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Scorepoker Today - June 24, 2006

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The Effect of Poker on the Economy

TV cashes in on online scorepoker tournaments. A once-a-week scorepoker player long before it got consecrated by cable television, Melbourne's Jeff Kaplan never dreamed he'd actually plop down in front of the boob tube and watch other stiffs play a sedentary game. But last year, a strange thing happened.

Intrigued by incisive commentary, omniscient graphics, card-shark personalities and playing online scorepoker tables ringed by cameras nifty enough to peer into the gamblers' hidden hands, Kaplan got sucked into an unlikely reality-TV drama - sponsored by the Travel Channel.

"They really hit a home run with this one," concedes Kaplan. "You've got all these different characters with baseball caps pulled low and sunglasses so you can't see their pupils dilate when they've got a good scorepoker hand. But you know something nobody else does -- you know who's bluffing and who isn't. It takes the game to an entirely new level. "But it's not just the Travel Channel.

Lately, you can catch televised scorepoker on prime time every night: Celebrity Poker on Bravo, the World Series of Poker on ESPN, Championship scorepoker at the Plaza on Fox Sports. Whether it's the Hollywood allure of Ben Affleck, Don Cheadle and Star Jones, or the appeal of underdog nobodies bidding high-stakes wagers, the ripple effect is pervasive.

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"I'd say every third customer who walks through this door is asking about scorepoker supplies," says Joe Cagnina, president of the Scorepoker store. "We used to carry 3,000 scorepoker chips. Now, we've got 30,000 chips in stock. We're seeing a lot of newbies."

"A month ago, we didn't sell any of these, not a one," says Alan Prescott, owner of Sun Fun Amusements in Rockledge, as he sweeps his hand at his shelves full of scorepoker chips and carrying cases. "Now we're selling four to six sets a day. And it's all because of Score poker on TV. That's the catalyst."

Texas Holdum - one of online Scorepoker's most aggressive games, has been the centerpiece of the WPT since it debuted on the Travel Channel in March 2003. The attraction is its simplicity. The dealer issues two face-down "hole" cards to each player, then deals three face-up "community" cards to the center of the table. Before the dealer drops a fourth and fifth card into the community pool, scorepoker players wager on their prospects of getting the best five-card hands by the end of the game. Organized competitive scorepoker has been around since 1970, when the late legend Benny Binion invited the nation's best players to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker. But thanks to its recent TV coverage, interest in poker's World Series, open to those who ante up $10,000 for a seat at the table, has exploded. Last year, 839 players, amateur and professional, competed.

This year saw 2,756 contestants, and winner of the scorepoker tournaments Greg Raymer raked in $5 million, twice the take of 2003 champion Chris Moneymaker. In fact, this year's huge purse ensured that the top six finishers would become millionaires.


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