How would you select the Top 200 Poker Players?
Twitter blew up today with a raging debate about the selection process of whom should be included in the new Federated Poker League (I call it that because it doesn’t have an official title as of yet) that is going to be run by Annie Duke and Jeffrey Pollack. The intent is to create an exclusive league that features roughly 200’ish live poker tournament players and pit them together in a series of events held at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas. The big topic of debate has been, how do you select the top 200 poker players to participate in the events?
The basic concept of the new FPL (as I’m calling it for this article), would be to have a measurable set of criteria that is a basic mathematic formula that will determine who will get a “card” to play in the events. Think of the Professional Golf Association. The PGA has certain players that have earned a “tour card” based on their performances in Golf Tournaments around the globe. Then, there are open events that have a qualifying process for the players that aren’t Card Carrying members. Finally, each stop has “Sponsors exemptions” where awards a certain number of spots are given away into their marquee events, that is usually some kind of publicity stunt, or given to some player that hasn’t been able to gain entry because of some extenuating circumstance. This is the goal of the FPL, to have it mirror what is done by the PGA. The idea is to get around 200 pro’s together with around 9 qualifiers, making it a very exclusive event, that’s very pro-centric.
But the main hurdle that FPL will face in their selection process is that not all tournaments are the same. Poker is a game of varying disciplines. A 500 player PLO 8 or better championship event is drastically different than today’s massive 4,000 player No Limit hold’em field size, and much difference than the 125 player Deuce to Seven Triple Draw field size. The buy in amounts are progressively skewed as well as the recent Aussie Millions $250k Event shows us much different participation levels than the $335 Re-entry tournament at the Los Angeles Poker Classic running at the same time at the Commerce Casino, with the winner receiving more for conquering a 20 player field than the 4k+ size field. Which achievement is greater? Was Jamie Gold’s win in the WSOP Main Event in 2006 the greatest poker achievement of all time? He won the most money. But I don’t think that anyone would say that Gold is the greatest player to grace the felts. Since that win 4 ½ years ago, he’s managed only THREE total scores that are better than $10,000, and not a single one better than a 35th place finish at the WSOPE for around $54k.
Measurable criteria is going to come into the equation when evaluating how people will determine the players eligible for consideration, and the selection of that criteria is going to be 100% objectionable. On the ESPN Poker Edge Podcast, Annie Duke chatted with Phil Gordon and Andrew Feldman on the matter and explained a circumstance in which selection process might be based upon lifetime earnings. Duke said “when we look at lifetime earnings, the single largest win is capped, and its capped at a certain percentage of your total earnings, and obviously that percentage is lower the higher the card level that you go. So lets say that someone was trying to qualify for a card of some length, and that in order to qualify you needed to have an earning of X. Your largest win might only contribute to 30% of X, and you would have to make up the other 70% from other results.”
The analysis that Duke talks about sounds like an angle for a College Football BCS kind of system, where players are going to mathematically qualify for their cards. However, now comes the question of which events are going to be considered for evaluation? Does Poker After Dark count? How about the Party Poker Invitational, or the Celebrity Showdown? Does my home game count in the statistics? That’s played live too. There needs to be a list of measurable tournaments and circuits that is going to qualify for the statistical analysis and measurable criteria, and each of these selected tournaments needs to be decided upon by a panel of people.
I believe that in order to get a better taste of who should be included in a field size of 200 players, that a committee needs to be involved in the selection process. Even in the BCS formula, there are human polls that comprise a certain percentage of the vote. There is certainly a place for a mathematical equation to select a certain number of players, but for a majority of them, there has to be a selection process which involves people manually reviewing the criteria.
In the NCAA Basketball March Madness tournament, there are certain number of “automatic qualifiers” that get in because they win their conference championship. I think that the Mathematical equation should determine a certain number of people that are obvious inclusions. The remaining at large berths are granted by a selection committee who weigh all of the information to select the remaining entrants. This is how this process should ultimately work. Are you going to get people that get left out by the committee and “bubble” the league? Of course the answer is, “yes.” But you’re going to have the same point of contention from opposition by only using a math formula when you don’t have a measurable set of criteria that can be agreed upon by the masses. The long and short of this process is that you’re never going to have a system that is going to be without critics. There will always be someone, somewhere, that will oppose the way that things are done, either by a panel of people or by a BCS system.
I would think that Jeffrey Pollack and Annie Duke should team up with a group of 12-15 panelists that will conduct several rounds of voting per se, that will identify which players will be granted each of the respective cards. Round 1 can give 10 lifetime cards, round 2 can give 1 year cards to 100 players, Round 3 gives 2-year cards to 75 players. Round 4 gives 1-year cards to 25 players….or something along those lines. But there needs to be a voting/selection process to make these decisions, and not have it left up to the computers to decide. What do you think?