New Live Poker Tour For Pros Only?


I guess since nobody but Phil Ivey or Mizrachi can win consistently at the WSOP, a poker tour for ‘pros only’ is for some reason a good idea! With the advertising dollars from PokerStars and Full Tilt being gone, I have no idea why this would work, but read on:

When he ran the World Series of Poker, Jeffrey Pollack welcomed entries by the thousands with the mantra, “Anybody can enter, anybody can win.” He is now launching a pro league aimed at showcasing poker’s proven somebodies.

  • Jeffrey Pollack is the former commissioner of the World Series of Poker.

USA TODAY has obtained eligibility criteria and a list of 218 players approved to compete, if they choose, when play begins Aug. 9-12 at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.

Eligibility combines poker earnings and titles with a heavy dose of what-have-you-done-lately?

The list of players eligible is topped by such stars as Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey and Phil Hellmuth. But they are far outnumbered by pros who’ve built consistent winnings without celebrity.Those absent include a $12-million winner at the 2006 World Series.

“I think I coined, ‘Anyone can enter; anyone can win,’ ” says Pollack. “… That’s great, and that’s the mantra for every other poker tournament. … This is about celebrating the best live event tournament players in the world.”

Qualifier Annie Duke “very happily” relinquished the chance to play in the league to become its commissioner. “It’s not that I’m happy about giving up poker (in the league). It’s that I would make the trade in order to be able to be able to execute this concept. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do,” says Duke, who was instrumental in developing the eligibility standards.

The league plans announcements on its name and TV deal. It is moving ahead despite a federal crackdown on online poker, which had poured ad revenue into poker.

“As far as our business model is concerned, it really doesn’t have any impact,” says Pollack, former WSOP commissioner. He adds, “When I was at the World Series of Poker and since I’ve left (at the end of 2009), they’ve been very successful bringing mainstream consumer product companies to poker. And we’re going to follow that path,” he says.

Players qualify for five-year, three-year and two-year eligibility cards.

Five-year standards: $4 million in lifetime earnings (in specified tournaments) with the largest win capped at $2 million; three major titles, and nine cashes since Jan. 1, 2008, for at least $600,000.

Players can get two-year cards with no major title if they have $1.25 million in lifetime earnings (largest win capped at $750,000) and nine cashes since ’08 worth $600,000.

“We put a lot of thought into it just thinking about what it is that would define one of the best live tournament players in the world,” says Duke. Lifetime achievement aside, they all have to have won since 2008. “We wanted to make sure that we were grabbing the best of the best today,” she says. Excluded: Jamie Gold, who won $12 million at the 2006 World Series but hasn’t gone full-time pro and has $12.231 million in lifetime earnings, according to the database.

“If it was based on Q rating (name appeal), Jamie Gould would have made the list,” says Duke.

Chris Moneymaker, whose win at the 2003 World Series helped launch a poker boom, is also not on the list. But Duke says he is “on the bubble.” The list will be updated after Aug. 1 following the bulk of this year’s World Series.

Four “Main Events” will be in August, September, December and February ($20,000 buy-ins). The top 27 players, based on regular season winnings, advance to the championship Feb. 13-14 (no buy-in). All events will be at the Palms.

The league says it will provide airfare, hotel and a $100 daily per diem.

To launch the league, Pollack founded Federated Sports and Gaming. It pledges $2.6 million in prize money beyond that from “rake free” buy-ins.

And anybodies aren’t totally dealt out. Prizes at pre-event pro-ams: nine seats in the Main Event.

With thousands of players in the WSOP Main Event, the rule has become final tables of amateurs and obscure pros.

“We’re trying to make pros the rule and amateurs the exception,’ says Pollack.’

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