|ESPN.com: Page 2||[Print without images]|
|Could there ever be a poker player that dominated like Michael Jordan?|
The more sound plans call for a system that credits achievements in tournaments as field sizes and buy-in amounts increase, and that also takes into account some kind of net adjustment where you lose points for tournaments you enter and fail to cash in. That mirrors life, where someone who enters 10 $500 tournaments and wins three winds up with a financial result considerably more impressive than someone who enters 200 $500 tournaments and wins five. Nonetheless, any "Player of the Year" system should factor in consistency: You can't award twice as many points for winning a $1,000 tournament as you do for winning a $500 event, or for winning a 200-player event instead of a 100-player event. Otherwise, it would be almost impossible for anyone to beat Greg Raymer this year, because he won a $10,000 event with 2,576 entrants (the World Series of Poker). Raymer would have scored so highly in both multipliers that you'd need to win five other large-field, $10,000 tournaments just to catch him; and nobody is going to win five $10,000 tournaments in a year unless they start getting held on a weekly basis -- and even then the odds against it would be overwhelming. Because modern tournament fields are so large, it is becoming more and more difficult for one player to win multiple events in a year. When Mike Matusow busted out at the final table at the Big One in 2002, he was in tears, saying, quite correctly, "I could play perfect poker for the next 20 years and not get back to this final table." Although there will certainly be multiple event winners (Ted Forrest already won two at the World Series) -- especially when you throw $300, $500, and $1,000 tournaments into the mix -- I think "final table appearances" are going to start needing more credit than they've received in the past. And in a country that is winner-crazy (quick, who came in second in the 1998 Super Bowl?), the public (those outside "the poker world") may find that hard to accept. It will be difficult for true superstars to score repeated wins unless we start upping the ante and offering more $25,000 or even $50,000 tournaments -- the only "fair" way to limit field size, unless you want to consider an invitational fair. Money superstars have never been that interested in having their results known, in part because many have an aversion to paying full income taxes on their winnings and in part because the best players don't want to scare away potential donors. No one aside from the players themselves knows exactly who wins how much in a given year; so aside from reputation, there is no solid way to rank money players. I think that most people would agree that the two most talented all-around players in poker history are Doyle Brunson (also a repeat WSOP winner, although the fields were tiny when he won) and Stu Ungar (a three-time winner; he also won in 1997). Many consider Stuey the best-ever when on his game, but most of his career was lost to problems with drugs and alcohol. Brunson has performed at a very high level in money games and in tournaments (a rare combination) over a very long career. Whether you pick Brunson or Ungar, or argue for a Johnny Chan (great in tournaments and money play), or Chip Reese (great in money play), or Phil Hellmuth (great in tournaments) or T.J. Cloutier (great in tournaments), or Chris Ferguson (doesn't even play in money games: tournaments only!), or Howard Lederer (great in money and tournaments), the reality is that none of these players can dominate in poker the way that Ruth or Bonds can in baseball -- or the way Jordan did in basketball -- because of the randomizing luck factor.
|Greg Raymer won the 2004 World Series of Poker, but it's very difficult to win big tournaments consistently.|