I voted this week in the Bluff Reader’s Choice award, an annual poll that seeks to find the poker-watching public’s favourite players, moments, card-rooms and the like over the preceding 12 months.
Bluff are smart in the way they phrase the categories, notably the use of the word “favourite” instead of “best”. No one can objectively state the “best” poker player in any given time period, but they can, of course, have a favourite. It’s why these kind of thing are really just popularity contests, and why Daniel Negreanu tends to do very well (even in years when he doesn’t win two World Series bracelets and isn’t named official Player of the Year, which would actually make him a contender for “best” player too).
However, even with the tacit admission of subjectivity, there are still some tough decisions in the Bluff poll. I struggled, for instance, to name my favourite Florida card room, having never set foot in one. I also often found the short-lists to be missing the one choice I would make if it was simply a free vote. I’m not certain who made the selections the readers were then invited to choose from, but there’s certainly a slight regional bias.
This is the price you pay, I think, for following a game through Europe and Asia whose media is pretty much solely focused on the North American market. Ole Schemion and Viktor Blom are the only non-North American nominees to feature in any of the following categories: Best Poker Person to Follow on Twitter; Favourite Male Poker Player; Breakout Performer; Favourite TV Personality; Favourite Online Cash Game Player; Favourite “On the Felt” Moment; Favourite “Off the Felt” Moment and Favourite Podcast.
Jackie Glazer, of Australia, and Liv Boeree, of the UK, did manage to make it on to the Favourite Female Poker Player list, the former for her six World Series cashes and a bracelet, and the latter for two EPT and two World Series cashes, plus another successful year of “being Liv Boeree”.
The single greatest omission from several categories in the Bluff poll is Niklas “ragen70” Heinecker, who is now a shoo-in for any award entitled the “Most Sensational Year of any Poker Player Ever to be Completely Ignored in an End of Year Poll”.
By rights, Heinecker should feature as best player, best online cash player and best breakout player, even if $4.6m online winnings and $4.5m live don’t appear to be enough to have genuinely broken him out. Heinecker, a German who lives in London, was also a big winner at the multi-million euro cash game at the EPT Grand Final in Monaco and one hopes his wads of cash will help him overcome the pain of being snubbed.
Almost all of Heinecker’s live tournament winnings came at the GuanDong Asia Millions in Macau in June, which would also be my choice for best final table of the year. It was absolutely captivating to watch some of the very best players in the world — Igor Kurganov, Sorel Mizzi, Isaac Haxton and Jeff Rossiter were also there — attempting to reassess on the fly many years of accepted wisdom about shoving ranges and exactly what constitutes a mandatory call when each money jump is about a million bucks.
I’ve talked about this event before, and I found it fascinating. Many spectators laughed it off as a ludicrously expensive crapshoot, but I’m willing to bet it has a significantly larger field next year as the sharks decide to give it a try.
It called for a whole new set of skills, and who figured it out quickest and most efficiently? Heinecker, of course. One of these days we might even get to vote for him.