Column: Thoughts On The Bluff Power 20

Following the inclusion of CEO Dominik Kofert into this year's Bluff Power 20, Barry Carter reflects on the list and what it tells us about the poker industry.

Last week, the annual Bluff Power 20 was announced, and we were all delighted to see CEO Dominik Korn Kofert make his debut in position #12 - just ahead of Bernard Tapie, just behind Tony G.

I mention those other two names both to give you an idea of the scale of the achievement, and also because they are the only other Europeans named on the list this year.

What a difference a year makes

This year's list could not be more different to the one from 12 months ago, which was very player-focused. Last year, Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, Cliff Josephy, and Eric Haber all made it onto the list (the latter two for their roles as backers, more than players). This year, Negreanu is the only player to get there. There were also two player agents Brian Balsbaugh and Steve Preiss, with only Balsbaugh returning this year.

The player representatives have been replaced by US politicians and lawmakers; the people who are in the biggest position to actually bring online poker back to US players. We have also seen Co-CEO Jim Ryan leap from the bottom of the rankings to second place in just one year.

Of course, the most notable of all the changes is that Howard Lederer was ranked #1 last year, and for obvious reasons, doesn't even get into the top 20 this year (the same goes for Ray Bitar, who last year came 15th and this year was not included). What a difference 12 months can make. Indeed, what a difference a few days makes;  Annie Duke did make it onto the list despite the company she represented filing for bankruptcy the day before it was published.

Bluff Power 20
Ranking 2011 2012
1 Howard Lederer Isai Scheinberg (+1)
2 Isai Scheinberg Jim Ryan (+18)
3 Ty Stewart Harry Reid (+1)
4 Harry Reid Mitch Garber (+4)
5 Brian Balsbaugh Preet Bharara (new)
6 Phil Ivey Ty Stewart (-3)
7 Daniel Negreanu Gary Loveman (new)
8 Mitch Garber Mark Lipparelli (new)
9 Mori Eskandani Daniel Negreanu (-2)
10 Doyle Brunson Mark Pincus (new)
11 John Pappas Tony G (+2)
12 Tom Dwan Dominik Kofert (new)
13 Tony G Bernard Tapie (new)
14 Matt Savage Brian Balsbaugh (-9)
15 Ray Bitar Matt Savage (-1)
16 Phil Hellmuth Joe Barton (new)
17 Lance Bradley Jon Kyl (new)
18 Steve Preiss Annie Duke (new)
19 Jim Ryan Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta (new)
20 Eric Haber and Cliff Josephy Virginia Seitz (new)

Who is missing?

Edgar Stuchly
The only name I really disagreed with on the list this year was Annie Duke. This was nothing to do with the Epic Poker League going downhill that week, nor was it anything to do with the fact she is something of a polarising character in poker circles.

It was simply that I don't think the Epic Poker League was in any way a big enough entity for her to be included. It was only three events into the series, the fields were small and exclusive, they struggled to find a broadcaster, and there was no online partner.

So for that reason, the one name I feel was missing from the list was Edgar Stuchly, the recently promoted President of the European Poker Tour. The WPT and WSOP were well represented this year, and I think the EPT is the biggest tour in poker by a mile (the WSOP is the biggest event and brand name, but as an all year round tour, the EPT is king).

Yes, Stuchly has only just been promoted, but he has been promoted to the biggest job in European live poker, and that by its own merits should be enough to get him on the list.

Why the heavy US focus?

harry reid
Harry Reid
A lot of people have said to me they thought the list was too heavily US-facing, and felt that Europe in particular was massively unrepresented. I must say, I am surprised how much I agree with the list, as I am always keen to point out to anyone who will listen that I think European poker is stronger than US poker in every department (even before Black Friday).

The reason why European poker is so unrepresented here is probably due to a little bit of bias, but mainly because of structure of the European poker industry. US poker is very centralised, most of it revolves around Las Vegas, there are only a handful of poker venues outside of Nevada, and even before Black Friday there were only a few online sites to play on.

Compare that to Europe, and there are a great deal of thriving standalone poker industries: Germany, the UK, Ireland, Italy, Spain, France, Holland, Scandinavia - the list goes on. We have a big choice of where to play both online, and live, and each country has their own poker communities, regulation, and media.

So when we think of US poker, most people think of the same names. When we think of European poker, there are so many more names to think about. Someone in the UK might think of Neil Channing as being particularly influential, someone in France might nominate Bruno Fitoussi, and someone in Italy would surely say Luca Pagano - but the likelihood is that they won't vote for the other names I just listed.

European poker is clearly much stronger, but there are simply not as many individuals who command influence throughout all of Europe, and beyond.

A tribute to

Dominik Kofert
All of this made it extra special that Dominik was voted into the list, and if anything I feel he (and Tony G) should have been placed higher. Online poker really is at the core of everything in poker, and really is at the heart of everything in online poker.

I know Dominik was as delighted as everyone else at with the comments that accompanied his inclusion in the list:

"In 2011 the site became one of the leaders in not only poker strategy articles and videos but poker news and continues to be the world’s most popular poker content site – even more popular than"

The one thing which is missing from the comment is the incredible community that has helped make the force that it is in poker, so for that we would all like to thank you guys out there for making this site what it is.

What does it all mean?

Does making it into the Bluff Power 20 get you more money, more power, more influence, or anything other than just a mention in a magazine once a year? I'm not sure that it means anything major to be included or excluded in this list, which is one of the reasons I haven't really talked much about who should have been higher than whom.

For me the purpose it serves is as a historical document, a snapshot of where poker is once a year. In 2011 it was relativley care free and pro player focussed, in 2012 it is all about regulation, economics, and business. I am sure that in twelve months time the list will be dramatically different once again, but I would like to think we will see Dominik become a permanent fixture from here on in.

by Barry Carter

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Comments (4)

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  • datsmahname


    Those two lists really reflect how much poker is changing.
  • ExternalUseOnly


    This year we're gonna take the world by storm and secure a top 5 spot for Dominik :P
  • DtotheC


    Great article Barry. Definitely interesting to see how vastly different it is from last year. Personally I would like to see a move away from US regulation and indictments and shift back to what makes the game great - the personalities and the players, the upswings and the badbeats, the innovations and passion for poker as a whole.

    One question though; did you deliberately choose a pic of Edgar where he looks like someone tricked him into sitting on a whoopee cushion? :D
  • mkirby


    Im guessing u can scrub anie duke from the 2013 list all ready