Churchill Downs Calls Its Bluff

Bluff Magazine has ceased publication. Introduced in October 2004 at the start of the poker boom, Bluff focused on lifestyle and tournaments instead of strategy. Churchill Downs bought Bluff in 2012. But as online gaming progress lags in the U.S., Bluff 's fortunes declined—although it could be revived pending national and statewide regulation.

Churchill Downs Inc. will stop publication of Bluff Magazine after a decade of operation. First published in October 2004, Bluff was founded by Eric Morris and Eddy Kleid at the beginning of the booming poker scene powered by online poker and the fast-growing tournament culture. Morris said Bluff would not focus on poker strategy but instead feature on the game’s lifestyle, live tournament reporting and some strategy articles.

Eventually Bluff challenged longtime leader CardPlayer Magazine for the top spot in the category. Its success caught the attention of potential buyers and in 2012 Morris and Kleid sold Bluff to Churchill Downs supposedly for a seven-figure price. The timing coincided with speculation about online gaming and poker regulation, and Churchill Downs, owners of casinos and horse racetracks across the U.S., online betting and Big Fish Games social gaming, saw Bluff Media as a good fit for its portfolio.

But national regulation of online gaming has virtually shut down and state-by-state regulation is moving slowly. In January Churchill Downs moved Bluff entirely to a digital publication and recently officials said the magazine will cease to be on August 15, although that essentially already has happened, Morris said. “There were only four people left and I originally hired two of them,” Morris said.

Churchill Downs retains all the intellectual property of Bluff and could revive it if the time is right, but that won’t occur until major changes are made in the U.S. regarding online gaming and poker regulation.