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Poker players play for as little as play-money chips to as much as millions of dollars in one sitting. The beauty of poker is that all players can enjoy the game at any stakes and find others with whom to compete.

As some players have climbed in stakes, however, their penchant for playing High Roller tournaments has become stronger among a rather elite group. While they typically play other events online and at live tour stops, such as a Main Event or other prestigious tournaments, they frequently prefer to spend as much time playing High Rollers as possible. Those opportunities should exist to meet player demands, but a problem arises when those on-demand tournaments – typically with $25K to $50K buy-ins – are factored into poker rankings that calculate Player of the Year awards and notoriety.

On-Demand High Rollers

As mentioned in a December article, high-stakes players have found tournament directors who will set up and host High Roller events when people indicate a desire to play. That has led to a recent trend of casinos like ARIA in Las Vegas hosting several $25K-plus buy-in events each month, and all of those finishes are then included in rankings for Player of the Year honors.

High-stakes players should be able to compete whenever and wherever they can find games and tournaments. If tournament directors at PokerStars-sponsored events or on the World Poker Tour want to accommodate those players by adding High Roller events, there is no harm in doing so. But those players should not be able to dominate the Player of the Year standings each year simply because they win millions of dollars from each other in small, elite tournaments that they can set up on demand.

For example, players headed to the PokerStars Championship Bahamas last week contacted tournament directors and requested more High Roller events for the schedule. The primary ones on the original schedule were a $25K buy-in High Roller and a $100K Super High Roller. But since demand was high, and since accommodating players would also benefit the host casino, six new High Roller events were added to the schedule.

In past years, the results of those events, which can only be afforded by a select few players of all attending the PokerStars Championship, would have been calculated for annual rankings points. And at the start of 2017, that remained the case … until…

GPI Flips the Script

The Global Poker Index is poker’s primary ranking system for live tournament players. The combination of GPI data and the Hendon Mob database creates a wealth of information about live tournament performances, which is then used to rank the best players for the GPI system. The GPI Player of the Year and World Poker Rankings are each important to players who value recognition for their achievements in the game.

On January 10, the GPI announced a “revamped scoring system across all rankings.” The changes, which were in process over the past 18 months, were a response to player input and the current poker landscape. According to GPI Head of Poker Content, “The updated scoring process will see successful players at most buy-in levels rewarded in our rankings.”

Not only will players earn more points for cashing in larger field events, the value of points attributed to event buy-ins will decrease. More points will be awarded for buy-ins lower than $1,500 in order to give tournament winners a bigger boost to their overall GPI scores.

Previously, the minimum number of players for a tournament to qualify for POY rankings was 21 players, but the new update will require at least 32 entries, which will inevitably eliminate most Super High Roller events and some of the on-demand High Rollers from qualification.

As a result, more players will have a chance to climb the annual rankings and compete for Player of the Year honors. The list is less likely to be dominated by high-stakes competitors and more likely to include players who simply do well at various levels of the game. This benefits the game as a whole and welcomes more players to be recognized for their poker achievements.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.