Poker's Power 20 - The Most Influential People in Poker
We asked a panel of industry experts to agree on the most influential movers and shakers in poker. This ain’t just about power and money, it’s also about respect, popularity and the general wielding of clout. After many arguments, tantrums and fistfights, Bluff is proud to present the prestigious Poker Power 20.
20. Chip Reese
Chip Reese didn’t make this list for the power he wields within the industry – corporate sponsorship and TV tournament fame are completely unimportant to him. It’s about the admiration he receives from the other big players, and the reverence he inspires in his peers. He’s widely acknowledged as the best all-round player there is, and when Doyle needs a second opinion, he goes to Chip. Johnny Chan once told us that Reese was his greatest hero: “Everything he ever does is just the right thing to do.”
19. Johnny Grooms
There are many great tournament directors that deserve more than a fleeting mention in this list, Jack McClelland, Doug Dalton, Matt Savage, for instance, are all hugely influential figures in the poker world. But these days, once the largest poker tournament in the world begins, Johnny Grooms runs the show. The 2005 WSOP Tournament Director took to the behemoth task of running the largest poker tournament of all time with unflappable ease, not mention a one-liner or two.
18. Mike Sexton
Host of the World Poker Tour, everyone in the poker community loves this guy. While he seems to be having a spot of bother besting Phil Ivey at high-stakes golf these days, Mike’s been at the center of poker scene for the best part of three decades. He is also the spokesperson for PartyPoker.com, the largest poker site on the net.
17. Johnny Chan
After a memorable performance in Rounders, Johnny instantly became one of the most recognizable names in poker. At this year’s WSOP he won his tenth WSOP bracelet, a record he shares with Doyle Brunson, which secures his place in the annals of poker history as one of the greatest players of all time. Johnny exuded star quality long before poker players became celebrities, and is one of the few poker players whose name is constantly prefixed with the word ‘legend’.
16. Chris Moneymaker
Chris Moneymaker launched a poker revolution when he won the World Series in 2003. His unlikely name grabbed the headlines and suddenly poker was mainstream news, prompting a surge in online poker site sign ups by people like us who hoped we could emulate his feat. In fact, ask your mom to name a famous poker player and she’ll probably say, “That Money guy… Money… sumthin’… what’s his name?” Chris has recently launched his own merchandising company, Moneymaker Gaming – and he’ll probably make a fortune.
15. Paradise Poker
The rise of the online poker site and its influence on the poker landscape cannot be
ignored. Launched way back in 1999, an aeon in terms of e-commerce,
ParadisePoker.com is one of the oldest sites around. Its recent acquisition by
SportingBet plc, the world’s largest online betting company, secures it a place in the
Poker Power 20.
14. Ultimate Bet
Another industry big-hitter, UltimateBet.com has a huge loyal player-base and an impressive stable of sponsored big-name players, including Annie Duke, Antonio Esfandiari, Phil Hellmuth, David ‘Devilfish’ Ulliot, and Jim ‘KrazyKanuck’ Worth. It also has its own WPT event, the UltimateBet Poker Classic in Aruba.
13. Full Tilt
Full Tilt has a glittering stable of sponsored players that reads like a Who’s Who of poker, including John Juanda, Howard Lederer, Clonie Gowen, Andy Bloch, Phil Gordon, Allen Cunningham, Chris “Jesus” Ferguson, Phil Ivey, Eric Lindgren, Jennifer Harman… phew! We could go on… Team Full Tilt was on fire throughout 2005. Last October, the Bluff Power Rankings placed an amazing nine Full Tilt players in the top twenty, of which six were in the top ten… of which four were… well, in the top four. Launched in 2004, FullTiltPoker has become an industry heavyweight in a relatively short space of time. It’s a poker room designed by the pros, and its clout within the poker world, online and off, can only increase.
12. Lyle Berman
A cofounder of the WPT, Lyle recently stepped down as CEO of the company. He remains Chairman of the Board and, as CEO of Lakes Entertainment, a large shareholder in WPTE. A workaholic business tycoon, Lyle also plays regularly against the world’s best poker players for the highest stakes known to man, and is a highly respected and much-loved member of the poker community.
11. Jamie Horowitz
If TV producer Jamie Horowitz decides to invite you on NBC’s National Heads Up Championship, it means you’ve truly arrived. Jamie not only convinced the powers at NBC that his dream of primetime heads up poker deserved a spot on network television, but he also he set about rethinking the way poker should be broadcast. When the show hit our screens last May, we hadn’t seen anything quite like it.
