5 THINGS: APAs, Polk’s New Tone, Hellmuth Sells Out, Galfond Speaks

In the debut of Five Things, Lance Bradley discusses the APAs, Doug Polk, Phil Hellmuth and the wise words of Phil Galfond.

5 Things is a column, written by PocketFives President and Editor in Chief, Lance Bradley that covers pressing topics and current events in the poker world today. It will appear periodically at PocketFives.com.

American Poker Awards: And The Winners Are …

The 4th Annual American Poker Awards wrapped up Thursday night in Hollywood, and for the second year in a row I was fortunate enough to count myself amongst the winners. There were 20 awards handed out in all, but the real winner on the night was the poker industry itself.

Some of the game’s biggest movers and shakers were on hand, dressed to kill, with sole mission of celebrating everything that was great about the game of poker and the industry built around it in 2017. Lynn Gilmartin hosted the festivities with a number of humorous and emotional moments. It was two of the latter that stood out for me as the highlights of the night.

The first came when Eric Danis, longtime Global Poker Index employee and the person responsible for executing on Alex Dreyfus‘ vision for the APAs, was awarded with the Jury Prize. Danis was diagnosed with testicular cancer a little over five weeks ago and continued to pour his blood, sweat and tears into making the sure the award show went off without a hitch. The jury prize has no actual criteria, but rather is awarded by the jury if there is a candidate they believe to be worthwhile of recognition. Danis fits that bill perfectly.

Later on in the evening, Bernard Lee delivered a heartfelt and compassionate speech as he presented Jacob Zalewski with the Charitable Initiative award. Zalewski has run the One Step Closer Foundation since 2007 with the mission of being able to make the lives of those who suffer from Cerebral Palsy easier. Zalewski, who himself suffers from CP, has raised over $1 million for the foundation, mostly through charity poker tournaments held each year. The presentation by Lee and the accompanying video left many attendees feeling choked up.

Guess We’ll Just Mark Them As Absent?

Not all of the “movers and shakers” were there though. Quite noticeable in their absence was the World Series of Poker. In years past, WSOP executives Ty Stewart and Jack Effel have been on hand to help the poker industry celebrate. Unfortunately, that streak ended this year.

With Las Vegas, where the WSOP offices are, just a four-hour drive or a one-hour flight from where the awards were held in Hollywood, it’s hard to support their decision to not come. Some speculated that it may have come down to the fact that neither Stewart or Effel were nominated this year. Stewart was nominated, but didn’t win in 2015, while Effel was nominated each of the first three years of the APAs, but was unable to book a win.

PokerStars, who sponsored the event, also didn’t have any executives attend, but they provided a good chunk of the operating budget and Daniel Negreanu, the face of their brand, was at the event.

As the night was wrapping up, Lon McEachern and Norman Chad were presented with Lifetime Achievement awards for their work as the WSOP broadcast team and nobody from WSOP was there to lend their support. Considering how prestigious the WSOP is, it was an embarrassing look for that brand to not have their big wigs in attendance.

Doug Polk Turning Over a New Leaf

It appears that Doug Polk has turned over a new leaf. One of the most outspoken and visible personalities in poker today, Polk took to his YouTube channel on Sunday to discuss what the game of poker has meant to him and how grateful he was for the opportunities it has given him. He also mentioned that future videos would have a different tone from the one’s he’s produced so far.

“I feel like I’ve not exactly gotten myself across correctly, the way that I really want to,” said Polk. “I think that overall there has been a little bit of a problem with the tone of my videos, which is I think that things are a little bit too negative, and a little bit too on the complaining side.”

The video came on the heels of Polk going 0-for-4 at the American Poker Awards, as well as criticism from Negreanu that too much of what Polk was producing was controversial in nature simply to generate more views for his channel.  While neither of those things may be behind this new direction, it will be interesting to see if he’s serious about it or if he’s just trolling all of us.

You can watch Polk’s latest video here:

Phil Hellmuth Sells Out – Literally – And Then Skips Day 1 (As Usual)

Phil Hellmuth has had a number of sponsors over the course of his illustrious career. His latest, announced just about 10 days ago, aligns the 14-time WSOP bracelet winner with YouStake.com, the staking website that allows poker fans to buy pieces of players in upcoming live and online events. To kick off the partnership, which sees Helllmuth as a partner and advisor for the company, the ‘poker brat’ sold 60% of his World Poker Tour LA Poker Classic action.

Despite what some might consider high markup at 1.5, Hellmuth sold out his package in just 24 hours. However, as Day 1 was getting underway at the Commerce Casino, Hellmuth tweeted that he was on his way from Los Angeles to the Bay Area to sit courtside with Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob and that he would be in action starting on Day 2. Despite the fact that Hellmuth almost always registers late, this didn’t sit well with some.

Apparently YouStake agreed and did the right thing by offering anybody who had bought pieces of Hellmuth the opportunity to collect a refund before play began. According to YouStake, nobody did, but in the future all packages sold on the site will include a disclaimer if Hellmuth, or any other seller, intends to register late for an event.

Phil Galfond Brings Sensible Take to the Rake Discussion

In 2016, Negreanu gave an interview that Polk has since built the ‘More Rake is Better’ meme around. In the original interview with Swedish journalist Rikard Aberg, Negreanu argued that rake was a way of keeping winning players away from certain games. Polk turned that into ‘more rake is better’ and the topic seemed to go off the rails at that point. Enter Phil Galfond.

Galfond, who is in the process of building his own online poker site, penned his own thoughts on rake at RunItOnce.com and provided a rational look at what Negreanu actually said, what he didn’t say, and how other operators might excel. While he did his best to correct the narrative surrounding what Negreanu actually said, he also challenged some of Negreanu’s thinking and what it means for the future of online poker.

“If Amaya believes their important customers want unbeatable games, and if they believe that competitors going in a different direction will fail, it’s their right to focus on those games. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with them drawing conclusions from their data and making the best decision they can for their shareholders.

But if that is the case, Amaya believes in a very grim future for us, and if Daniel wants to engage the community sincerely, I’d prefer for him come out and say it.”

Galfond is among the best poker players of his generation and has always come across as an intelligent individual and this blog post proves that to be the case. As he continues to build his online poker business, having Galfond increase his visibility and provide a rational voice of a reason, would be a welcome addition to the madness that can sometimes be the poker community.

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