The February edition of Bluff magazine feature’s Bluff’s Power 20, a list of the most influential people in the poker industry. Amongst the group are three men with ties to Party Poker: Mike Sexton, Mitch Garber, and Antanas “Tony G” Guoga. The list was compiled by tallying votes submitted by over 100 members of the industry, a group which included players, agents, and members of the poker media. The balloters were asked to only nominate people, not companies or organizations like in years past.
Mike Sexton, Party Poker’s leading spokesperson, ranks thirteenth on the Power 20. The lone inductee into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2009, Sexton, with his friendly “next door neighbor” personality, was a major reason why Party Poker became the number one online poker room in the early-to-mid 2000’s, before the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act forced Party Poker to close its doors to United States customers. Sexton has also been a constant presence in the living rooms of millions of poker fans, as he has been the announcer for the World Poker Tour since the Tour’s inception. Recently, Sexton earned the admiration of the poker community when he attempted to work with World Series of Poker officials last year to find a solution for the hundreds of players who were shut out of Day 1D of the Main Event after that final flight was oversold. He was unable to pull off any magic, but the mere fact that he fought for his fellow players after he had already played confirmed why he is so well respected.
Antanas Guoga, best known as “Tony G,” ranks ninth on the list. The boisterous, polarizing figure at the poker tables joined Mike Sexton on Team Party Poker in January 2010 after having been the front man for his own poker room, TonyGPoker.com. Of course, Tony G is an excellent poker player and a dynamic personality, but the reason he is considered one of the most powerful people in poker is because he is the principal owner of PokerNews.com, one of the most respected sources for anything and everything poker on the internet. One thing that makes PokerNews.com stand out from the pack is that it is available in 30 languages, allowing people from all over the world to follow the site’s live tournament updates, including the World Series of Poker. Guoga is also one of the more charitable players around, having donated half of his $451,700 first prize in the inaugural 2006 Asian Poker Tour event to charity, as well as his entire $205,000 take from the 2007 Moscow Millions.
Way up near the top of the Power 20, sitting at number three, is the former CEO of PartyGaming, Mitch Garber. Garber is now the head of Harrah’s new entity, Harrah’s Interactive Entertainment. The goal of the new organization is to grow the World Series of Poker and other Harrah’s brands worldwide, which will include turning WSOP.com into a money maker, rather than just an information site. It is heavily speculated that the creation of Harrah’s Interactive Entertainment, combined with the hiring of Garber, means that Harrah’s plans on jumping into the online poker space. The United States is out of bounds for the company right now, but Europe and Asia would be tempting targets. And one could expect Garber to have something up his sleeve when and if the U.S. market opens up again.
Despite the rule that only people would be included in the Power 20, Bluff placed online poker rooms PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker in the numbers one and two spots, respectively. Bluff explained this, saying that the two people who had been voted into the top two positions asked to be excluded out of fear that inclusion would bring unwanted attention to their roles as online poker room owners.
Below is the complete Bluff magazine 2010 Power 20.
1. PokerStars – world’s largest online poker room
2. Full Tilt Poker – world’s second largest online poker room
3. Mitch Garber – head of Harrah’s Interactive Entertainment, ex-CEO of PartyGaming
4. Howard Lederer – poker pro, television commentator, influential member of Team Full Tilt
5. Ty Stewart – Vice President of Harrah’s Interactive Entertainment
6. Doyle Brunson – poker legend, face of DoylesRoom.com
7. Barney Frank – U.S. Congressman, strongest voice for poker players on Capitol Hill
8. Daniel Negreanu – second winningest live tournament player in history, dominant poker personality
9. Tony G – owner of PokerNews.com
10. Joe Cada – 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event Champion
11. Phil Ivey – considered the best poker player in the world
12. John Pappas – Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance
13. Mike Sexton – PartyPoker.com spokesman, World Poker Tour commentator, 2009 Poker Hall of Fame inductee
14. Mori Eskandani – president of television production company POKER PROductions, creator of “Poker After Dark,” “High Stakes Poker,” and NBC’s “National Heads-Up Poker Championship”
15. Brian Balsbaugh – founder of Poker Royalty, the first agency for poker players
16. Lance Bradley – Editor in Chief of Bluff magazine.
17. Joe Sebok – founder of PokerRoad.com, UB.com Media and Operations Consultant, respected poker personality
18. Barry Shulman – CEO of Card Player magazine
19. Matt Savage – tournament director extraordinaire
20. Per Hagen – founder and CEO of Poker Icons, a poker agency