How much do recreational poker players know about the Pros?

We are six-handed. Terry Welsh, who wears a t-shirt emblazoned with a different musical genius each week, sports a Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon top. It’s as grey as my mood. I am down, losing everything I don’t own to Mr Welsh.
The barman picks up the remote and starts searching for something decent to watch. It's a tough ask at 3am in the morning, but miraculously he finds an episode of the World Poker Tour (WPT). It's in Venice, and there I am, standing next to the table with my notebook in my hand.

“Rewind it,” I shout. “Terry, watch, I’m on TV.”
The barman rewinds it and plays it.

“Which one’s you?” Asks Terry.
“On the side.”
I get up and point to the silhouette, "there!"

“What are you doing there?” he asks.
“But, I thought you were a professional poker player?”
Up until that point, I had played in my home game with Terry for five years. All this time, this man, who I had spent so many hours with, believed I played in the WPT, not worked in it.

While it's true, that my home game isn't bathed in natural intelligence, it's also true that hardly any of its incumbents have a clue who plays poker professionally, a remarkable fact given how much they love the game.

But why?
Following What You Love
As a child, growing up in the UK, my one true love was football and Manchester United. There were three reasons for this dalliance with desire.

1. Culture 
I loved football because my whole family loved football. My Uncle was a season-ticket holder at Man Utd, and so it was inevitable that I followed suit. Growing up in Manchester, England, everyone lived and breathed football.

2. Televised Coverage 
Saturday night's round-up of the First Division/Premier League action on Match of the Day is an iconic football show in the UK. Kids looked forward to it each week, begging their parents to stay up to watch it.

3. Video Games 
The more recent popularity of video games like FIFA means that young football fans are more educated about the game than ever before. Their knowledge of teams and players strengths is now global.

Ask any fan of football who the best player in the world is, and you'll quickly become embroiled in a conversation about the omnipotence of both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Ask them who the most expensive player in the world is, and they will tell you that Neymar's recent £200m transfer to Paris St Germain (PSG) shattered the previous record of £89m held by Paul Pogba of Man Utd.

But, ask one of the lads in my local home game who's the best poker player in the world, and they look at you stupid.

Who is The Greatest Tournament Player in The World?
I asked eight regulars in my local home game to choose the greatest tournament poker player in the world.
The two most popular players were Phil Ivey and Phil Hellmuth, both receiving two votes. Ivey did stand alone for a while, but Hellmuth caught up when one of my friends was forced to change his vote for the Devilfish because he wasn't aware he had passed away.

Johnny Chan, Doyle Branston (this is what my friend called him) – ahem, Brunson, and Daniel Negreanu received a single vote. One of the lads split his nomination into live (Fedor Holz) and online (Chris Moorman) play.
How many players from the Top 10 All-Time Tournament Money Winners do you know?

Let's see how many players from the Hendon Mob Top 10 All-Time Tournament Money Earners they could name?

Here is the list (up to date 20/8/2017)
  1. Daniel Negreanu - $34,093,598
  2. Erik Seidel - $32,462,831
  3. Daniel Colman - $28,392,941
  4. Antonio Esfandiari - $27,614,380
  5. Phil Ivey - $23,856,034
  6. Fedor Holz - $23,354,887
  7. Scott Seiver - $22,805,728
  8. Phil Hellmuth Jr - $21,396,944
  9. John Juanda - $20,748,954
  10. Sam Trickett - $20,625,658
The group correctly guessed four of the Top 10 list.
Here they are with the associated number of votes.
  • Daniel Negreanu x 5
  • Phil Ivey x 4
  • Phil Hellmuth x 4
  • Sam Trickett x 1
Except for Trickett, Negreanu, Ivey, and Hellmuth all received the most votes showing that the list had somehow permeated the grey matter of the group, although none of them had ever seen the actual list.

Here were the other votes:
  • Doyle Branston {Brunson} x 3
  • Chris Moneymaker x 3
  • Johnny Chan x 2
  • Chris Ferguson x 2
  • Howard Lederer x 2
  • Scotty Nguyen
  • Dave “Devilfish” Ulliot
  • Jason Mercier
Name three more quality pro tournament players?
Next, I asked them to expand their poker knowledge even further, and nominate another three tournament players not already previously mentioned.

