Monday, March 10, 2014

The World Championship of Battleship Poker

or, How I stole a great idea and turned it into an event

[The following is a reprint of a post I made to the PokerStars blog on January 16, 2006. We had just finished that year's PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, and without question, the most popular event was the wildly successful World Championship of Battleship Poker.]

There is a great song from the early 1960s, "Lobachevsky," by a guy named Tom Lehrer, that includes the following quote:

Plagiarize! Let no one's work evade your eyes. 
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes, 
So don't shade your eyes, 
just plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize!

I'm a marketing guy, and I think Tom Lehrer was one at heart, as well. He knows the fundamental rules of marketing -- find the best ideas, take credit for them and make them your own.

On October 13 (2005), while we were in the midst of Phase 2 of PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Panic, Brad "Otis" Willis came up with a brilliant idea -- conduct a Battleship event at PCA, in which PokerStars players play heads up matches, live on their computers, sitting face to face. My initial reaction was:

"I love this idea, but we can't do it. If the Bahamas Gaming Board realized that people were playing poker for money, on the Atlantis network, in THEIR conference space, they would have a collective stroke. Let's leave it informal."

I promptly forgot the idea and moved on.

Then, on December 21, I woke up in the middle of the night with a brilliant idea. What if we conducted a massive, online/live heads-up tournament at Atlantis, where players could play online against opponents that are sitting right across the table from them? I suggested this stroke of genius in one of our regular PCA idea email exchanges, and practically everyone was all over it.

And then, Brad spoiled the party. He reminded me that he had suggested almost the exact idea in an email to me several months before.

Now excuse me for a minute. Great ideas don't come around that often. It was a great idea, and why should I be punished because I happened to come up with the very same idea, two months later?

I could write it off to Getting Older, and say I just forgot. After all, at the prior year's PCA, I celebrated the birthday that officially represents Getting Old (50). But I shouldn't have to. The fact is, I'm Brad's boss, and the right thing for him to do was to just suck it up and tell me what a great idea I had. One of these days, we will hire him a junior blogger, and he can steal great ideas from that guy. In the meantime, he should continue to come up with great ideas that I can steal; when he manages to steal his own, we will know he has a future in management.

For the record, we applied to the Bahamas Gaming Board for approval for the first annual World Championship of Battleship Poker, they approved it, and it was a huge success. Sixty-four players entered for $1,000 each, all had a great time and the crowd loved it.

(Please note that *I* was the one that pulled all of the cables, set up the routers and switches and made the whole thing work. Well, along with Lee Jones, Nolan Dalla, Steve Wood, a bunch of Atlantis staff -- hell, Brad may even have been there. If so, he's probably trying to take credit for that, too.)

So, it all turned out for the best. Brad's My idea turned into a huge success that has been reported widely in the media and gave our players a great time and a great show. Perhaps this can serve as a lesson for Brad. Go find some good ideas, make them your own, and, in Tom Lehrer's words:

                              Plagiarize! Only be sure always to call it please, "research."


  1. Love your stories. Need more. Feed me!
    Time for another brain dump!!