Jeffrey Pollack, Annie Duke Launching New Poker League

by , Jan 18, 2011 | 9:52 am

Former WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack, who oversaw the WSOP through the boomtime poker era, plans to make professional poker something more akin to the PGA.

He’s founded a new California company — Federated Sports+Gaming — with Annie Duke on the executive team and serving as commissioner of the poker league, which promises to be a professionals-only set-up. Duke resigned from the WSOP’s event-steering Players Advisory Committee two months ago and last month renounced her relationship with UB, the most notoriously beleaguered online poker site in history.

According to @OskarGarcia from the Associated Press:

The yet-to-be-named league is planning four televised regular-season events plus a $1 million championship freeroll at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas this year, league executives said.

“This is incredibly pro-centric,” Duke told The Associated Press. “This is the one piece that’s kind of missing from the poker landscape right now, which is something for the best players in the world to compete against the best players in the world.”

Should be interesting to see who, by Federated’ new definition, qualify as pros … with one obvious litmus test being will @donkeybomber be able to secure his card?

Corporately, Duke is an executive vice president of Federated Sports+Gaming’s, though not a member of its board of directors. The others on Pollack’s team come from, the biggest legal online gaming company based in the US, which was recently acquired by Churchill Downs, the publicly traded online gaming outpost for Kentucky’s horse-race industry. Others on Pollack’s executive team share varying degrees from Northwestern University, to which I say, um … Go Cats!

Pollack, serving as chairman of Federated, maintains his position as executive chairman of PBR, which real cowboys will tell you is very different from traditional “rodeo”. Read below for his full statement announcing his reburstage onto the poker scene:

Tue, 01/18/2011
Welcome Message from Jeffrey Pollack

We may be a new company, but Federated Sports + Gaming is built on a timeless value: putting people first.

Our ground-breaking poker league will put professional players first and celebrate the stars of this great game like never before. As in any other endeavor, the world’s best talent deserves the spotlight and poker is no different. Federated Sports + Gaming will provide a custom-tailored tournament experience that clearly demonstrates how poker professionals lead the industry and are skilled in a way that is rare and worthy of special attention.

The television and media coverage of our tournaments will focus on poker professionals — making them the rule, not the exception — and it will put viewers and fans first with great story telling and a level of production that elevates the game of poker and honors its most talented and compelling personalities. Led by highly acclaimed and Emmy® Award winning creative talent, our programming will provide an ideal showcase for the world’s best poker players and carry forward a tradition of excellence shared among established, elite sporting events.

Federated social media games will also break new ground and put online players first with a superior experience that is fun and simplified. And, we will provide great customer service every step of the way and build an online gaming environment that is safe and secure.

Along the way, we will partner with companies that share our passion and values and also put people first – both their customers and employees. For our own part, I know that we have assembled an executive team at Federated that is replete with experience, insight, perspective and a fierce desire to work as we live – with integrity, honesty, transparency and a keen sense of humor. Our people rock and have a wealth of experience in sports management and media, entertainment, e-commerce, entrepreneurship, and legal online gaming.

When I took the helm of the World Series of Poker in 2005, a smart media executive said to me, “Always remember, it’s just poker” and suggested that the game never be taken too seriously. Well, we are serious about treating poker professionals with the respect they deserve and we are serious about our mission. But, we’re going to have a lot of fun along the way and I invite you to join us.

Welcome to a new way of doing business in the sports and gaming industry, and to a company that puts people first.

Welcome to Federated!

Jeffrey N. Pollack

Co-Founder and Chairman

6 Comments to “Jeffrey Pollack, Annie Duke Launching New Poker League”

  1. BJ Nemeth

    AP writer Oskar Garcia has already said (on Twitter) that the qualification formula will be made public, but they are still working on it. Whatever it is, expect it to be geared toward TV-friendly pros, which is the entire point of a televised poker league.

    That’s not to say that it will ONLY be TV-friendly pros. But they’ve already said that cash games and online poker don’t count, because those players aren’t as well known as the big tournament players.

    I think Tom Schneider’s (@DonkeyBomber) best shot is if they auto-qualify recent (5 years?) WSOP Players of the Year.

    One of the unavoidable steps to making this venture a success is to get cooperation from both Full Tilt and PokerStars, because between them they control most of the TV-friendly pros. You can’t populate an interesting field of 200 players without their players.

    It’s also worth noting that there has been no mention of a TV deal — yet. With the people and resources behind this, I fully expect them to have one when they need one. But technically, you can’t be a TV show without a TV deal, and this entire endeavor needs TV or it’s pointless.

  2. BJ Nemeth

    “But they’ve already said that cash games and online poker don’t count, because those players aren’t as well known as the big tournament players.”

    To be clear, they only said the first part (online and cash games don’t count), and I added the second part. There are several reasons why they may not count online and cash games, but a beneficial result is that those players are not as well known as live tournament players.

  3. Kevin Mathers

    Consider four big-name cash game players:

    Gus Hansen
    Patrik Antonius
    Tom Dwan
    Phil Galfond

    Hansen would be a lock based on his success on the WPT.
    Antonius would appear to be borderline with an EPT win and a 2nd in a WPT.
    Galfond has a bracelet, but few results.
    Dwan has a 2nd in a WSOP event, and fewer open tournament results.

    Would you consider all four worthy of being included?

  4. Jon Miller

    Definition of contrived – artificial, labored. Sort of describes this new idea. Know many pros under 30 years old that didn’t learn the game online? Didn’t the whole boom start with a non-pro who qualified online beating the pros?

  5. JonP

    horseshit league…

  6. ScottF

    Wow, crony capitalism comes to poker. Seems to me the HUGE fascination and draw for most Americans was the idea that anyone can win in a tournament, based on pure skill (yes luck too), once they enter. Entry was accessible to all that were willing to pay the entry fee. Joe shmoe and pro alike, had equal access to the fruits of victory. I am exceptionally confident that this concept is what what most people love about poker. Oddly, this is the theme of capitalism. With this new format, a central planner (Federated Sports and Gaming) chooses and favors particular players in attempts to concentrate wealth toward a favored few. Sounds familiar, it’s a mirror image of crony-capitalism which so many Americans are growing to hate. Good luck with this approach. It’s pretty obvious I have zero interest in watching the chosen elites.