I was out shopping over the weekend and walked past a large newsagent. I write for a couple of poker magazines and I always make a point of checking out all the poker publications available to keep up with the industry (And to see if I'm in any of them). I scanned the shelves in a slow and methodical manner and couldn't find anything that even resembled a magazine about playing cards.
I don't have enough time to divulge exactly how I innocently found my gaze directed at the 'top shelf' publications in the shop, but it was there I found the poker magazines I was searching for, to the immediate right of a sea of pamphlets of busty ladies of all shapes, sizes and ages. If I, or any other poker player, wanted to brush up on their poker knowledge they would risk being branded a pervert if this was their local newsagents. It was a crowded shop and I couldn't actually bring myself to lift the poker magazine from the shelf, through fear of knocking the food fetish and Over 50 magazines on the floor.
It's an odd topic, but it's very difficult to say where the poker magazine should go in the newsagents shelving plans. It seems every newsagent has a different view and it makes them difficult to find. I estimate that there are at least ten monthly poker magazines sold in UK newsagents, which I may be wrong but is more than there are football magazines and on a par with the number of men's lifestyle, TV guide and other popular formats.
So where else have I found poker magazines nestled uncomfortably between other magazines?
Hobbies & Interests
Is probably the technically best place to put them, as poker is a hobby to most people that play it. The problem with this is that A) Not all newsagents have a hobbies section and B) They are usually full of knitting and cookery magazines – neither exactly synonymous with poker. Nethertheless, one can't complain if this is where we have to go.
This is my ideal shelf for poker magazines to sit on, but whether it belongs there is completely dependent on whether you can claim poker to be sport with a straight face. Yes it is a sedentary 'sport', but it has enough elements of a sport to justify a place on that shelf - we have endorsements, championships, sponsors, superstars and 'tips on improving your game' – all of which are staples of any good sporting magazine. Those good people at WHSmiths put poker magazines in the sports section (I seem to recall them being one of the market leaders in the news agency racket).
If the sport shelf is the fantasy, the computer shelf is the hard reality. I've seen many a poker magazine next to the PC magazines and it's nearly as bitter a pill to swallow as the pornography shelf. For everyone that thinks poker is cool, there is someone else that just thinks you are a 'poker nerd'. Most poker is played on a PC these days and I guess it makes very good marketing sense to get the poker magazines next to a readymade, computer literate audience.
I can't honestly fathom why the poker magazines were right next to the pornography on my recent outing. I hope it was just a lack of space or confusion as to where to put them. On the other hand, it could well have been a moral opposition to poker that put them there, from someone that saw it as the seedy pastime some still do. They probably thought that by putting the poker magazine next to the nasty stuff they were saving their customer two trips, or at least shaming us into changing our ways.
I'm probably just being a bit paranoid on that one.
Is something I find pretty offensive and ultimately one of the reasons I chose to write this today. The 'Top Shelf' experience was really the straw that broke the camel's back. More than anything, I tend to find poker magazines sat between FHM and Loaded magazine. The implication is that poker is a man's game or more accurately a 'lad's game'. Yes, most tournaments will be predominantly male when you go down to the casino, but the number of females playing poker is one of the fastest growing markets around (I won't even mention the biggest star in poker right now is a girl – oh wait, I just did).
By putting poker magazines in the men's interest section, it is completely alienating female players from becoming engrossed in the poker culture, something which is very important to developing as players.
Based on the rate that poker is developing this problem may soon be academic as we could soon see a fully fledged poker shelf in most newsagents. Until then I would settle for somewhere between the sports and the hobby sections.
Ed note: The UK PokerNews magazine will be available in all good newsagents and will be freely available across the nation in card rooms from December