Monday, April 17, 2006

The Sky is falling.


Well, it’s been a long hiatus, for those of you that venture back here occasionally. I think the biggest reason I stopped posting was that I was beginning to feel that my postings really didn’t fit into the poker blog world.

Most poker blogs focus on personal play, strategy, bad beats, and poker in general. I wanted this blog to be about poker, but I wanted to focus more on the political, social, and economic aspects of the industry, with of course my own opinions on the issues, solicited or otherwise.

And then there was the issue of writing something that was worthy of posting. When I get started, I can be a real conversationalist. However to talk about something and to write about it are two entirely different things. It takes me entirely too long to write a post. I write, and then re-write. I go away and come back and re-write it again. I tell myself it is because I want to be sure that what I write is clear and concise, and if you know me, I am anything but concise.

So here is a post. I won’t promise that I will post everyday. I won’t promise I will post every week. But I will post….eventually….and who knows? Maybe we will both be surprised Comments always welcomed.

Some one mentioned to me the other day that the “poker fad” has reached it’s peak. I was surprised to hear that. Maybe it has, maybe it hasn’t. All I can tell you is that I run into new poker players all the time, and often asked things about poker from people who don’t play. I sat down and decided to put down a few anecdotes for you and let you make your own conclusions.

Yesterday we went for a walk in my neighborhood and we noticed a man doing some wood working in his garage. It was evident he was making a poker table. We didn’t know the neighbor, so we walked up and exchanged pleasantries. I was curious to find out more about the table and maybe find out about a game I was unaware of.

It turns out this man doesn’t even play poker. He only makes the tables because he enjoys woodworking. He builds these as a sort of a hobby, making a small profit. He built one and next thing you know, people kept calling him to build one for them. He now has 8 on order. Clearly there is still a need for poker tables, an indicator that the industry is still growing.

I too ventured into the table building business. I’ve made several tables. Each one was a bit better than the last. What I discovered was it is difficult to make an affordable table without mass production. A sentiment my neighbor also agrees with. The amount of labor involved makes it hardly worth the time, unless you do it as a labor of love – either for love of wood working or love of poker.

I also made a proto-type folding table. The table was 9’x4” oval (10 players/dealer), but you could fold it up into a 3’x2’ square and fit it into the trunk of your car. It had inherent problems, but it did work. We played poker on it for greater than 6 months. The biggest problem we found was it just weighed too much to make it reasonably portable. I had visions that this kind of table would do well in charity events where portability was a very important feature. I tell you this because when you see the cost to build one versus the cost of mass produced tables imported from China, it would be a very hard sale. Yes, it will store in a broom closet, but it would be 4x the price and the set up would be 4x as complicated

When a game room furniture store in Austin closed, I went by and looked at their inventory of poker tables. They had a few high dollar tables and dozens of the low cost tables imported from China. The focus of their business was on billiard tables, but clearly they had thought there was a market for poker tables. The fact that they went out of business could be an indicator that the fad is slowing.

I also learned that a gambling supply house in Austin is likely to close. I somewhat find this remarkable, but then maybe not. Clearly you can obtain many of the items that they carry from internet shopping. In fact, if you know what you want, you can find almost all of the items they carry for a better price online – so long as you can wait for it to be shipped to you. This too could be an indicator that the supply has outpaced the demand. Forcing smaller margins and reducing or even nullifying any profits from operating a brick and mortar retail outlet.

Legalize poker in Texas. There are at least 3 groups that I am now aware of in Texas who’s intent is to legalize public poker card rooms in Texas. This is a hot issue that I think I should discuss in more detail in a later posting. But suffice to say, the fact that these groups are organizing and that there is more than just one of them, suggests that poker is still gaining momentum.

I am also privy to some local poker television that is in the works. Will it make it to the airwaves? Who knows? It is however, an indicator that there are still some people willing to gamble that poker hasn’t reached its peak just yet.

There is a new poker site that is in the works and will hit the internet very soon. I too thought that the number of onsite poker rooms had reached its peak, but this would suggest maybe not.

Venetian® Resort Hotel Casino recently opened a new 10,500 sqft - 39 table - poker room. Are you kidding me? 10,500sqft? Do you know how many slot machines you can put into that kind of floor space? The fact that the casino industry recognizes poker is hot and is dedicating large chunks of precious Las Vegas Strip real estate to let people play; well, that has to indicate something. Las Vegas Casinos don’t usually make multimillion dollar gambles like this one unless they feel reasonably assured it will make a return and a good return at that.

I saw a player wearing a t-shirt the other day that depicted Snoopy and all of Snoopy’s brothers playing poker. (Do you know all of their names? I didn’t.) I was in Garden Ridge this weekend and they had Texas Holdem door mats. I went and got a haircut last week (I get one every 6 weeks or so, whether I need it or not.) My barber was sitting outside smoking a cigarette and playing an electronic hand held TEXAS HOLDEM game. Go figure.

Maybe it has peaked, maybe it hasn’t. Apparently, there is still plenty of money being spent whether it is still on its way up or down. I just hope I can get some of it.

2 comments:

eric said...

As hot as poker is, strip casinos pretty much have to have a poker room. Otherwise, people will stay (or gamble) in one of the many other hotels that do.

That said, I think some of the casinos, particularly Caesar's and the Venetian, have been rather over-optimistic when evaluating demand for more tables. Vegas is not LA. Even with all the tourists filtering through, there simply isn't the critical mass of population required to support so many tables in so many rooms.

I could see opening 10, 15 or even perhaps 20 tables. But 40 or more? I wonder if there's anywhere one can take bets on by which date CP and the V close down half their respective poker rooms and turn the floor space into slot machines.

mikek628 said...

Eric, you are right. I can't see all of these rooms staying open at the sizes they are. I put the O/U on the Venetian room around the last week in September.