SBD/March 12, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Demise Of Epic Poker Highlighted By Lack Of Players, Big Purses, Expedited Growth

Epic Poker, which filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy late last month, “failed on several fronts,” according to Howard Stutz of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. The league “tried to grow too quickly and it couldn't attract enough participants.” In an effort to “spur attendance, the league added $400,000 in prize money to each of three main event final tables,” but the move “only drained resources.” The first Epic Poker main event in August “drew 137 players,” and the field sizes “decreased both in the second and third events.” When Federated Sports + Entertainment, the company that owned and operated the league, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Feb. 28 in Maryland, creditors “were [owed] more than $5 million.” The business “had $15,000 in cash and another $115,000 in receivables.” The majority of the debt is “owed to two companies;” $2M to regional casino operator Pinnacle Entertainment and $1.966M to All In Production, a “Fargo, N.D., company that sold Federated the minor circuit Heartland Poker Tour last year.” All In sued Federated Sports in North Dakota in October “for nonpayment stemming from the acquisition, which was originally almost $3 million.” The bankruptcy filing stated that Las Vegas-based Pinnacle “loaned Federated Sports $2 million, of which $1 million was used to pay All In.” Meanwhile, Federated “agreed to return Pinnacle's money by Feb. 29.” Pinnacle execs following the bankruptcy filing “wouldn't discuss Epic Poker.”

WRITING ON THE WALL: Stutz wrote Epic Poker “had early promise.” The idea was to “attract widely known professionals who would earn their player card to compete, similar to players on golf's PGA Tour.” Poker blogs and websites “have done a good job covering Epic Poker's downfall, especially, which reported in January that Pinnacle was negotiating to buy the league.” But poker “wasn't ready for another league or high profile tournament.” Following the federal government crackdown on Internet poker a year ago, which “sent players to live poker rooms, the Epic Poker League couldn't catch a buzz.” Stutz wrote “much of the credit for the World Series of Poker's growth” goes to former WSOP Commissioner and Epic Poker founder Jeffrey Pollack. Pollack “turned the individual event championship bracelet into a highly desired trophy.” Stutz: “Sadly, Pollack couldn't work the same magic" with Epic Poker (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 3/11).
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