While many wondered what changes the future would have in store for Annie Duke’s poker path after her leaving Ultimate Bet at the start of 2011, all the guessing and hearsay came to a quick halt a few weeks later, with the announcement of a new “professional only” poker league venture by Federated Sports & Gaming.
Very few complete details were released along with the big plans, making it hard to give the idea instant credibility when reflecting back on similar ventures like the PPT, or Professional Poker Tour, that spun of the success of televised World Poker Tour events back in 2005-2007. The series of televised poker tournaments very closely followed the generic criteria set out for Duke’s new league as the PPT was also billed as the “PGA” of poker in its time. Players had to meet a minimum criteria, only 250 players would be allowed to play, with “qualifying” based on previous successes and other factors indicating they were indeed the “world’s best”. Even with the poker boom’s momentum behind it, the PPT eventually fizzled out, save late night re-runs from time to time.
While Duke has definitely been a major influence of her own on the poker landscape over the years, having Jeffery Pollack as a co-founder of the new company certainly helped to warrant a second look. Having filled the role of President and Commissioner of the World Series of Poker, with a huge list of landmark ideas credited to his leadership, there is no doubt that just based on industry experience alone, the two would have a good shot of making this work where others may have fallen short. Added to this, the remaining names on the company’s executive team certainly have outstanding and proven track records in some of the world’s most successful businesses. All corporate accomplishments aside however, understanding what it takes to have credibility to the poker playing masses doesn’t come automatically with being part of the “A” list of the industry. It comes from listening to players of all types, from the first time entrant all the way up to the title holders and World Champions, taking proven ideas born from countless hours interacting on the tournament floor at venues big or small and only then, selling them in a boardroom.
While a matter of opinion, this is where Matt Savage & Katherine Kowal bring a ton to the table, their unique approaches and experience in the poker trenches might just bring the balance it will take to truly make this “A league apart.” Savage brings with him a reputation for being the most sought after tournament director on the globe. Currently the Executive Tour Director of the WPT, Matt has also directed hundreds of televised series outside of the World Poker Tour, including both the APT and World Series of Poker. Savage is the founder of the Tournament Directors Association and remains the official tournament director for the LA Commerce & Bay 101. What has truly set him apart from others in similar roles, is his involvement at every level, not only participating in poker podcasts, interviews & forum threads, but also answering questions or concerns, big or small, via twitter, phone or whatever it takes. Likewise, when making decisions off the tournament floor, Matt has often asked for player opinions to help shape change. If anybody knows what the playing community wants as a whole, it’s Mr. Savage.
“Kat” Kowal has also been around the poker block. At one time part of the first executive team of the World Poker Tour, Katherine has also been an integral part of other original and popular poker innovations. Not only was Kowal one of the people behind the success of well organized, sell-out “Dream Team Poker” events, most recently she filled the role of Vice-President of Deep Stacks Live. Today, the Deep Stacks brand continues to soar and expand, launching its own Poker Tour to go with it’s highly recognized roster of professional poker trainers and camps. This could all be considered as testimony to what she can potentially help accomplish as the Vice President of League Operations, for the Federated Sports and Gaming League. Kowal’s experience behind the scenes of the inaugural WPT televised events is definitely transferable in helping to accomplish the goals set by Duke.
But will it all be enough to make this the next big poker television success?
The list of 200 players who will be playing is expected to be announced soon, along with how they made “the cut”. “Memberships” or “pro cards” will have set terms varying from 2-5 years and a select few players with “unparalleled accomplishments” will be granted lifelong passes. Online and cash game results will not be determining factors, the premise being that poker fans have shown over time they most want to watch “the stars” of poker play. A total of 4, rake-free $20,000 events will be played at the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas beginning in August and eventually leading up to a million dollar freeroll for the league’s top 27 players next January. Annie will not compete in the events.
Do you think that poker fans will want to watch only the most accomplished and recognized players on TV? Will the elimination of cash game & online results leave out current day legends like Tom “Durrrr” Dwan? Will Daniel Negreanu make the list regardless of previous bad blood between him and Duke? If so, will he participate? Daniel has often lobbied in favor of a degree of exclusivity for the poker world’s elite; will this finally be the bridge that has the rivals seeing eye to eye?
Please post your predictions and opinions in our forum!