10. Brian Balsbaugh
Agent to the poker stars, if you want to do anything with a big name poker player, the chances are you have to go through this guy. Brian is a former attorney who took to managing pro golfers and, when he sensed poker was going to be big, he decided to apply his skills to looking after poker players. His clients include Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, Antonio Esfandiari, Eric Lindgren, Gus Hansen, Michael Mizrachi, Evelyn Ng, Paul Darden, TJ Cloutier and David Williams.
9. Party Poker
As with any industry, money talks, and PartyPoker.com is the largest and the richest poker room in the online gaming space. Last summer, as Party Gaming, it floated on the London Stock Exchange with a market value of about $8 billion, several hundred dollars of which once belonged to the Bluff editorial team. While shares have dipped slightly since, mainly due to investor’s concerns about the muddy waters surrounding the legality of online gaming in the US, PartyPoker.com remains the most powerful online poker room in the world.
The last three world champions have signed on as spokesmen for Pokerstars.com, the second biggest online poker room in the industry. Moneymaker and Raymer both won their entries in their WSOP-winning years through PokerStars.com satellites, completing an amazing back-toback coup. Last year, over a fifth of all WSOP Main Event entrants had arrived via Pokerstars.com. The site has its own WPT event, the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, and is home of the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) – the largest tournament on the net. The competition generated $12,783,900 of prize money in 2005, making it the third biggest poker series that year.
7. Jack Binion
When we asked Doyle Brunson who should make this list, he didn’t think twice. The eldest son of poker’s royal family, Jack Binion was present at the first ever WSOP back in 1970, and quickly took over the reins from his father, the legendary Benny Binion. Over the years, Jack played a huge role in its development and expansion as a tournament. And the man Harrah’s approached last year to imbue their WSOP with tradition and credibility? Who else. It was great to see Jack back in his old role, marching around the Rio at last year’s World Championships, meeting and greeting. This is a man who has been around poker his whole life and is dearly loved by the players. “He’s the original pioneer,” says Doyle. “He promoted the WSOP it and made it into a first-class operation when everybody thought it was a stupid idea. The Binions lost hundreds and thousands of dollars on those first tournaments because they did it in a first-class manner. Back in those days, they comped everybody their rooms, their food… The Binions were the founders of it all.”
6. Daniel Negreanu
One of the most popular and charismatic players around, Daniel is the embodiment of poker’s new wave – youthful, media-savvy and uber-talented. His chatty easy-going manner makes him perfect for TV appearances, and through his forthright blog, he inspires the kind of fierce devotion from his fans that’s unique in the poker world. He writes a syndicated newspaper column, has his own game for the PS2 and Xbox and the recent news is that his fullcontactpoker.com website has morphed into an online cardroom. Daniel has joined the lucrative online poker industry.
Daniel, what do you feel has been your personal contribution to the game over the last few years?
Well number one, I’m not a yes-man. I’m not afraid to rock the boat. If the players are being taken advantage of, I’m willing to step up to anybody and say that. I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of voicing player concerns to establishments and corporations, anything from Harrah’s to the World Series. Poker’s really important to me, and standing up for the rights of the players is important and it’s something I’m willing to do on every front. I’m not afraid of what it will do to me personally. I’ll stick my neck out – I guess that’s one way to put it.
It’s always been important to you to promote a positive image of poker…
Yes. I think the world needs to see that poker players are not necessarily degenerates or bums. You can live a very healthy lifestyle playing poker for a living. Something I’ve always tried to promote is that – yes, while poker is gambling – it’s no different than playing the stock market, opening up a restaurant or launching a magazine. Poker players need to be respected as businessmen.
What would you like to see in store for poker 2006?
The key to poker’s future is television, but it’s a little bit chaotic today. There’s poker on every channel and you don’t really know what it is or where it is. We need something more organized on one network – something similar to a PGA Tour, with all the top pros playing every Saturday. That’s when we’ll really see just how big poker can get.
Your reaction to being our number six?
Well first of all, I’m flattered. And secondly, it makes me feel good that the things I’ve tried to do to promote the game have been noticed by the public. Most of the things I do, I don’t get paid for. Poker is my passion. It’s just a real honor to feel like you’re appreciated for what you do to try to help the game.
And now you have your own internet poker room…
Fullcontactpoker.com was just a website I started – basically like a fan site. But it just kept on growing and growing until it became this real community. So I wanted to give us our own website where we could play live. I’m making sure that the original members get the full benefit of being FCPers, and we’ve got loads of great promotions. I’m big on: “What do you guys want and we’ll bring it!” That’s my only agenda: give the people what they want and they’ll come.
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