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Last time around I was asked for my thoughts on the newer champions of poker. Well now theres been a fair amount of recent discussion on Twitter concerning Super High Roller (SHR) events, re-buys in them, and how the all-time money winner lists are tainted because of them.  (The Twitter talk was about recent $100k buy-in events.)  Here is my take on all that:

#1 It’s Just Simple Economics

First, as long as there is supply and demand, SHR’s will continue.  Second, some players and casino’s love re-buy tourney’s and others don’t.  Re-buy events give certain players (those where money is no object) an edge, makes it more of a reason for big-name players to travel to events (which promoters want), creates larger prize pools, and allows casino’s to ‘guarantee’ prize pools with much more confidence.  But, any time there is a re-buy tournament, the opportunity to win is not equal.  It’s your choice to play or not.  Third, some feel the “all-time money winner” list is tainted because of these SHR’s & re-buys.  They are.  Get over it.  Here’s a news flash – the all-time money winner list has always been bogus.  That’s because they don’t deduct entry fees, re-buys, or acknowledge what percentage a player has of themselves (which there is no way to track).

#2 These ‘career earnings’ of players are bogus

The poker industry (i.e., the WSOP, WPT, EPT, etc.), has always used whatever the player cashes out for as the number that goes on their career earning list.  And (poker’s largest database which I think is a great site) compiles every tournament result for every player using that ‘cash out’ number.  Yes, these ‘career earnings’ of players are bogus, but I love that we have these stat’s on players (number of cashes, final tables made, career earnings, etc) and I’m guessing nearly everyone else does too.

#3 Simply put they aren’t close to reality

Let’s talk about the bogus part.  Does anyone think the tax returns of the top poker players over the last ten years resembles anything like what their “all-time career earnings” looks like over that time span?  Well, they don’t – nor should they.  They aren’t trying to get one over on Uncle Sam, but their listed career earnings simply aren’t close to reality.  For example, let’s say a player cashes for $400k in tournaments over the course of a year. He might have $200k in entry fees and probably has $50k in travel, hotel, and food expenses.  And he could also have a backer who staked him, meaning he only got 50% of the winnings.  Thus, his real earnings for the year would be $75k.  As you can see, that’s far less than his listed earnings of $400k.

#4 Not even close

Antonio Esfandiari is the “all-time money winner” (tournament results only) in poker history with over $26M.  Does anyone really believe he’s made that much or is the all-time money winner?  Well, he didn’t – and he isn’t.  But, because of the way the industry keeps track of those stats, he is – and he should be!  Daniel Negreanu recently cashed for $550k in a $100k SHR event – but he re-bought four times and was in for $500k.  (You gotta love his persistence.)  I cashed in both ONE DROP tourney’s in 2012 & 2013 (only Antonio and I did that) for over $1.3M but my entry fees were $1.1M.  I had 50% of myself so my ‘earn’ was just over $100k for those two events but my “all-time career earnings” went up $1.3M.  The point is, no one’s actual “career earnings” is what is listed.  And when you factor in cash games, who knows who are the biggest winners in poker history?

#5 Are you kidding me?

I was always amused/confused when I heard people belittling Antonio a little after he won the ONE DROP.  They said, “He didn’t win $18M. He was only playing for 15-20%.”  Are you kidding me?  ‘Only’ 15-20%?  That’s $2.7M – $3.6M – which is a HUGE score for any poker player – probably the biggest in their life.  And how about the perks and endorsements Antonio will receive in his lifetime as a result of that ONE DROP win?  They’ll be BIG and well deserved.

#6 I don’t care what percent their playing for

A wise man once said to me, “It’s much more impressive to be able to borrow $1M than it is to have $1M.”  I’ve always loved that statement.  I’m more impressed to see players who can get themselves pieced out and/or staked in SHR’s or the ONE DROP than those who can easily buy-in or even those who finish in the money in them!  Do you know how good you have to be (or for people to believe you’re that good) to get staked in those tourney’s?  I admire players who get staked in any tournament and recommend players to piece themselves out if that’s the only way they can play.  Rather than belittle them for only playing for “x” percent, I admire them for getting in.  I salute anyone who plays in SHR’s or the ONE DROP – and I don’t care what percent their playing for.

#7 Give it some time

And FYI, five/ten years from now, there won’t be one player in the top twenty on the “all-time money list” who doesn’t finish high in at least one WSOP main event, do well in the ONE DROP, or play a lot of SHR events.  Not one.  Deal with it.

What are your thoughts? Let me know below.

Update –  Comments from Alexandre Dreyfus (Director of Global Poker Index & The Hendon Mob )

Shortly after we ran this article we were contacted directly by Alexandre Dreyfus (Director of Global Poker Index & The Hendon Mob ) to talks about Mike’s comments you can read his own words here: 


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