The poker world continues to evolve and develop as regulation becomes the norm not just here in the United States but around the world as well. Even with that constant change, it seems that the most powerful people in the industry haven’t changed much in the past 12 months.
As with every year, BLUFF polled industry insiders – a total of 60 this year – from around the world to gauge who’s really controlling the direction of poker. Included in the group of voters were journalists, online and land-based operators, players as well as members of previous Power 20s. Now in its ninth year, the BLUFF Power 20 has become one of the most anticipated stories of the year.
On Monday BLUFF released the names of those ranked #16 – #20 and followed that up on Tuesday with #11 – 15. This marks the third set of names to be released with the final set scheduled to be released on Thursday afternoon. This set of five includes four names with a heavy hand in the regulated market in the United States as well as the only player to be named to the Power 20 this year.
NOTE: Voters were given the following instructions “Vote on who you believe has the most positive impact on poker and rank them from 1 – 20.” The ballots were then compiled by BLUFF staff and run through a scoring system that takes into account total number of votes, average placement and frequency of votes.
#10 – A.G. Burnett
Chairman, Nevada State Gaming Control Board
2013 Rank: 10
Any movement on the online gaming front in Nevada is going to have to go through the desk of A.G. Burnett. As the chairman of the Nevada State Gaming Control Board, Burnett oversees the regulations and licensing process for land-based and online operators in the state. When he was appointed to the role in late 2012, Gov. Brian Sandoval went out of his way to mention Burnett’s experience working with other regulated jurisdictions (most notably in Asia) as the GCB moved “into the next generation of gaming.”
The first few months of online poker in Nevada haven’t been a huge revenue generator for anybody involved and most know that it will take compacts with other states and countries to make it really work as a business. Nevada’s history as a gaming regulator should be a huge advantage as they go looking for partners to work with and Burnett will be at least partially responsible for convincing other states of the abilities of the GCB.
#9 – Brian Mattingley
2013 Rank: NR
Look closely at the three states that offer regulated online poker and you’ll see that there’s only one brand that has made its way into all three: 888.com. They have a statewide exclusive in Delaware, partnerships with WSOP.com in both Nevada and New Jersey as well as an 888-branded product in both states. The man at the top of 888 is Brian Mattingley, CEO.
During a recent 888 earnings call Mattingley hinted at yet another state that 888 could find its way into; California. On a state-by-state basis there might not be a more desired state than California but the complexity of tribal gaming there make it a difficult one to conquer as any legislation is going to need to include enough of a share for all parties. Not surprisingly, Mattingley has hinted that 888 is already lined up with one or two partners in that state that should give them ample opportunity to continue expanding their American footprint.
#8 – Raymond Lesniak
New Jersey Senator
2013 Rank: 11
One day down the road, poker historians will look back at the work at Raymond Lesniak, a New Jersey state senator, and credit him with helping bring online poker back to the United States. Last year, he was No. 11 on the Power 20, thanks largely to the state bill he sponsored, A-2578, which gave Atlantic City casinos the right to run online poker and casino games on an intrastate setup. That bill eventually became law but Lesniak hasn’t stopped there.
In late 2013, Lesniak began making a push to have New Jersey become a regulatory hub for markets not just in the United States, but around the world. In January, he introduced a bill that, if passed into law, would create a new license category: “Restricted Foreign Internet Wagering.” These new licenses would allow companies to offer regulated online gaming to other countries. As currently written, the bill does not allow for shared liquidity between these markets and the United States but this is seen as a first step in that process and could make New Jersey a major player internationally.
#7 – Jeffrey Haas
Group Director of Poker, bwin.party
2013 Rank: NR
When Bill Frist blindsided the poker world with the UIGEA in 2006 it seemed to be a near knockout blow for PartyPoker.com, at the time the world’s largest online poker operator. They left the U.S. market pretty quickly but this November the company made its way back into the market via the regulated environment in New Jersey. While CEO Norbert Teufelberger is ultimately responsible for the profits and losses, the “poker guy” at the company now is Jeffrey Haas.
Haas joined bwin.party in September, coming over from PokerStars where he had been a high-ranking executive since late 2006. Haas, working as the right hand man of CEO Norbert Teufelberger, is now directly responsible for growing the poker business, particularly in New Jersey where just three months in party is far and away the leader.
#6 – Daniel Negreanu
2013 Rank: 6
Any young poker players that are hoping to attract a sponsor one day should probably follow the example set by Daniel Negreanu. After 10 years in the spotlight, he’s easily the most marketable poker player in the world and takes full advantage as the face of PokerStars, the world’s largest online poker site. He’s very active on Twitter, posts written and video blogs on FullContactPoker.com (his own site) and handles mainstream and poker media interviews with ease and makes himself available for nearly everybody.
Don’t assume though that Negreanu is just about commercials and photoshoots. In 2013, he won BLUFF Player of the Year and WSOP Player of the Year in what he has said was his best year ever. As media savvy as he is, Negreanu, one of only two people to have made the Power 20 each year since its inception, knows that without results on the felt his earning potential just isn’t the same.
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