It was a struggle.
Only three of the eight could answer this question.
  • Roberto Romanello x 2
  • Daniel Negreanu x 1
  • Jake Cody x 1
  • Phil Galfond x 1
  • Gus Hansen x 1
  • Sam Trickett x 1
What do these results mean?
It means that this sample of recreational poker players in South Wales, UK, know next to nothing about the state of the professional game. And, at one time or another in the past five years, these eight players played poker on a regular basis, with some of them still competing in live cash games, and winning, four to five times per week.
Now let’s see how the group’s poker knowledge stacks up to how our children learn about football.
Finding a Footing in Culture
Although most of the group played one form of card game or another at home with the family as children, the prominence of poker is only a recent phenomenon, and, yes, you’ve guessed it, Chris Moneymaker is the reason.
The home game began in 2005, two years after Chris Moneymaker had won the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event. Up until this point, our live card games were Three Card Brag and Shoot the Pool.

Even though people gambled, primarily Three Card Brag, it was never significantly cultural, like betting on horse racing was, for example. Poker was cultural, post-2005, and it was contagious. We didn’t only play the game in our home game, but during house parties, and bank holidays.
Post-2005, poker became one of the most social aspects of our life, even replacing football as our go-to game when there was an opportunity to play Dealers Choice or take up tickets to watch a match.

But pre-2005, poker was a non-entity in the pubs and clubs.

Bring on the Television
Televised coverage of poker is the primary reason the group had any knowledge of the game. Late Night Poker was the first TV show to use hole-cam technology, and when it came out on Channel 4, it was bold and ballsy, with characters like Dave ‘Devilfish’ Ulliot becoming mainstream UK stars.
When Sky TV moved into town, and three TV channels turned into 30+, the Poker Million was another much-loved show. But these events mainly covered British pros.

The significant shift in interest came when coverage of the WSOP & WPT hit British TV screens. The condensed action made it a dream to watch. The WPT had heavenly hosts and The Royal Flush Girls. And, we played witness to huge prize pools and some of the greatest poker players in the world.

It was like watching Big Daddy on World of Sport and then watching Hulk Hogan on the WWE.

Other Influential Factors
Only a handful of the group play or have played online poker. Those that have ventured online were also the ones that had read about poker while playing online.

The other avenue for information was via print publications like Bluff and Poker Pro Europe, which could be found lying around in poker rooms in the UK. Bored, people would rifle through them while sitting at the tables.
It’s for this reason that some members of the group named Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer. Chris Moneymaker was a common name, and again I think this is because of print media, and commentators on the WPT and WSOP regularly mentioning him as the reason for the poker boom.
There was also a nationalised bias with Trickett, Devilfish, and Cody all hailing from the UK, and Romanello getting several mentions because he is the Welsh All-Time Money Winner. Also, most of the group have played with him, or have seen him, playing in the casinos in Swansea.

Poker Popularity and the Future
Based on this small sample, the popularity of poker in South Wales is going to wane.
The only way it will grow is by word of mouth from the players competing in the local home games, and there aren’t enough low buy-in home games for people to play in. Even in a £1/£1 Dealers Choice (DC) cash game you can win or lose a grand a night.
New players aren’t going to enter the game because exposure is low. Late Night Poker and Poker Million are both dead. Coverage of the WPT and WSOP is sparse, if non-existent, and print publications are dying, removing exposure from the land-based casinos.
You can still find a lot of poker coverage online, but it's tailored for the online poker community and not newcomers. I can't imagine any of the group purchasing a subscription to PokerGO, for example, and I doubt they would even be aware of its existence.

The poker players of the future are starved of access to this beautiful game. Given a chance to play FIFA, Call of Duty, or a video game version of the WSOP, what are you going to play?
The days of watching stars like me, standing by the side of the WPT Main Event final table, scribbling notes on my pad, are well gone.
But poker will never die.
The Terry Welsh's of this world will keep turning up in their local home games, completely unaware that Fedor Holz has won $20m in two years, that the Devilfish has passed away, and that the real name