Top-10 poker pros who could be WSOP Commissioner
By Gary Trask
When Jeffrey Pollack stepped down as commissioner of the World Series of Poker after the 2009 Main Event came to close, Harrah's released a statement saying, in part, that it had "no intention at this time to replace the Commissioner role."
We think that's a serious mistake. The WSOP needs someone – not a group of people – to act as the face of the brand. The commissioner position was created by the WSOP specifically for Pollack back in 2005 and he helped build it up big enough that it needs someone to stand up and make decisions. It needs someone to step to the podium for Hall of Fame dinners or award presentations. It needs a voice to do the same and take the heat when something goes awry. As talented and dedicated as the current WSOP staff is even without Pollack, there needs to be one person steering the ship, so to speak.
So while we wait and hope that Harrah's rethinks its decision not to replace Pollack, we thought we'd have a little fun and make some suggestions on what current poker players we think would be a good fit for the open position. While we realize that this is not something that is likely to happen (mostly because the people listed would likely be taking a major pay cut if they accepted the offer) we do feel that these 10 people would be perfect for the job.
10. Joe Sebok
Sebok is one of the most well-liked players in the game and has a huge following, thanks to the fact that he co-founded PokerRoad.com along with his stepfather, Barry Greenstein, who also makes an appearance on this list. Just how popular is Sebok? Try more than one millions followers on Twitter. But in addition to his immense popularity, Sebok knows the game, he knows the players and he seems like he'd have a good sense as to what would be best for the game.
9. Dennis Phillips
Phillips has been such a presence in the poker world since his memorable run at the 2008 Main Event that many people probably think it was him that won it rather than Peter Eastgate. Of course, Phillips didn't win the title, he finished third, but he has absolutely embraced the role as a "poker celebrity" from Day 1. He's not a "poker industry lifer" like a lot of the people on this list, but that may be a good thing since he could bring a different perspective to the commissioner's chair.
8. Chris "Jesus" Ferguson
The 2000 Main Event champ is one of the most cerebral players in the game. He's got a low-key demeanor and is a man of few words, so he'd likely have to get some help when dealing with the media. But when it comes to making tough decisions you can be sure that Ferguson would analyze and evaluate each situation to no end and the result would be carefully thought out. And besides, who's going to argue with a guy nicknamed "Jesus?"
7. Andy Bloch
If intelligence is part of our criterion, then Bloch and his two degrees from MIT need to be on this list. Bloch is more than just smart. He's also very good with the media and if you've ever been standing tableside and have heard him get into a discussion that involved poker, you know why he'd be a great commissioner.
6. Daniel Negreanu
Kid Poker strikes me as someone who wouldn't be afraid to make risky, yet calculated, moves from the commissioner's office as long as he thought it would be best for the game. We all know how opinionated Negreanu is and the respect he has earned throughout the industry over the years would serve him well.
5. Howard Lederer
The Professor would likely turn down our offer to be the next commissioner since he'd have to give up his stake in Full Tilt. Nonetheless, he would be a great choice because he has all of the attributes we're looking for: intelligence, media-savvy, knowledge of the game, respect and rationale.
4. Barry Greenstein
There's no doubting how much Greenstein loves the game of poker. I was really impressed to see him sitting in the front row for the entire 20-plus hours of this year's Main Event final table, banging out updates on Twitter to his legion of followers. He's intelligent – both on the felt and off – and he has a good grasp as to what would be best for all players.
3. Greg Raymer
This is another very intellectual player who would always have plenty of rational reasons for any decisions he would make. Raymer has been one of the best Main Event champions from an "ambassador to the game" point of view in many years.
2. Annie Duke
Duke is the lone female on our list, but definitely one of the top choices for all of the reasons we listed for her brother Howard Lederer. But Duke is much more comfortable in front of the media and if you've ever witnessed one of her performances at a court hearing to fight for the rights of poker, you know how passionate she is about the game. Duke gained instant recognition from non-poker people from her performance on Celebrity Apprentice and while she may not always be the most likable person in the room, you can't argue with her expertise and knowledge and the manner in which she presents them.
1. Mike Sexton
The universal outpouring of admiration that Sexton received during the past year as he was nominated and then inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame was quite impressive. It's unusual in any industry – but particularly in poker – to have someone who seemingly has no enemies or detractors. But you would be hard-pressed to find someone to say anything negative about Sexton. He was the lone inductee into this year's Hall of Fame for a reason. He's arguably done more for the game than anyone else and his knowledge of the game from all angles and the respect he owns would make him a perfect choice to be the next WSOP commissioner.