The ‘noughties’ have witnessed a poker revolution. From the hole-cam arrival to the online boom, Ivey’s dominance to Hellmuth’s outbursts, it’s been a memorable decade. As 2009 draws to a close, we expand on an intriguing twoplustwo debate – who has been the most influential player of the ‘noughties’?
The gloss over Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 WSOP Main Event win may have long gone, but his satellite success is credited with triggering the online poker boom. Moneymaker’s path to poker stardom started with a $40 poker satellite, and ended with $2.5 million in cold hard cash (with a few outrageous bluffs on the way). Moneymaker’s story was billed as the epitome of the American Dream – a rags to riches miracle, (when in reality, Chris held down a lucrative accountancy job before his victory). Regardless, the triumph glorified online poker and its ability to deliver massive value for money. Poker was no longer a hobby confined to shady, underground card clubs, but an adrenaline pumping game that could be experienced at the comfort of your own computer.
Without Moneymaker’s success, and the explosion of PokerStars publicity that followed, it’s hard to imagine the game having such global appeal. Would the first generation of internet wiz kids ever have emerged if it wasn’t for Moneymaker’s triumph in the face of adversity? With the PokerStars and Prima (now Microgaming) networks expanding rapidly after 2003, it symbolised a far cry from the mIRC games that popped up in the late 90’s.
Yet Moneymaker’s fairytale story has long since been forgotten. The man who now calls himself ‘Money800’ is a victim of the ruthless cynicism that is etched in the poker community. ‘Just a giant luckbox’, ‘he hasn’t done anything since’ are just some of the jibes fired at Moneymaker amongst poker circles. To be fair, they have a point – he’s achieved very little since to justify his tag as 2003 World Champion. This begs the question, who else has served to boost the profile of poker?
Phil Ivey may not exude the charisma of a Daniel Negreanu, or shoulder the camera appeal of a Phil Hellmuth, but the world’s premier poker player is admired by fans and peers alike. He seems to be the only player who can escape the volatile nosebleed stakes environment and run away a constant winner, year after year. The man who used to gamble underage in Atlantic City is equally comfortable on the tournament circuit – having racked up 7 WSOP bracelets and final tabled the Main Event earlier this year. Every poker player aspires to be Phil Ivey, and share his luxurious lifestyle (he can be seen hopping on his private jet, drinking champagne and playing Chinese poker in his ‘Life of Ivey’ series). In a scything poker community, he is the only player who escapes any form of criticism.
If we consider other influential names, including Patrik Antonius, Tom Dwan, and Gus Hansen, they all seem to have one thing in common – they are all part of the Full Tilt Poker entourage. Full Tilt may not match PokerStars in terms of volume of players, but its dazzling roster of pros make it the pinnacle of online poker. The essence of poker will always be money and the amount being wagered, and this is where Full Tilt Poker scores a knockout blow over its rivals.
Who would have thought poker would be fun to watch without the suspense provided by the hole-cam? FT brings together the cream of the planet’s high stakes cash game players and engages them in $500/$1000 blinds, and million dollar swings – which all makes for compelling viewing. Forget tournament poker – the trials and tribulations of players such as Isildur1, martonas and durrrr inspire the most debate and gossip. Since its inception in 2006, Full Tilt Poker has revolutionised poker – it is no longer a game where you can win big, but win sick.
The irony is, that the man castigated on poker forums for his ‘uninspiring, ABC style’ on GSN’s High Stakes Poker is responsible for this explosion. If you asked fans where Howard Lederer ranked in terms of player popularity, you’d get a muted response. But the burly ‘Poker Professor’ was the founding father of Tiltware, the company that owns Full Tilt Poker, and was pivotal in amassing such a diverse pro roster.
Identifying the most influential player of the noughties is no easy task. Despite his semi-retirement from the professional tournament circuit, there is a strong case for real estate agent Dan Harrington. The shrewd American is responsible for the most revered series of poker literature – ‘Harrington on Hold’em’, which is seen as a perfect introduction to the game for aspiring poker players. He is also one of the few people to clinch a WSOP Main Event and WPT title. That said, it is hard to see past the Full Tilt entourage as the most influential core of the noughties. The likes of Ivey, Hansen, Dwan and Antonius may not be as media savvy or outspoken as Daniel Negreanu or Phil Hellmuth, but are just as marketable, and symbolise the zenith of poker.