Industry focus: Can poker thrive without the cash?

Industry focus: Can poker thrive without the cash?

Thursday, July 2, 2015
Patrick Nally believes there is more to poker than winning money

Imagine poker without cards or the pot. Does it sound like football without a ball and goal posts or baseball without a bat?

It may sound like a strange concept but by next year this version of a game so long considered an anathema by many across the globe could be accepted within the bosom of world sport.

Match Poker began its development just six years ago following the formation of the International Federation of Poker (IFP) and the appointment of sports marketing guru Patrick Nally as its president.  

Nally – the man who first brought blue-chip partners such as Coca-Cola to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and FIFA in the 1970s – is pleased with the progress made by the organisation and the game in the years since then, but told TotallyGaming.com there is still much work to do.

“I was asked to get involved because I know international sport, not because of my prowess at poker. I don’t play,” said Nally.

“Poker did not have a governing body and no real structure. There were groups of people whose view was that poker can’t just be about money. It’s a challenging game, but the focus on the money is quite limiting.

“I didn’t fancy it but I was convinced by a Swiss sports lawyer who told me that the game had captured an extraordinary space for young people, and that mobile and online technology had made poker mainstream. He also felt that poker should be backed up by an organisation that could start to organise sporting events.”

Nally came on board in 2009, since when the organisation has developed Match Poker, a competition-based version of the game which is played by teams and incorporates regular Texas Hold’em with a pot-limit pre-flop and no-limit post-flop structure.

Teams are split onto different tables with one player from each team in each of the different seat positions, and all players start each hand with an equal number of chips and receive their cards on a digital device. The same cards are dealt at all tables - meaning every player in seat one has identical cards and that it is the skill of play rather than luck of the deal that is important.

After a pre-determined number of hands the team with the most points wins. All action is recorded electronically enabling real-time automated scoring, animated replay and detailed analysis.

“When you are playing a  lot of hands, skill will come through,” Nally told TotallyGaming.com. “If you add to that that people in the same seats are having the same cards, it’s down to how skilful you are. We’ve levelled the playing field so that it is a skill-based game.

“At the moment we just have team events – pairs, foursomes and international games are teams of six. It’s not just you but also your partner.”

Some major tournaments have already taken place with Germany becoming the winners of the first IFP Nations Cup of Match Poker in London back in 2011. Nally has great hopes for Match Poker and the future of the IFP, but does not believe its success has to be detrimental to the gambling industry.

“They are two completely separate entities,” he said. “We are not aiming for the space taken by the gambling industry.

“I would have to say that our plan is that poker will become the world’s major mind sport, and expand that sphere. It will eclipse sports such as chess, bridge, go and draughts because, I think, we are more exciting.”

Read part two of the interview with Patrick Nally here

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