Who is the Best Internet Player?

A look at the Internet tournament scene

This month I am going to take a break from my usual column that focuses on poker strategy to discuss the current state of the Internet tournament scene.

Everyone knows that tournament poker has exploded. Just as is the case with live poker, tournament poker on the Internet is bigger and better than ever before. It is time to take notice of the tremendous amount of money being awarded in the big-time tournaments on the Internet and the players who are showing success.

Every week, there are at least 15 tournaments that guarantee more than $100,000 in prize money. There are more than 10 tournaments each month guaranteeing more than $500,000, with five of those topping a cool million in guaranteed money.

A few years ago, PartyPoker made online history by offering the first $1 million prize to the winner of the PartyPoker Million. Today, ParadisePoker awards a cool million to a freeroll winner.

Yet, with all of this action and money, the Internet player is still the low man on the totem pole when it comes to recognition and publicity.

The Internet poker world is, for the most part, an anonymous world. Players play under aliases, and some even play under different aliases at different sites. We rarely hear about players who consistently achieve great results on the Internet. Of course, there are some exceptions. Some of the popular online players who have achieved recognition include Eric123, Neverwin, and JohnnyBax. But even these players were relatively unknown until their live-tournament successes.

Live-tournament players have TV coverage on ESPN, the Travel Channel, and NBC, and they get featured in magazines. And, of course, Card Player has the Player of the Year award that helps spotlight those players who are achieving consistent success in live tournaments. Card Player deserves a lot of credit for giving the tournament player a measure by which to compare himself to his peers. This award is highly respected and sought after by the pros. The Internet player deserves a similar type of recognition.

To help spotlight the top Internet tournament players in the world, my website, www.internettexasholdem.com, recently launched the 2006 Internet Player of the Year race. On Jan. 1, 2006, we began collecting data from all of the major online tournaments based on field size, buy-in amount, and total prize pool.

The tournaments include all of the major weekly and monthly tournaments at sites such as PartyPoker, PokerStars, Bodog, and FullTilt, among others. Special events are also included, such as the Paradise Masters, The PokerStars World Championship of Online Poker, and The PokerRoom Grand Tournaments.

The point system was designed to be easy to understand for everyone and is based on the number one objective for a player – money. To ensure that one big win doesn’t rank a player too highly, points are awarded by taking the square root of money won in any given tournament. This point system inherently takes into account the buy-in, number of players, and a player’s finish. This also smooths out the point difference for those finishing first, second, and third, where most of the money is awarded.

One of the challenges of online poker is that many players use different aliases at each site. We have designed a unique linking system by which each player can link his aliases to one username for ranking purposes. We will then verify the top-ranked players toward the end of the year to ensure that their aliases are correctly linked.

There are already more than 10,000 usernames in the database, so any player who has placed in a major tournament will be able to see his ranking. You also can sort the results by poker site, number of cashes, and money won. With the sort feature, if a player plays at only one site, he will be able to see how he stacks up against his competitors at that particular site.

As of March 7, 2006, we have tracked 127 tournaments. Seven of our top 25 players have had at least five cashes. Our current leader, FreshFish952, has had an amazing 13 cashes, all from one site. If he played every single tournament at that site, he would have made the money 22 percent of the time; but, of course, it is highly unlikely that he played every single tournament.

In a little over two months, five players have already bagged more than $200,000, and 30 players have taken home more than $100,000 from online tournaments. PcktBullets was the big winner, taking home $331,000 in the Paradise Million, enough to place him second on the overall leader board.

At last, the poker world will finally know who the top Internet tournament players are through an objective ranking system. Hopefully, the race will generate some of the same type of buzz in the online poker world that the Card Player Player of the Year race generates in the live poker world.