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Extended Thank You's from WPT creator Steve Lipscomb

19 Mar 2015

So Steve asked me to get this out to the poker world so I figured the best way to do that would be via my written blog. Steve won an award at the American Poker Awards in LA recently, and wanted to make sure he thanked everyone he didn't have time to get to. So we are clear, these are all Steve's words and don't necessarily represent my own. Except for the part about Shana Hiatt! Is there a poker player who didn't have a massive crush on her? If so, I've yet to meet one!


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Dear friends:



I was touched last Friday to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award (otherwise known as the Out to Pasture Award?) from Alex Dreyfus and the American Poker Awards jury. I tried to thank some of the people who made this remarkable journey (poker boom/modern era of poker) possible at the ceremony. But, any list, no matter how long, would be woefully inadequate and incomplete. So many people have been and still are critical to all of this being possible -- from players to casino executives to broadcasters to producers to visionaries as far back as Benny Binion …



So, knowing that the larger the list the more likely I am to upset people, I still feel compelled to thank some of the extraordinary individuals I had the pleasure of working with or whose foot steps I had the honor of following …



Thank you to Lyle Berman (and Lakes Entertainment) for being open enough to listen … and crazy enough to invest … and genuine enough to be an unparalleled partner (and good friend)…



Thank you to Robyn Moder and Audrey Kania for taking the crazy leap of faith it took to stop your lives and come help start the World Poker Tour. And, Robyn, thank you for moving mountain after mountain to make the impossible seem mundane. We all owe you both a debt of gratitude for all the hard work and the grace you exhibited every day …



Thank you to Adam Pliska for taking all that we did – all of us – and finding a way to make it better …



Thank you to Linda Johnson for believing from the start … for adding your unmatched legitimacy to the WPT … for getting cigarette smoke out of poker rooms and tournaments … for guiding the WPT and me personally through so many years …



Thank you Mike Sexton (and Chuck Humphrey) for the Tournament of Champions (so many years ago) that planted Mike’s voice in my brain as the ultimate voice of poker. Thank you, Mike, for understanding and pioneering the link between television and online poker when you orchestrated PartyGaming’s integration in and around WPT shows – that changed the poker world forever …



Thank you Vince Van Patten and Mike Sexton for being the best talent any television producer has ever worked with. And, Vinnie … you never get the credit you deserve because you are always working so hard to take care of the people around you and to make them look good. That simply makes you the best guy in poker. Thank you for you …



Thank you to David Egan … the editor who worked so hard during the eight months it took to edit the first WPT show. I admit that I wondered whether you would survive the project. I’ll never forget how you invented new ways to use the AVID title tool to make the graphics vision work. And now, every time a poker show airs in any media around the globe, it runs with that format that seems so intuitive today … but we both know better … because we saw all the things that did not work …



Thank you Joe Grimm for being the first guy who actually got the WPT format so completely that I could step into other roles. And thank you to George Sylak, Mandy Glogow, Kristin Cranford, Johnny Kedj and so many producers, editors, coordinators, PAs and more for caring about every frame of the show … and making every poker show into a 5 act Shakespearean play …



Thank you to Doug DePriest and Steve Cheskin at the Travel Channel for offering something no one else dared to … a weekly prime time, two hour, “appointment television” spot. If the WPT had been relegated to late-late night as poker always had been, maybe none of this would have happened …



Thank you to Shana Hiatt for becoming America’s poker sweetheart overnight … and somehow never having a bad frame on camera … impossible, but true. Thank you to Courtney Friel, Sabina Gadecki. Layla Kayleigh, Kimberly Lansing and Lynn Gilmartin for making poker look and sound that good …



Thank you to Benny Binion and Jack Binion, for launching, fostering and growing tournament poker. Thank you to Jim Albrecht, Jack McClelland, Matt Savage, Linda Johnson, the Tournament Directors Association together with all the staff and dealers who are the backbone of the industry … every day … every tournament … all over the world. There would have been (and would be) nothing to televise without you. And a shout out to Bob Thompson and Robert Thompson for being so welcoming and kind when we first filmed the World Series for the Discovery Channel (and then for the Travel Channel).



Thank you to Kathy Raymond and Foxwoods Casino for “getting it” instantly and calling twenty minutes after our pitch meeting to be the first casino in history to sign up for the first poker tour ever. (And what Kathy has done at the Venetian is worth serious kudos). Thank you to Jim Barbo, John Griffo, Tim Gustin and the Commerce Casino for being the second to sign on. Thank you to Doug Dalton, Jack McClelland and Bobby Baldwin for adding a whole new layer of credibility when the Bellagio joined the tour (players will remember what a big deal that was). Thank you to Bruno Fitoussi, Isabelle Mercier and Sabine Hazoume at the Aviation Club de France for signing on Season 1 to take poker outside of America … when the game was played almost nowhere but in America. And thank you to all the Charter member casinos and the people of vision in their organizations that took the leap of faith that first year … at a time before televised poker tours existed …





Thank you to the WSOP staff and executives who have grown the event to heights no one (and I promise you, no one) imagined possible … Ty Stewart, Nolan Dalla and so many more.



