Yesterday, Full Tilt Poker unveiled their latest creation, The Onyx Cup. If you’re clued in to the latest news, you’ll have watched as Ali Nejad glibly informed us of a new series of high stakes poker tournaments that will, “pit the greats, against the greats.”
It’s an alluring prospect, no doubt. Watching Phil Ivey test his tournament skills against Tom Dwan, without having to worry about some amateur luckbox rivering a winner. Who wouldn’t want that?
In Full Tilt’s promotional video, five contractually obligated degenerates try their best to seem enthused for the camera, but there’s a sense that a tournament series with buy-ins between $100k – $300k would be of genuine interest to the top pros.
Not least Erik Seidel, noticeably bumped up to the top table on the back of his incredible 2011 heater. Rather unfairly he is sat next to Gus Hansen and Patrik Antonius, making him look like some sort of unwelcome mushroom, but there’s no denying Erik has developed a mastery of the high buy-in event.
Most of his big scores have come in High Roller events, both at the Aussie Millions and LAPC. His most lauded success was a recent victory in the NBC National Heads-Up Championship. The one factor all these events have in common is a high density of professional players.
These victories propelled Erik from 11th to 1st in the All-Time Money List, which raises interesting questions about its validity. You’d be hard pressed to find a news story written in the past few weeks that doesn’t mention Erik and his leaderboard position in the same breath. So it clearly matters who is top dog of the live tournament tree.
But what does it really mean to be No. 1? In the days when WSOP cashes and WPT successes were the major contributing factors, it seemed of vital importance. There were certainly a few WSOP Main Event winners cluttering up the list, but everyone observed a more or less unspoken code to ignore anyone who posted just one big result.
Now, as then, the ‘All-Time Money List Leader’ was a byword for ‘The Best Tournament Player in the World.’ Perhaps a more accurate label in 2011 is: The Best High Buy-In Tournament Player in the World. There’s no doubting Erik’s ability, but is it fair to proclaim him the best of all time, when a large portion of his winnings have come against a small sliver of the poker population?
There’s also the issue of invitational events. The National Heads-Up Championship is a prime example of how non-open events can skew the money list away from representational. Players are largely hand picked on the basis of their notoriety. It’s unlikely that Phil Hellmuth ranks amongst the top 64 players in the world right now, but a TV producer would have to be clinically insane not to have him at the top of the selection list. Seidel, as a quiet nerdy guy, would probably have been a fringe pick, were it not for his guaranteed place as last year’s runner up.
The winds of change are already blowing. Daniel Negreanu, never shy of sharing his opinion, certainly thinks these lists need a shake-up. “I think the rules for what events should, and shouldn’t count should be quite simple: All scheduled open events with 20+ players, released a month in advance should count.” This format would rule out events like the Aussie Millions $250,000 Super High Roller, which was constructed on the fly by eager pros.
The Hendon Mob, keepers of the most popular All-Time Money List, have also changed with the times. In the last few months, a list for Open Events has appeared, alongside another that excludes tournaments with buy-ins over $50k. The rationale being, that the bankroll requirements for these events make them far from open. There’s also a very interesting Inflation Adjusted list which still has Phil Hellmuth in 4th and Men ‘The Master’ Nguyen in 9th.
Not 6 months ago, the All Time list was beyond reproach. The duel between Negreanu and Ivey was on everyone’s lips and nobody really cared when or where their pay days came. Seidel wading in to spoil the party has prompted a proper inspection of the system, which has been found wanting. What this means for money lists and Player of the Year titles is not yet clear, but it is obvious that changes are afoot.