PokerStars ad banned in the UK

You may have seen a television ad for PokerStars recently touting a player’s bluffing skills and ending with their new tag line “you are already a great poker player.” That ad won’t be playing on TV in the United Kingdom anymore.

The U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority banned the ad last week after a complaint was filed that the ad “exploited inexperienced poker players by suggesting that they could easily excel at the game and make large winnings.”

For anyone who hasn’t seen the ad, it shows a player at a home game who has been dealt 8-3 while a voice exclaims “Here you are, the moment when bluffing is the only way to win, you’re freaking out kiddo, but think about all those times you bluffed yourself.” The ad went on to extol the player’s real-life bluffs around exercising, reading and his parents’ history in the bedroom, before showing him pushing his chips all-in and delivering the tag line.

In its ruling on the complaint, the ASA found that the ad’s message that bluffing could be successful even with little poker knowledge was reckless and showed a way of gambling “in a manner that could lead to financial harm.”

PokerStars’ defense

PokerStars tried to defend the ad as not encouraging irresponsible gambling on the grounds that it did not show any real money being won or wagered and that bluffing was not reckless as it was an integral part of many different card games. The defense was ultimately unsuccessful.

The ASA did not accept PokerStars’ defense, noting that viewers of the ad could be confused by the comparison of bluffing in real-life activities with bluffing at the poker table. In its decision, the ASA also noted that “the ad would be interpreted by viewers to mean that they could make large winnings by making big ‘all-in’ bluffs based solely on their experience of bluffing in real life without any experience of playing poker.”

The ASA directed PokerStars to immediately cease showing the ad and make sure future ads did not depict “socially irresponsible gambling and forms of recklessness at the poker table.”