BLUFF POWER 20 #1 – #5: Sheldon Adelson, David Baazov Square Off

POKER’S MOST INFLUENTIAL

Each year BLUFF polls poker industry leaders from around the world in an attempt to measure and rank the people who are influencing the game and industry today. The ballots are collected and tabulated to produce the BLUFF POWER 20. The list has become an annual source of discussion and debate within the industry and now, ten years after its creation, remains one of our most popular stories each year.

There was one significant change made to the voting process this year. After receiving feedback from voters and readers alike the instructions given to voters was modified from 2014 so that voters were no longer asked to vote only for those with a positive influence. The instructions read as follows:

Please submit a list of the individuals (not companies or organizations) that you believe have the most influence on the poker industry, ranked 1 – 20. How you interpret “influence” is entirely up to you.

This week BLUFF is releasing the 2015 BLUFF POWER 20 as well other features built around the list. After bringing the first 15 names on the list, it’s finally time to get to the top five.

– FIVE –
NORBERT TEUFELBERGER
CEO
bwin.party

P20-Norbert-teufelberger-620x450Depending on which rumor you want to believe bwin.party is either on the verge of being acquired by a rival operator or about to acquire a competitor of their own. Both could be viable options for the company and trying to figure out which path to take for brand is the job of bwin.party CEO said Steve Ruddock, BLUFF legislative reporter..

After leaving the U.S. market in 2006 following the passing of UIGEA, the company focused all of its efforts on the European market until returning to a regulated New Jersey market in late 2013. With the experience of working with numerous regulators throughout the world now at their disposal they’ve dedicated abundant resources to the U.S. market again, particularly in New Jersey.

“As someone who vividly remembers the way partypoker dominated the online poker market it’s odd for me to think that is an entire generation of poker players who are just now getting introduced to this mega-brand,”said Lance Bradley, BLUFF VP, Conent. “Rather than recklessly spending marketing dollars, Teufelberger seems quite comfortable in taking measured steps in each new market.”

– FOUR –
TY STEWART
Executive Director
WORLD SERIES OF POKER

P20-Ty-Stewart-620x450
To almost every poker player the World Series of Poker is more than just a set of tournaments each summer – it’s a living, breathing piece of the poker world. The person most responsible for managing that pulse is WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart. This marks the sixth WSOP for Stewart in the top executive spot and 11th overall. His dedication to the game leaves other BLUFF POWER 20 mainstays impressed.

“Stewart has the greatest influence on the biggest poker events of the year- the WSOP- his fingerprints are on almost everything from the ESPN deal, to the schedule, to the sponsors and even what burritos are served in the poker kitchen,” said Poker Royalty President Brian Balsbaugh. “You always know exactly where you stand with him. We don’t always agree on player issues, but I believe 100% that he truly has the best interests of the players at heart.”

One of the biggest challenges that faces Stewart every year is finding ways to grow the game and the reach of the WSOP brand. Working with Jack Effel, WSOP VP, International Poker Operations & Director, to create events like this summer’s $565 Colossus event, which is expected to bring in a record-sized bracelet event field, grabs headlines, adds to the bottom line and gives him something to sell potential sponsors.

– THREE –
MITCH GARBER
CEO
CAESARS INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT

P20-Mitch-Garber-620x450
The mainstream headlines about Caesars Entertainment aren’t flattering. Navigating their way through a bankruptcy has grabbed the most buzz but look past that and you see a very successful and profitiable Caesars Interactive Entertainment led by CEO Mitch Garber. While WSOP.com is a market leader in both Nevada and New Jersey the company is quietly killing it on the social gaming side.

“Under Garber’s leadership CIE has brought real money and social gaming to regulated markets around the globe including the U.S., where CIE has climbed to the top of the regulated online poker markets in both Nevada and New Jersey.” said Steve Ruddock, BLUFF legislative reporter.

Even though there are only three states with regulated online poker in the United States Garber arguably has the best position as more states come on board. The allure of the WSOP brand gives Garber a leg up when negotiating with partners and licensees in other states and how he utilizes that will dictate the long term success of the company.

– TWO –
SHELDON ADELSON
Chairman & CEO
LAS VEGAS SANDS CORPORATION

P20-Sheldon-Adelson-620x450BLUFF POWER 20 DEBUT

Simply put there is no bigger enemy to poker than Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. He’s made his opposition to the expansion of online gaming in the United States quite clear and has pledged to spend as much of his billions necessary to prevent it. He’s made his fortune the source of his influence and backs politicians who find it in their hearts to share his views.

“Adelson’s influence on the industry is beyond obvious, but no less staggering or complex because of it. Consider: He’s simultaneously the most powerful entity opposing the expansion of regulated online poker in the United States, operator of one of the most successful live poker rooms in Vegas and a critical force in China, which many regard as the next great untapped market for the game,” said Online Poker Report publisher Chris Grove. 

This is the first time Adelson has been on the BLUFF POWER 20 but he has received votes before. Allowing voters to vote for people with perceived negative influence meant Adelson went from a handful of ballots to appearing on over 75% of the ballots this year.

– ONE –
DAVID BAAZOV
CEO & President
AMAYA

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BLUFF POWER 20 DEBUT

The poker world was left in a bit of shock last June when Amaya Gaming, a small publicly traded Canadian igaming company, acquired PokerStars in the single biggest deal in online poker history. Spending $4.9 billion to acquire the market leader in online poker not only got Amaya CEO everything Isai Scheinberg had built, but it also got Amaya CEO David Baazov the number one spot on the BLUFF POWER 20. Nobody has ever debuted at #1 before.

“I met David last year with Daniel (Negreanu) after the PokerStars transaction and we were both amazed by his passion, intelligence and ambition,” said Brian Balsbaugh, Poker Royalty President. “He had just completed the biggest deal in poker history and we got the sense that he is just scratching the surface of his plans for poker and gaming.  He’s the sharpest guy in the room.”

By all accounts Baazov is incredibly intelligent and very confident that he can actually grow the PokerStars bottom line. He recently announced the company would launch in New Jersey in Q3 this year and plans to add daily fantasy sports and a sportsbook to the product line. There are also rumors that Amaya is one of the potential suitors for bwin.party.

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