As you probably know, WSOP Final Table logos are big business. Players routinely secure six and seven figure multi year deals from the big online poker sites. The 2009 World Series of Poker November Nine were no exception. Except for the nine players, agents and poker sites, very few people ever get to look inside how logo deals happen. Poker News Daily sat down with Paul Leggett of Ultimate Bet. Leggett is the COO at Tokwiro, the owner of Ultimate Bet, and is ultimately the one responsible for making logo deals on behalf of the site. While Ultimate Bet did not have a player wearing a logo at the 2009 WSOP Final Table, the site did have significant ESPN exposure in the coverage during the run up to the final table. In addition, Leggett and UB were heavily involved in multi-month attempts to sign players at the final table.
Who were you targeting as good candidates for Ultimate Bet logos in this year’s WSOP?
Leggett: Coming down the stretch I really wanted Joe Sebok, Antonio Esfandiari and Prahlad Friedman. To determine who to go after, we usually look at televised tables, chip counts, etc. We also focused in on Billy Kopp and Joe Cada because they fit with our pro team and they had good chip stacks. Once they got the final 27 we liked their experience from online poker and we went after both of them. Unfortunately Billy busted out a bit short of the final table and Joe ended up signing with PokerStars but we felt good about who we were going after.
When it got down to the final table the only person I really wanted was Joe Cada because he represented the young online poker player really well. We went after Joe Cada and Stars went after Darvin Moon. Cada and his agent were holding us off and delaying so I put an expiration date on the offer.
After Cada signed with Stars, I realized that Stars was going after Moon while we were going after Cada and that was one reason Cada was holding off on making a decision. Stars was insisting on a long-term pro deal with Moon but he wouldn’t budge on doing anything beyond a one-day deal because he didn’t want to have any commitments after the series. Stars wouldn’t do a one-day logo deal with Moon so they came in and signed Cada. I don’t blame Cada for holding out for a big deal. Our deals work on a sliding scale and Stars offers much larger flat multi-year deals.
So after not getting Joe Cada in September did you pursue anyone else?
Leggett: We went after Moon. He made it obvious to us that he only wanted a single-day logo deal which is worth a lot less to us. There’s still value in the logo but if he did well we obviously want him to become a part of our team. We want someone to be an ambassador and represent our site at other tournaments. So we saw a lot less value in it but we were still in back and forth discussions with his agent until the day before the final table. We made a lot of different sorts of significant six-figure offers for the one day logo deal but in the end we weren’t able to reach an agreement.
(Editors Note: Leggett declined to provide specific figures during our interview but a number of industry sources have stated that Moon was looking for $350k for a one-day logo deal at the final table. We can obviously presume that Ultimate Bet did not offer that much or else Moon would have taken it.)
How hard is it to do this when you’re competing with the Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars’ of the world?
Leggett: It’s very hard because negotiating and making these deals is a unique skill set and you have to learn from scratch and get experience. One reason it’s so difficult to make these deals is because it’s hard to put an estimate on what these deals are worth. They can backfire on you badly. There are a number of WSOP champions who we don’t want to have representing us. On the other hand, guys like Joe Cada are perfect for us.
But it’s really us just trying to put ourselves in a position to find the next Moneymaker dream winner and reap the rewards from that. We learned a lot this year and I pretty much guarantee we’ll have a logo at the final table next year.
How do Ultimate Bet’s deals generally work?
Leggett: Before the final table, it depends on whether the player is at a primary televised table or a secondary table. Based on that, they get a flat amount. In addition, they get paid for TV incentives after it airs usually based on TV exposure of full and partial logos. There are a few requirements for what qualifies as a logo exposure. In addition, should they make the final table, we offer a scaling final table deal which is relatively small for 9th and quite large for 1st. The deal for 1st is a multi-year Ultimate Bet pro deal.
What do you think about diminishing returns on logos? How important is the first logo for a site versus the second and the third?
Leggett: I care a great deal about the first especially if it’s a great player and a great story. I thought Cada and Moon had great stories and I really wanted to get at least one of them. Both of them appeal to a certain demographic. We’re selective about who we’ll spend a lot to put a logo on. We definitely want to have a logo at final tables but we’re also shooting for first or second place players to be our long-term representative. A lot of people don’t remember who finished 3rd, 4th, etc after a few years so we really want someone who has a great story and can get to heads up. That’s our goal in this process.
Do you think the 3 logo rule is a good one?
Leggett: I really do think it’s a good one. It makes sense for the WSOP because the brand is the WSOP and it isn’t the PokerStars series. It can look overwhelming and silly.
What do you think their reasoning was for that?
Leggett: Probably to combat a single site dominating.
Do you want to talk about your strategy for next year?
Leggett: We can’t do that, it’s too important. But we did learn a lot this year and we will be able to get a logo next year. We did get a ton of coverage on ESPN this year and we’re really happy with the TV exposure that we got. Our coverage was probably better than Stars even in the period leading up to the final table. We’re very happy with our exposure even though we didn’t sign Cada and we’re looking forward to getting a logo on the final table next year.