?