Does the All-Time Money List still have meaning?

Tournament poker is changing. In less than ten years, the biggest buy in event on the live circuit has risen from around $100,000 to more than $1.2 million.

The sheer scale and prize pool of the WSOP Main Event has always slightly skewed All-Time Money List, with unknown players having a handful of small cashes before leaping up to $10 million. With Super High Rollers, this issue has become greatly magnified.

Even in the days when the Main Event would impact the list significantly, players never threatened the top few places after a single career-changing win which still gave meaning to the list as a measure of career success in tournaments.

The value of an All-Time Money List has always been questionable, as profitability should be the true judge of poker success. The list did, however, give an indication of career longevity and consistency in the bigger tournaments on the circuit.

Now, those indications are being increasingly eroded by the arrival of Super High Rollers; in particular the Big One for One Drop.

Super High Roller circuit moves the goal posts

Looking back to 2010, there simply weren’t any seven-figure buy in events in existence. You would be hard-pressed to even find a $250,000 event, but with Triton’s latest Super High Roller requiring over $1.2 million to play, tournament buy ins at the highest stakes have clearly undergone a seismic shift. With seven-figure buy in events increasing in frequency too, players are now making eight-figure leaps up the leaderboard each year. What was once The All-Time Money List has now effectively become the Recent Super High Rollers Rungood List.

All Time Money List Top 10

1st Bryn Kenney $ 55,505,634
2nd Justin Bonomo $ 45,260,052
3rd Daniel Negreanu $ 41,857,384
4th Dan Smith $ 36,742,718
5th Erik Seidel $ 35,726,969
6th David Peters $ 33,146,070
7th Fedor Holz $ 32,556,379
8th Stephen Chidwick $ 31,197,419
9th Jason Koon $ 30,079,344
10th Daniel Colman $ 28,925,059

When examining the relevance of the current All-Time Money List, we must view it as entirely new list with less than ten tournaments counting towards its upper reaches. This new list is currently a variance drenched lottery of which players have run well in that tiny sample size of tournaments. To further add to the irrelevance of the list, most of those playing in these events will have sold huge amounts of action.

The list has always only carried a convoluted suggestion of profitability, but now, is an even weaker indicator of who may be profitable than it previously was.

The One Drop Question

To put buy ins in perspective, when the One Drop came along it dwarfed the Main Event buy-in, being 100 times larger. Every player in the top 4 on the All-Time Money List would not be there if not for a big score in a seven-figure buy in event. In addition to the buy in amount limiting inclusivity, the fact that many big buy-in events are now semi-invitational restricts this aspect even further.

We’re increasingly finding ourselves in a situation where topping this list is not a case of what you know about poker – it’s who you know in poker. In 5 years’ time the All-Time Money List will simply be a cumulative list of cashes for players who knew the right people, had enough backers and ran hot in a few tournaments.

The perfect example: Bryn Kenney’s flash ascension

Bryn Kenney
Bryn Kenney

We do not wish to show any disrespect to Bryn Kenney, who played great poker to outlast some of the best players in the world, nor do we want to be critical of events which do admirable work for charities. The speed of Kenney’s ascent through the All-Time Money List does raise some questions about rankings, however. Four years ago, Kenney broke into the top 100 and of his $55.5 million in live cashes, over $30 million has been won in the last 12 months alone, sending him rocketing up to the top spot, which he now holds by a full $10 million margin.

How would the All-Time Money List look without the Super High Rollers?

With Hendon Mob’s rankings filtered to exclude tournaments with a buy in above $11,000 the list becomes a close race filled with players who are mostly former Main Event winners. Perhaps the most impressive achievement to be found in this list is Daniel Negreanu’s 4th place, which he reaches without ever having final tabled a Main Event, let alone won one.

Excluding buy ins above $5,500 changes the list entirely again, with Men “The Master” Nguyen hitting 2nd place and David Pham taking 3rd. Phil Hellmuth tops the list, with Negreanu also still faring quite well in 7th.

GPI Rankings: The best available measurement?

Launched in 2014, the Global Poker Index offers a way more interesting insight. Among the key concepts of the GPI is consistency and ageing. If a player hits a one-off big score it may push him up the rankings, but a lack of consistency through the time frame measured will prevent a single score from holding too much weight. Furthermore, the points return from each score will gradually diminish over time.

This means the GPI provides a relatively accurate measurement of who the strongest players are in the world from those who play a full live tournament schedule each year.

Additionally, any tournament with a buy in above $20,000 is calculated as a $20,000 tournament by the GPI. This cap ensures that the rankings remain balanced despite High Roller results.

The ranking system itself awards points to cashes within a 3-year window, with any cashes older than 3 years providing zero points. The amount of points earned for a score within the past 3 years will diminish every 6 months, meaning that players need to be consistent in order to top the standings.

Finishing place by percentage of field beaten and buy in are used in conjunction with the ageing factor to provide the score, and crucially, the only events which count are those that are open to all members of the public. Invitational or semi-private events do not count.

Article by Craig Bradshaw