BLUFF POWER 20 #11 – #15: Chris Christie Blocks His Way Onto List


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 seeing Jason Somerville and Jack Effel make their debut earlier, we now look at the group just outside of the top ten which includes one of only two people to make this list each year and a California politician making his BLUFF POWER 20 debut.


Chris Christie first made the BLUFF POWER 20 in 2013 thanks largely to his approval of igaming legislation in New Jersey. With igaming, both poker and casino, firmly in place the New Jersey Governor fell off the list last year. It seems however that his approval of igaming only goes so far.

While most observers believe Christie is gearing up for a White House run in 2016 or even 2020, he is courting the support of GOP financier and anti-online gaming advocate Sheldon Adelson. To that end many igaming advocates believe Christie is responsible for keeping PokerStars out of New Jersey’s regulated market. With BLUFF POWER 20 voters asked to consider influence – not just positive influence – this year, Christie becomes the first person to earn his way onto the list for negative contributions.

“After signing off on New Jersey’s iGaming bill in 2013 Christie’s honeymoon within iGaming circles now appears over, as he has been accused of holding up PokerStars license application by some of his political adversaries. These allegations have turned him from a hero to a scapegoat.” said Steve Ruddock, BLUFF legislative reporter.


Only three states currently offer regulated online poker and while Nevada and Delaware have already formed the first interstate compact, New Jersey continues to be the most aggressive in pursuing expansion of online gaming. The man leading the charge is David Rebuck, Director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.

Rebuck not only oversees the licensing of gaming operators in the state but acts as an advocate of regulation for online gaming by showing lawmakers in other states how the mechanisms of the DGE work to tackle the issues opponents often bring up; underage gambling and problem gambling.

“The impact of New Jersey’s regulated online poker market resonates well beyond the borders of the Garden State, throughout the rest of the U.S. and even into the international market. And David Rebuck is ultimately the person responsible for shaping that market and the resulting impact,” said Online Poker Report publisher Chris Grove. “Rebuck has shown that online poker can successfully operate with a tightly-regulated environment in America, and his experience and testimony are the single most powerful counterpoints to critics who seek to ban legal online poker in the United States.”

This marks the second consecutive year that Rebuck made the list but is a significant drop from his #4 ranking last year.


The European Poker Tour continues to be a major force in the poker world, so much so that there isn’t another European-based tour that they could even consider a rival. EPT President Edgar Stuchly and his team have made the Tour into a player-friendly series of events with great structures, ample qualifying options and maybe most importantly, intelligent scheduling of pre-lim and post-lim events around the Main Event to give players plenty of options to play.

“The EPT has a strong legacy attached to it and rather than rest on their laurels, they’re trying to make it stronger each year,” said Lance Bradley, BLUFF VP of Content. “Since taking over the EPT in 2011, Stuchly has worked hard to expand the brand by making players a priority.”

While the EPT hasn’t increased the number of events on its schedule much in the past few years they’re constantly tinkering with the dates of each event and varying tour stops in pursuit of perfection. Rumors continue to swirl that the Irish Poker Open, one of the most revered tournaments in Europe, will become an EPT stop next season.

State Senator


Everybody in the United States is anxiously watching California with bated breath in anticipation of online poker legislation passing in that state. There are numerous issues in the Golden State that make getting the legislation passed a real challenge, but one of the lawmakers who has stepped up in hopes of making it happen is State Senator Isadore Hall III.

While the various stakeholders – tribal interests, race track owners, card room operators – are still squabbling over who gets what piece of the pie, if any, Hall is putting the legwork in with fellow legislators in an attempt to have a bill pissed some time soon. Some believe the success or failure of online poker legislation in California rests squarely on Hall’s shoulders.

“California’s foray into online poker will likely well hinge on whether or not State Senator Isadore Hall III can broker an agreement between California’s vast and divergent gaming interests.” said Steve Ruddock, BLUFF legislative reporter.


Brian Balsbaugh is a mainstay on the BLUFF POWER 20 and, along with his top client Daniel Negreanu, is one of only two people to have made the list each of the last ten years. As President and Founder of Poker Royalty, Balsbaugh is involved with live and online operators, television production companies and other non-indemic poker sponsors on a daily basis.

“If there is a deal being made in the poker world, it likely has Balsbaugh’s DNA on it,” said BLUFF VP of Content, Lance Bradley. “He manages the biggest names in the game and if you’re wanting to have any of them endorse your product or be on your TV show, you go through Poker Royalty.”

While Negreanu is his biggest client in terms of sponsorship dollars, his agency also represents Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth, Gus Hansen and 2013 WSOP Main Event champion Ryan Riess. While the sponsorship dollars for players isn’t flowing as much as it once was, having a stable full of talent ready and able to take advantage as more and more states pass legislation speaks to a bright future for Poker Royalty.

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