Poker Flops, Part III
Planet Poker was the first real-money online poker room, opening it doors in 1998. The poker room featured poker personalities such as Mike "The Mad Genius" Caro and Roy Cooke. It existed for about nine years, closing its doors this year largely as a result of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.
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While Planet Poker had the advantage of being the first online poker site, it never was able to become a market leader. In 2001, it was discovered that Planet Poker was using a poorly made RNG. Though Planet Poker soon rectified the problem, the discovery that their RNG was hacked sent a shockwave through the poker community that Planet Poker was never able to recover from.
Planet Poker was a consistently small poker room, despite the poker boom that occurred after Chris Moneymaker's historic WSOP win. Between a lack of effective advertising and the lasting effects of the RNG debacle, it never was able to establish itself as a top tier poker room.
After the UIGEA passed, Planet Poker struggled to offer real-money player to its customers. As a result, it shut its doors this year. For those of you who want to know more about this legendary poker room, you can check out this old PokerTips.org site review.
Interestingly, Mike Caro was also the spokesman for another failed poker room, JetSet Poker. Like Planet Poker, JetSet Poker closed as a result of the UIGEA.
Shana Hiatt Replacements
One of the most popular American cable TV shows is "World Poker Tour". The show, about to enter its sixth season, is anything but a flop. However, their production has suffered a string of flops since losing eye-candy sideline reporter Shana Hiatt. After helping the show become the highest rated show in the history of the Travel Channel, Hiatt departed citing a "hostile working environment." Her tenure of tantalizing the male-dominated viewership lasted for the show's first three seasons. World Poker Tour's producers selected Courtney Friel to replace Hiatt's role in the show's 4th season. Evidently, Friel lacked Hiatt's lure. Her contract was not extended beyond the 4th season.
To take over 5th season duties, World Poker Tour hired Polish native Sabina Gadecki. Like Friel, Gadecki failed to make a Hiatt-like connection with the audience and was replaced after just one season on the job. The 6th season, which has yet to air on its new channel, GSN, will feature British TV personality Layla Kayleigh. If Kayleigh is anything like the two who came before her, she'll make three consecutive Shana Hiatt replacements that turned out to be total flops.
What's not a flop is Hiatt's career in poker-related TV programming. After leaving World Poker Tour, NBC signed her to host Poker After Dark and the NBC Heads-Up Poker Championship. Both of those shows have proved very popular. Meanwhile, World Poker Tour's ratings continue to decline in the post-Hiatt era.
Party Poker's "Steps" Tournaments
When released in early 2005, Party Poker's "Steps" sit-'n'-go tournaments were wildy popular. The buy-ins for these tournaments were $11+$1, $50+$5, $200+$15, $500+$35, and $1,000+$65. Only the $1,000+$65 tournament paid out cash prizes. Winnings in the smaller tournaments were simply seats into the next largest tournament. Initially, players loved the "Steps" tournaments. They offered small stakes players a lottery-like proposition to be able to turn $12 into several thousand.
Of course, Party Poker loved "Steps" too. These tournaments generated fantastic revenue for the company through surreptitious high entry fees. If someone advanced straight from the first step all the way up to the final step, it would cost $121 in entry fees. Anyone who bought in to the final step directly only paid $65 in entry fees.
To classify the "Steps" tournaments as a flop is slightly unfair. Before reaching their current unpopular status, they expanded vastly due to players' enthusiasm for the tournaments. Three months after their release, Party Poker added "Step Higher" and "Mini-Steps" tournaments and kept the aforementioned regular "Steps". The "Step Higher" tournaments started at a $30+3 level and escalated all the way to $15,000+$500 before paying out cash prizes. The "Mini-Steps" began at $5+$1 and peaked at $400+$30. Alarmingly, the rake was even worse in these new offerings than in the original "Steps".
Regardless, these tournaments thrived at Party Poker for months. Eventually they even added "WSOP Steps" where players could win seats to the 2005 WSOP Main Event. It took a while for the poker world to gain consciousness that the Steps tournaments were ripofs. Today at Party Poker, the only remnant of "Steps" is a six-tier system of tournaments that starts at $3 and pays out cash prizes in the top step, a $500 buy-in. Party Poker even stopped advertising these tournaments with the buy-in and entry fee separated into different integers. So instead of displaying the buy-in as $27+$3, it simply says $30 with a note that says (Fee Included).
Evidently, this trickery isn't fooling the poker world. The "Steps" tournaments are now a mere shadow of what they were in their prime. Another possibly reason these tournaments flopped could be because of Gnuf's "Rounders" tournaments. Completely identical to the "Steps" tournaments in nature, Gnuf's version charges significantly lower entry fees.