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 seeing Jason Somerville and Jack Effel make their debut and New Jersey Governor earn his way onto the list for his negative influence we turn to the top ten spots.
WORLD POKER TOUR
This June marks two years since Adam Pliska took over as the top executive with the bwin.party-owned World Poker Tour and not coincidentally this is his second consecutive appearance on the BLUFF POWER 20 after coming in at #14 last year.
“From localizing the WPT experience with regional and national events, to expanding its international footprint,” said Steve Preiss, VP of Business Development, BLUFF. “Pliska has done a phenomenal job growing the WPT brand and global presence the past year. Pliska’s vision, modernity and kindness has earned him massive respect among his peers.”
Under Pliska’s leadership WPT has partnered with Chris Torina’s Deepstacks Poker Tour to create the WPTDeepStacks brand and they created the WPT500, both geared towards recreational players and he’s also seen the WPT add major corporate sponsors like MONSTER, Fiat and Hublot.
While players are anxiously awaiting the return of PokerStars to the U.S. market, 888 CEO Brian Mattingley has his company working in all regulated markets in the U.S. with ready-to-go plans for all states considering regulations. With a slow-and-steady approach, he’s managed partnerships with the right parties to ensure the success of the 888 brand.
“888 has by many measures been the most ambitious of all international operators when it comes to the U.S. market. That credit – or blame – depending on your view of the market – must go to Mattingley as CEO,” said Online Poker Report publisher Chris Grove. “The international picture is less ambiguous; there, 888 Poker has consistently outperformed its peers and the market at large, and Mattingley has forged a unique path to a sustainable online poker product that other companies have been hard-pressed to successfully emulate.”
As Grove points out, 888 is already a major player in the rest-of-world online poker scene and usually finds itself sitting in second spot behind only PokerStars on PokerScout traffic reports.
Nobody has been more aggressive in the New Jersey market than the folks at bwin.party and you can give the credit for that to Jeffrey Haas. While the partypoker brand is currently only in the one state, Haas is creating a template for capturing market share that they should be able to emulate once more states pass legislation.
“Since taking on his current position at bwin.party and introducing the platform in New Jersey, Haas’s decisions are undoubtedly shaping the development of U.S. iGaming and setting important standards for his competitors to either imitate or part from” said Marco Valerio, igaming industry analyst. “Haas is also doing a lot of good for this space on a personal level; he is friendly, articulate and helpful and he regularly provides plenty of useful commentary on the way this industry can continue to flourish.”
This is Haas’ second consecutive appearance on the BLUFF POWER 20 after ending up at #8 last year. As the partypoker brand enters more and more markets, Haas’ influence will only continue to grow.
Professional Poker Player
There once was a time where players dominated the BLUFF POWER 20 but as the industry has grown and matured over the past ten years almost all of those names have fallen from the list. Not Daniel Negreanu though. The 40-year-old is one of only two people to have been on this list each year (along with his agent Brian Balsbaugh) and that’s thanks to the massive platform he has built as one of the most successful poker players of all time.
“Daniel’s voice and visibility is second-to-none among players. He moves the needle not just as an endorser, but as an opinion-shaper. Daniel’s influence as an ambassador is now trickling down to a younger generation of pros” said Steve Preiss, VP of Business Development, BLUFF. “If that younger generation can have a fraction of the impact that Daniel has had on bringing new players to the game, then poker has a bright future.”
Negreanu has already taken one member of that younger generation and mentored them to stardrom. Jason Somerville, who debuted on the BLUFF POWER 20 this year, has used the Negreanu blueprint for building a following and added his own personality to become a superstar and a member of Team PokerStars.
BLUFF POWER 20 DEBUT
When Amaya purchased PokerStars it meant that the Scheinberg family was no longer running things at the world’s largest online poker room and that left many wondering about the future direction of the company. Amaya wisely left the executive infrastructure in place and placed the Interim CEO tag on Rational Group CFO Michael Hazel.
“Hazel is undoubtedly one of the more interesting names on the list due to the unusual combination of influence he wields and his relative anonymity. But, know him or not, Hazel is arguably the one person with the ability to unilaterally change the course of the global online poker market, an ability that we’ll likely see exercised fairly aggressively over the next year as Full Tilt and PokerStars continue to roll out casino and sports betting products alongside – and possibly integrated with – their poker offerings.” said Online Poker Report publisher Chris Grove.
The new verticals mean Hazel has his work cut out for him. While the company continues to work towards re-entering the U.S. market, and already has a casino and limited sportsbook offering, they’ve also recently announced plans to enter the daily fantasy sports market.
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