Super High Roller Bowl: December Move, Lottery, ARIA Picks, HR Leaderboard Selections – Have They Got This Right?

Super High Roller Bowl
I have no idea how to start this article. I’ve been staring at a blank screen for 30-minutes hoping that it will write itself. I’m not suffering from writer’s block. That’s not my problem. I can’t stop thinking about Making a Murderer.
The anticipation.
I can’t keep running away from Google.
I need to know if Steven Avery did it.
I don’t want to be a poker writer; I want to be Kathleen Zellner.
Who would have thought of turning a court case into a top-rated documentary? No, the word ‘documentary’ doesn’t do it justice. It’s not a documentary. Then again, it’s not a movie. It’s not a TV series. It’s your first visit to a Chinese restaurant; it’s your 18th birthday party, it’s the day you gave the bully a black eye.
Reed Hasting and the gang began with a library full of shitty old movies we had all seen before, but took a keen interest in the types of shit we liked to watch, did some classic genre fornication, and came up with the concept of Original Programming.
Sound familiar?
A poker broadcaster like Poker Central hasn’t smashed the nose of a thing like this since the invention of the hole camera.
And this is why some of their decisions surrounding the Super High Roller Bowl leave me wanting to give someone smaller than me a thick lip. I am expecting, no demanding, more of the same par excellence that has spewed from PokerGO from the moment the midwife checked it had ten fingers and ten toes.

The Super High Roller Bowl Moves to December

Poker Central officials have declared that The Super High Roller Bowl V (SHRB) will vacate its May 2019 plinth, and bounce forward to newly laid December 2018 concrete.
The shift means the Poker Central High Roller of the Year will end with the $100,000 buy-in at the Bellagio on December 15. Poker Central can wrap the High Roller Triple Crown of the SHRB, US Poker Open and Poker Masters into a neat calendar package, with the High Roller of the Year as the sparkling bow.
Here is the current High Roller of the Year standings.
High Roller of the Year Rankings
1. Sam Soverel- 1,220 points
2. Cary Katz – 1,205
3. Justin Bonomo – 1,025
4. Dan Smith – 1,025
5. David Peters – 975
Five excellent poker players, but have they been the most consistent High Rollers of 2018? Justin Bonomo and David Peters deserve their spot, but Soverel, Catz and Smith? What about Jason Koon, Mikita Badziakouski or Stephen Chidwick?
Why aren’t the PokerStars European Poker Tour (EPT), World Poker Tour (WPT), partypoker MILLIONS, and Triton Poker Series results included to make it the real deal?
“The High Roller of the Year points system today includes events that are organised by Poker Central and its affiliated partners,” Sam Simmons, VP of Content at Poker Central tells me via email. “Like any similar season-long points system, the intent is to create storylines around a lengthy series where coverage is provided of included events so that the stakes are raised well beyond the scope of a single event. Thus, events are largely limited to those of which Poker Central provides coverage.”
“That would be a GPI High Roller, and that has nothing to do with Poker Central,” says the 2017 Poker Masters Champion, Steffen Sontheimer. “They have their brand and want to make it as interesting as possible, and they do a great job. I don’t think a global HR-leaderboard would make sense.”
Ok, I get it now.
Poker Central is creating a narrative for their viewers, and the EPT, MILLIONS and Triton brands don’t fit into that narrative because they don’t control the content. It would be like the BBC obtaining the TV rights for the World Cup, but the final is on BT Sports.
And Sontheimer makes an excellent point when it comes to a broader High Roller Leaderboard. I have always felt it would be cool to have one, but a glance at the Global Poker Index (GPI) shows they already have one.
Check out the current Top 10.
1. Alex Foxen
2. Justin Bonomo
3. David Peters
4. Stephen Chidwick
5. Jake Schindler
6. Adrian Mateos
7. Ben Pollak
8. Joe McKeehen
9. Mikita Badziakouski
10. Jason Koon.
Every single one of them is a $25k+ high stakes regular.
Simmons and Sontheimer have convinced me that the current High Roller of the Year concept makes sense, but can they assure me that a 48-player cap, lottery system, and lack of a mandatory spot for past champions and potential Triple Crown winners, make sense?

