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Kevin Smith

Mobsters Prevail in the Online Poker Circuit

11 February 2004

Amid the convergence of the online and offline poker worlds, Prima has come up aces with its most recent marketing campaign.

"The synergy between online and offline poker has given the sport more exposure than ever before."
- Tamar Yaniv
Prima Poker

Online poker rooms made a splash over the summer when hoards of players showed up to the World Series of Poker, the game's crown jewel of tournaments, with URLs on their shirts, hats, jackets and anything else the cameras might see.

But Prima Poker, a Microgaming-powered online poker site, took that idea to a whole new level in September when the Hendon Mob, Englands' most recognizable group of poker players, began playing under the Prima Poker banner at the Four Queens Poker Classic in Las Vegas.

The event marked the beginning of the Prima Poker Tour, in which the group competes in land-based tournaments all over the world with Prima Poker as their sponsor. The tour's second season kicks off this week at the European Finals of Poker at the Aviation Club in Paris, France.

Fans can follow the Mob's success online at, and many of the land-based tournaments provide an opportunity for Prima's highest rollers, or best players, to meet--and sometimes even play against--members of the Mob.

The members of the Mob enter tournaments individually, giving fans more than just one player to root for, and often end up squaring up against each other in the later stages of tournaments.

The group, four longtime friends who played in casual poker games together in their London neighborhood and advanced to compete professionally, not only gel in tournaments, but are ambassadors away from the tables for Prima Poker and the game of poker in general.

One is a former snooker professional, one is a successful actor on British television, one is the son of a professional blackjack player and one is a commentator for one of the England's most popular poker programs when he isn't sitting at the final table himself.

Barny Boatman, the part-time commentator and natural spokesperson for the group, said working with Prima Poker has been an ideal situation for all parties involved.

"We recently were at a tournament in Melbourne, and Prima brought in a lot of their best customers from that part of the world," he said. "We had a special reception with them and us where we all got to meet them and then we sat down and played some poker with them, it was a lot of fun for everyone."

". . . A few years ago there was a lot of suspicion with online poker, but that is starting to go away."
- Ram Vaswani
The Hendon Mob

Ross Boatman, the actor, said giving Prima Poker online players the chance to interact with seasoned pros is ideal.

"Most online players that we see our technically superb players," he said. "They might not be used to having to read other players, though, and we are able to help them with that."

Prima Poker also uses the Mob to help online qualifiers compete in land-based tournaments. Mobster Joe Beevers, whose card-playing career started by playing blackjack with his father, said Prima frequently sends qualifiers to land-based tournaments.

Beevers, and other members of the Mob, will sit down with the amateurs and give them tips on how to play, and even play a few hands with them.

"If nothing else, it can get them used to the surroundings they will be playing in the next day," he said.

This year's tour will be even more extensive than last year's inaugural circuit; the Mob will compete in 14 of the most prestigious poker festivals across seven countries in 2004.

Tamar Yaniv, a spokesperson for Prima Poker, said his company is thrilled with the early results of the partnership. The four players finished in the money 49 times during last year's abbreviated tour and took home 11 tournament trophies and around $500,000 in total prize money.

"The partnership with The Hendon Mob has been extremely good not just for, but for the sport as a whole," she said. "The synergy between online and offline poker has given the sport more exposure than ever before."

Among the stops on this year's tour are Las Vegas, Paris, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Barcelona, Vienna, Dublin and London. One of the highlights will be the World Series of Poker.

As the Mob plays in more and more events, Ram Vaswani, the former professional snooker player, feels the perception of online poker is changing.

"Every event is the championship of somewhere," Vaswani said. "People see it as a good thing that we are able to increase the exposure to their tournament. It is entertainment, and a few years ago there was a lot of suspicion with online poker, but that is starting to go away."

When the Mob members' friendly little Monday games in a flat in Hendon, London started nearly 10 years ago, none of them thought it would grow to what it has today. But, they're reputation grew as they began playing tournaments frequently.

"We would show up to a tournament and people would say, 'Uh-oh, here comes the Hendon Mob,'" said Beevers.

Yaniv said the story behind the Mob lends to the marketability of the tour.

"This isn't something that we created or made up," she said. "They didn't even create it; it just kind of made itself. They are well respected and trusted and it is viral marketing at its finest."

Barny Boatman is looking forward to spreading the Prima Poker brand to all corners of the globe and winning as many poker tournaments as he can.

"The Internet has brought a whole new dimension into poker," Boatman said. "Prima Poker was brilliant to step up and bring it all together when they did, and they are reaping the rewards of it now, and this is only the tip of the iceberg."

Mobsters Prevail in the Online Poker Circuit is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith