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Monday, September 26, 2005

curb your enthousiasm

Bill Mann has had enough. My esteemed colleague has just read his zillionth article on WPT Enterprises (Nasdaq: WPTE) this month. In the last one, "The author beats to death the whole 'let's make poker references while talking about the stock' thing." And I guess it's up to me to do something about it.

Bill: Hey, Jeff! You know what would be really funny? You should write an article on poker and make a point of not using poker cliches.

Jeff: Yeah, Bill. That would be funny.

You know what's funnier is that when I started covering casino stocks regularly a couple of years ago in September 2003, my generally excessive interest was treated with some scorn here at Fool HQ. And it's not because casino stocks don't make for good investments -- the stock prices of virtually every casino operator in the game have multiplied since then. The issue was that nobody in the stock market cared about casinos and gambling at the time, and I was basically talking to a wall.

But nowadays, all anybody seems to want to talk about is poker.

And supposedly, there is now demand for such material: Since I first wrote about the World Poker Tour and current 62%-owner Lakes Entertainment in January 2004 (see "Betting the World Poker Tour"), coverage from the financial press has picked up considerably from zero. Maybe a dozen or so new poker-specific magazines have also popped up on the market, including Bluff, All In, and Deal. And in the past month alone, I counted no less than six articles on online poker just on our own Fool.com website, although I must point out that the last three were related to the recent stock activity regarding Motley Fool Hidden Gems selection Cryptologic (Nasdaq: CRYP).

I gotta tell you: The general level of journalistic creativity in the financial market is astounding. When 71-year-old poker legend Doyle Brunson may or may not have led a group of investors in making an unsolicited and unconfirmed $700 million bid for WPT Entertainment last month, writers from no less than three different financial news services cleverly labeled the bid to be a "bluff."

One wisenheimer went as far as to say that "The bid turned out to be a complete bluff; WPT management couldn't get Brunson's group to reveal its hole cards, and the deal was folded away in days."