When it comes to players, I am going to leave so many people out that I know I’m headed for a mine field (but, that’s the nice thing about being out to pasture …). As a guy who came from the world of media, law and entertainment, I was always (and still am) impressed by the caliber and character of so many people in the poker world. When we took poker out of the back rooms and into the limelight, it was easy because of the diverse excellence of the people we were fortunate enough to have at WPT poker tables. So, please forgive me if your name is not here. Every final table participant, every entrant in a WPT event deserves more than a mention and our eternal gratitude …



With that in mind, I want to thank a few of the players …



Thank you to Lyle Berman for continuing to play in WPT events … even when we asked you not to. We were wrong. Having you there was the right thing. And, according to the people who play with you in the BIG GAME, you always hold your own [which may just be how they get you back in the game …]



Thank you to Barry Greenstein for ushering the new era of giving into poker. Long before the charitable aspect of modern poker was well established, you played all WPT events specifically to give any winnings (and there were plenty) to charitable causes (giving rise to your nickname “The Robin Hood of Poker”). With poker now being one of the leading ways that organizations around the world raise money for worthy causes, you should be remembered as a pioneer in that important arena …



Thank you to Phil Hellmuth for being the first true poker player brand. Even before the WPT launched, you were that guy. And, whether America rooted for or against you … we rooted … and that made a huge difference …



Thank you to Gus Hansen for making poker sexy, Alan Goehring for making poker smart and Antonio Esfandiari and Phil Laak for making poker fun. It was more amazing to watch you guys and everyone else on the first few seasons of the WPT than anyone could have imagined. And, Antonio, I particularly thank you for being the guy who (no matter how big you got) always appreciated the good things that came to you from poker. The Thanksgiving Day calls were a highlight of the whole WPT ride …



Thank you to Daniel Negreanu … for growing up on camera to be so much more than the most successful tournament player of all time. You have dared to transform that bully pulpit into something that makes people better (themselves and to each other). If the WPT were simply a conduit to help get you on that stage, it was all worth it in my mind …



Thank you to all of the great poker players that came before the modern era … and/or who helped usher it in: Johnny Moss, Stu Unger, Chip Reese, Doyle Brunson (and his book), TJ Cloutier, Tom McAvoy (and their book), Amarillo Slim, Johnny Chan, Bobby Baldwin, Lyle Berman, Scotty Nguyen, Erik Seidel, Mike Caro (and so many more). The unforgettable women: Barbara Enright, Linda Johnson, Jennifer Harmon, Kathy Liebert, Annie Duke, Susie Isaacs (and so many more …).



Thank you to Phil Ivey for coming back to WPT events and final tables despite the bad beats and A-Q curses …



Thank you to the seven players who sued the WPT under the anti-trust laws as a monopoly. Even THAT in hindsight is a fascinating part of the story …



Thank you to Hoyt Corkins for being the nicest poker player I ever met and Isabelle (“No Mercy”) Mercier for making poker translate into something unique and special. Thank you to “The Dentist” at WPT’s season one Reno event … you inspired us for years to make every WPT finalist shine. And, I am particularly sorry to Bradley Berman for conjuring up the Ace that cracked your kings at the season six Bellagio Five Diamond final table … I didn’t think the director had that kind of power …



Thank you to the online sites that made the biggest, boldest bet in the history of poker when you took US bets after UIGEA. None of the rest of us had the guts … and, it turns out, you were so right …



Thank you to Isai and Mark Scheinberg for creating the best poker business in history (bar none). You are an inspiration to us all …



Thank you to PlanetPoker for pioneering online poker and to ParadisePoker for showing how it can grow...



Thank you to Barry and Jeff Shulman and Linda Johnson for CardPlayer Magazine … what an important role it played. Thank you to Bluff Magazine for opening up the market. Thank you to Wendeen Eolis for the amazing article in Poker Digest when the WPT launched. And, thank you to all of the journalists and publications that took an interest in the WPT’s sportification of poker (as Alex Dreyfus would put it).



Thank you to Tony G and PokerNews for gathering the poker world and expanding it online. And, for showing us that poker players can be in parliament …



Thank you to Sue Schneider for helping the industry grow and mature by establishing the first poker and online business conference and scaling it as the business grew ...



Thank you to all the members of the WPT Board of directors: Lyle Berman, Mimi Rogers, Glenn Padnick, Tim Cope, Bradley Berman, Michael Beindorff, Joey Carson and Ray Moberg. Thank you to the long-time employees (forever really): Allison Husheck, Allison Myers, Kristin Cranford, George Sylak, Debbie Frazzetta, Raul Sala and so many more. Thank you to the many who contributed so much but are no longer there … Cindy Frazer, Kat Kowal, Bren Fitzpatrick, Jon Kaplowitz, Laurence Kalinsky, Rohin Malhotra, and so so many more …



Thank you to Paul Hannum … who brought out the best in all of us … and was taken from us far too early …



Thank you to Mark Hickman … my junior high school buddy who introduced me to the poker world when he sold a one-hour documentary to the Discovery network and hired me to produce/direct it …



And, finally, thank you to all the players, casino partners, colleagues, friends and family who are the only reason any of this could have happened. Thank you for making this the greatest possible adventure!



Officially out to pasture …


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