BY RUSS SCOTT
RELEASE: JAN. 25, 2011
Will New Pro League Identify Poker’s Best or Just Stir Debate?
People love lists. We can spend endless hours discussing who’s the best hitter in baseball, the best golfer in the world or the best college football team.
Now, it’s poker’s turn to stir up the never-ending question: Who is the best professional tournament player?
The announcement last week of a new professional poker league is bound to fire up debate in March when the league’s initial 200 members are identified. Indeed, the first question already being asked: Does the poker world need such a league at all?
Well, the folks behind the league — Federated Sports and Gaming, along with the Palms Resort Casino in Las Vegas — sure think so. The typical amateur player — probably not so much.
For certain, there’s star power behind the effort.
Jeffrey Pollack, former World Series of Poker commissioner, co-founded FS+G and will serve as the league’s chairman. Although well regarded for his high-visibility WSOP leadership, Pollack likely will stay mostly in the background of the new league.
Up front as league commissioner will be pro player Annie Duke, a WSOP bracelet winner who also holds the current National Heads-Up Poker Championship title.
She told The Associated Press: “Fans have shown over and over that they love the stars of the game,” and it is those elite players “that they really want to be watching on television.”
Consequently, in addition to naming the original 200 cardholders, Duke said she soon will release details about five televised tournaments to be held at the Palms later this year exclusively for league members.
Fresh from her separation last month as a sponsored pro for the scandal-plagued online site Ultimate Bet, Duke told PokerNews.com in an interview that details of a points-based system to earn and maintain league membership will be announced within two months.
Those membership qualifications will include a code of conduct, she said in the interview.
“We want to raise the level of poker and the way the public views poker,” said Duke, who has testified before government committees in Washington, declaring her support of protecting poker players’ civil liberties.
Meanwhile, not everyone thinks the league’s qualifying formula should be disclosed.
Ken Light of Pennington, N.J., who in 2007 became the first amateur qualifier to appear against an all-pro lineup on NBC’s popular “Poker After Dark,” believes such formulas are inherently flawed and can be exploited.
“So, really the only way to avoid people gaming the system is to not disclose the qualifying formula,” Light said in a comment posted at luckydogpoker.com.
While that may be true, there’s also an argument favoring transparency in the qualifying process. At least then we’ll know upfront if the selection of the world’s top 200 players is slanted in any way. Besides, knowing the formula provides more fodder for debate!
No matter the criteria, one of the league’s primary goals — to highlight the biggest poker stars on new TV shows — could be problematic to achieve.
For starters, much of the viewing public already won’t recognize the names of half of the 200 competitors in a league tourney. Plus, seeing the field reduced to a televised final table of only fan-favorite elite players remains a longshot.
In the end, the new professional league may not truly identify who is poker’s best tournament player of the month, of the year or of all time. Likely it will serve as one more measuring stick for ranking success.
Chances are good, though, that the curiosity of tracking our favorite players on the list will prompt lively discussion and alert us to up-and-coming stars. That works for me.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to email@example.com for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2011 RUSS SCOTT
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM