I started playing poker soon after Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 WSOP Main Event. Back then, there were around 20 to 50 people playing online poker in Portugal and whenever I told someone how much I enjoyed playing tournament Poker, they looked at me suspicious and disapproving.
Fortunately, those days are long gone and, after becoming a member of Team PokerStars Pro and a poker commentator on Portuguese television, those same people started looking at me with admiration, instead of the previous 'close minded' feelings.
I don't condemn those people for their reactions. Novelty always causes resistance and associations with gambling are always complicated. Despite these difficulties, it's been almost 10 years and a lot has changed. Poker is accepted worldwide, lots of people watch it on TV or know someone who plays poker. This was something that seemed unattainable, but marketing, poker stars and time made a wonderful job.
These days, poker concerns have changed and are very focused on maintaining the growth of the game, assuring its honesty and credibility and continuously adjusting the rules according to the issues that come up.
Despite all of this, my concerns go in another direction and I believe they should count on a general reflection in order to transform this game in a real sports practice that will attract the attention of millions of people all over the world.
1- Whenever I watch or comment live poker, I go crazy with the time it takes players to make decisions. Basketball reduced the time for attacks to 24 seconds and Handball also has the passive game option, both with the goal of increasing the excitement in the games. These are good references for poker.
2- Whenever I watch or comment live poker, not knowing if a final table will last 3 or 14 hours also drives me crazy. Tennis introduced tie breaks and Volleyball started counting points, regardless of who was serving. Again, all this to increase the excitement in the games and to somehow guarantee that the games would not become endless.
I think Poker should rethink this situation, since it is impossible to keep someone's attention on the computer for 14 hours and it will never be possible to broadcast live poker on TV without knowing when a tournament will end.
3- Whenever I watch or comment live poker, it drives me crazy to watch the prizes rise to 6 or 7 digits and, at the same time, see the final tables lose the public's attention and interest.
The Fifa World Cup in South Korea/Japan hired extras to colour the TV broadcasts and so that every team would feel supported throughout the competition. But as the end came closer, the stadiums became too small for so much interest. Besides that, the passion for the idols increased with every second.
Why is poker the exact opposite? For me, part of the answer is related to the previous points. And I haven't managed to find a solution for this problem.
I want to end by saying that I know poker still needs to grow in terms of rules and it still needs to confront itself with the different regulations of each country, but I still believe that these are the great answers poker needs to find in order to become a greatly popular game/sport.
Joao Nunes is a member of Team PokerStars Pro