Pocket Aces

The OPHOF Flub

Then there was the tale of a hall of fame set up to honor online poker’s best, except it appears to be a marketing attempt by a player-representation agency that was so poorly executed that the concept appears dead on arrival. We’re talking about the erstwhile OPHOF, or Online Poker Hall of Fame, which seemingly debuted this week by offering a list of 31 well-known online players upon whom to vote.

Except, well… don’t be fooled. This is a marketing ploy dressed up in an attention-getting concept. We’re not going to be offering any links to this thing, because that would be counterproductive, even if it is the topic of today’s “How Not To” lesson. An affiliate site asked the question, “Legit or Scam?”, but the answer is neither. This OPHOF thing isn’t a scam, in terms of trying to con people out of money or the like, but it’s also not legit; it’s the type of thing that shouldn’t have been cobbled together in the first place — at least without lots, lots more effort being invested into the concept.

Pocket AcesThere already is at least one form of an online-poker hall of fame out there, as useful and needed as a fifth wheel on a tricycle that the thing might be. This latest OPHOF thing appears to have been created by Randy Kasper’s Poker Players International, a Florida-based representation agency. PPI has a small handful of clients; the best known of them is likely the First Lady of Poker, Linda Johnson, and it drops off fast from there: A too-often-used image offers the likenesses of Yuval Bronshtein, Lon McEachern, and Will Failla in addition to Johnson.

PPI has other clients as well, among them Casey Jarzabek and Mike Leah, who just happen to be two of the 31 online pros arbitrarily served up as nominees for OPHOF’s debut election cycle. A third online pro with strong ties to Kasper’s PPI, Matt Stout, is also among the nominees. And if you think that the marketing fix isn’t in, those three just happen to be the top three names listed on the page where one can vote on the nominees, not that any of three — prominent pros or not — rank among the top 20 or so online-poker players that might be worthy of inclusion in the debut class of any such hall.

So, the fact that this is really a marketing gimmick designed to promote both PPI’s stable of online pros and PPI itself is rather damned obvious, and if for no other reason, OPHOF should thus be dismissed as a sham (not scam) effort.

But of course, that’s not the only clue. Also a dead-bang giveaway regarding this effort’s shoddiness is that the site largely doesn’t work. OPHOF’s “Contact Us” email script literally does not work. And, it’s only through a partially munged domain registration and the evidence of the Jarzabek / Leah / Stout over-promotion that OPHOF can be traced back to Kasper’s Poker Players International, anyway.

And then there’s OPHOF’s “About Us” page, which offers no information about OPHOF. Instead this page holds links to seven other well known poker sites and brands, without any explanation as to why or whether sponsorship is involved. Those seven, in listed order, are PokerNews, PocketFives, the WSOP, CardPlayer, the Global Poker Index, PokerProLabs, and CalvinAyre.com. Each is represented by a logo and link, but what the actual relationships are is undisclosed. That’s generally not how corporate sponsorships or partnerships work. Maybe they really are OPHOF partners. Maybe they’ve just had their logos and goodwill appropriated for this instead. Lacking more information, there’s just no way to know, and it’s another indicator of the utter haplessness of this effort.

Then there’s how OPHOF was announced. Rather than a press release being sent to major media, news of OPHOF’s debut appears to have been planted, via an erstwhile moderator, on PocketFives’ discussion forum. That’s about as senseless a method for concept introduction as one could imagine.

It’s all too incompetent and unprofessional to be fully legit, the thinking goes, meaning that’s it more likely a long-game marketing effort designed to boost the fortunes of PPI and those online pros mentioned above. Occam’s Razor implies that when there are this many things missing or skewed or not what they seem to be, it has to be intentional.

And that speaks to bona fides, which are vital for something such as OPHOF to succeed. It’s imperative for the public to understand why this or any hall of fame is worthy of public attention, instead of instantly providing lots of reasons why not to take such an entity or effort seriously. Right now, I don’t take OPHOF as anything more than a flimsy publicity stunt, doomed to a quick failure. Let’s see what happens, though that’s the betting line.

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