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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Gold star casino

GOLD STANDARD. . Those results may not seem like much, but Nicholas Danna of Birmingham (Ala.)-based brokerage Sterne, Agee & Leach has a buy rating on the stock because he thinks 2004 is the first chapter in what's likely to be a lucrative marque. "This is the company that branded poker," says Danna. Lipscomb is trying to stack the odds this season, with a prize pool of more than $70 million and flashier sets and graphics.

But the table is getting crowded. Among the shows competing for eyeballs are Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown, Poker Superstars on Fox Sports Network (NWS ), GSN's Poker Royale: Battle of the Sexes, and the National Heads-Up Poker Championship on NBC. Then there are startups such as Casino & Gaming Television and Edge TV. But the biggest threat is ESPN, which airs the popular World Series of Poker. It's expanding coverage of the game and even has a fictional poker series, Tilt, on the way.

For Lipscomb, the Holy Grail is to have the WPT become what the NBA and PGA are to their sports -- the gold standard for players and fans. With an estimated 50 million poker players in the U.S. alone, it's likely that TV poker is here to stay. But Lipscomb and his World Poker Tour have a ways to go before they convert some big pots into a straight-flush global franchise.