The Player Cap, the Lottery and Past Champions

Firstly, let’s focus on the lottery system.
On November 27, PokerGO will stream a live lottery to select the first 25 of a 48-player roster. The ARIA and Poker Central handpick 18 players, and five will qualify for a seat by finishing in the top five positions in the High Roller of the Year leaderboard.
Imagine if FIFA decided to populate the World Cup Finals with 16 teams coming from a live lottery, and Gianni Infantino and the gang handpicking the final 16 teams. Wouldn’t it blemish the prestige of the event, and open up the process to the potential for corruption and nepotism?
I thought the SHRB was supposed to be the FIFA World Cup of poker.
FIFA don’t take this route because they have a qualification process meaning you earn your right to play in the Finals. Poker Central now have that qualification process in the High Roller of Year series. And it’s fantastic to see them use it for the top five players, but because of Poker Central’s restriction (only allocating points for ARIA and Poker Central partner events), you could end up with an SHRB with a big chunk of the most deserving players not getting a seat.
“I don’t think the lottery system is perfect, but it’s still giving people a fair chance to get in while making sure they have certain people who are ARIA regulars or people who they think will make for a good TV show,” the former GPI Player of the Year, David Peters, tells me. “Having someone who only plays the SHRB and nothing else all year at ARIA get a seat while someone who plays events year-round misses out is something they understandably don’t want to happen.”
Meditor Capital Management Ltd, CEO, Talal Shakerchi, is an SHRB regular, but he’s not someone who is going to be appearing in enough ARIA or Poker Central partner events to make it via a leaderboard system. So the lottery system works for him, but he would like some tweaks made to the way things go down.
“The event is attractive because it is rake-free and good player numbers for an SHR so no surprise there is high demand,” says Shakerchi. “Given there is oversubscription a lottery system is a fair way to choose. However, I would prefer greater transparency such as a fixed deadline for applications or a statement on the basis for the decisions and who has input.”
Shakerchi is referring to the handpicking of the 18 players that ARIA and Poker Central choose after the lottery. Last year, the 2017 Poker Masters Champion, Steffen Sontheimer, got into the SHRB, only after Andrew Robl had to withdraw at the last minute.
Poker Central has done a grand job of piecing together a story framework that works with the Poker Masters, US Poker Open and SHRB forming a High Roller Triple Crown, but any fan of sports knows that the defending champion is an essential member of the cast, as is the person who could potentially win the Triple Crown.
In addition to the five High Roller of the Year seats, the winners of the Poker Masters and US Poker Open should receive a mandatory position, as should the defending champion. So for 2018, Stephen Chidwick, Ali Imsirovic and Justin Bonomo shouldn’t have their balls in the tombola machine.
Simmons tries to alleviate my concerns.
“Although it is not formally stated, the previous years’ Super High Roller Bowl champion is taken into consideration for the reserved seat selections,” says Simmons. “For the May edition, while Brian Rast and Christoph Vogelsang were lottery selections, Rainer Kempe was given a reserved seat so that all previous champions were able to participate in the event.
“The High Roller of the Year system provides a chance for players to automatically qualify through participation in Poker Central-affiliated high roller tournaments. With High Roller Triple Crown events like U.S. Poker Open and Poker Masters weighted more heavily in points, the winners of these events have a great chance to capture one of the top five spots in those standings.”
I’m still not convinced.
Neither is Sontheimer.
“They want to reward the players that play at ARIA nonstop,” says Sontheimer. “It’s nothing else but extending ARIA picks to 23 since the top 5 would always get picked anyway. It just makes it easier for them to justify certain picks because there is a “system” compared to the shit shows of the last two years, especially the adding of seats two years ago after the lottery ended up with too many Germans.”
Shakerchi would also like to see a slight change.
“It’s their prerogative {handpicking 18-players},” says Shakerchi. “It doesn’t seem to sit well with a lottery though. Perhaps it would be better if they chose a smaller number and restricted it to non-professionals. That would serve everyone’s interests.”
Like me, Peters thinks there needs to be a place for the former champions, and Triple Crown potentials, but feels there needs to be loyalty to regular ARIA players.
“They are running a rake free event, and should be able to give priority to loyal customers and make sure certain people don’t get shut out who have been a big part in ARIA’s success in the high roller scene,” says Peters before continuing, “I think the top 5 is a good incentive to try to get numbers up during the slower times of the year, but yes having the winners of those series’ probably should get a seat in SHRB.”
In March, the SHRB extended its brand outside of Las Vegas for the first time with the HKD 2,100,000 Super High Roller Bowl China, and 75-entrants created a prize pool of $18.5m.
It showed a real craving for the brand.
Doesn’t a 48-player cap go against customer demand?
Sontheimer doesn’t think so.
“Keep it; it’s good for TV.”
Peters is sitting on the fence.
“I don’t feel too strongly either way,” says Peters. “It would be nice to have a very big field, but at the same time it will also be more pro heavy whereas at 48 it has a good balance of pros and recs.”
And the switch to December, what’s the lowdown?
“I think putting the SHRB to the end of December makes a lot of sense to promote the yearly leaderboard,” says Sontheimer. “It will also help a lot to make it less interesting for “randoms” to join the lottery. Before they were in Vegas, now it would be an extra flight. I’m thinking of people that have a ridiculously small piece in themselves and sell at 1.01-1.03. These are the people that Poker Central doesn’t really want to see while they still want to run it as an “open” event.”
That’s the view of Steffen Sontheimer, Talal Shakerchi, and David Peters.
What’s yours?
Has Poker Central and ARIA got this one right?