Pro Poker League Selects First Players

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Pro Poker League

LAS VEGAS – (Associated Press) - The professional poker league hoping to become the world's PGA for card players has determined criteria for its invitations and picked more than 200 people to compete in its first tournaments.

Annie Duke, league commissioner of Federated Sports and Gaming, told The Associated Press that the players were picked based on their results in live high-stakes poker tournaments, including cashes, major wins and money won in the past three years.

Duke, known for being a top tournament player herself, said the league is looking to reward players who have won consistently and shown recent success.

"This was the big wrestle -- the decision that we came up with is that relevance in the tournament world today is the more important piece," she said. "Nobody should be able to get into the league if they haven't been performing in the last three years."

The league is an attempt to pit players only against top competition, unlike typical high-stakes poker tournaments in which anyone who can muster thousands of dollars for a buy-in can compete.

The first players invited, a list of 218 players, qualified for five-year, three-year and two-year tournament cards. The length of each card signifies how long each player can continue to be in the league without having his or her credentials reviewed.

The top players invited include poker's biggest names, including Daniel Negreanu, Phil Ivey, Erik Seidel and Phil Hellmuth, while others making the cut include names known only to hard-core poker followers.

Several big names, including previous World Series of Poker main event winners Jamie Gold and Jonathan Duhamel, didn't make the cut, because the criteria caps each player's top tournament win at as much as $2 million and requires at least six cashes for at least $300,000 since 2008, Duke said.

That eliminates players who score big in one tournament and are never heard from again.

Jeffrey Pollack, chairman of Federated, said the league planned to go on as planned despite federal indictments targeting 11 executives at three top poker companies that sponsor many of the game's top players.

The indictments handed down April 15 led offshore companies PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker to shut down their U.S. offerings, and left fans and industry insiders questioning whether poker's top televised events would be affected.

Pollack said he and other league officials empathize with players and others in the multibillion-dollar industry that have seen their livelihoods affected indirectly by the indictments.

"We're very mindful of that -- a lot of those people are obviously friends, not just colleagues," Pollack said. "But beyond that, Black Friday hasn't impacted our business model and hasn't impacted our launch plan."

Federated's league launches in August, with plans for five sets of tournaments, including a $1 million freeroll offered only to the league's top 27 finishers in February in Las Vegas.

Duke said invitations to the league will be sent to players on Tuesday.

The most important part of making the league roster work was making it objective, Pollack said. The results have yielded highly skilled, interesting players, he said.

"There's a lot of young talent that's qualified to the league, and we look forward to putting a brighter spotlight on the new talent in professional poker," Pollack said.