One of the casualties after Amaya Gaming decided to rebrand the European Poker Tour at the start of 2017 was the notion of poker’s “Triple Crown.” That achievement – winning a Main Event tournament (or a bracelet event) on the EPT, the World Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker – was arguably the most difficult endeavor in the world of poker. In the time span that the three organizations existed, only five men (Gavin Griffin, Roland De Wolfe, Jake Cody, Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier and Davidi Kitai) were able to capture titles on all three circuits (55 other players have two legs of the achievement). For comparison’s sake, only six men – Doyle Brunson, Dan Harrington, Scotty Nguyen, Carlos Mortensen, Joe Hachem and Ryan Riess – have been able to win the WSOP Championship Event and a WPT Main Event tournament.
That feat, alas, is now gone (there are seven men who could win a WSOP bracelet or ten other players who could win a WPT title and complete their “Triple Crown,” but I digress). When the EPT was rebranded as the “PokerStars Championships,” it completely removed any panache, any history, from the “Triple Crown” conversation. This point was duly noted by fellow poker journalist Lee Davy over at CalvinAyre.com, who lamented the loss of the “Triple Crown” and stated we needed to have something to cheer for. His suggestion? Goodbye to the “Triple Crown,” and hello to poker’s “Grand Slam.”
The feature of a “Grand Slam” is an integral part of both golf and tennis. Usually consisting of four events – in golf, it is The Masters, the U. S. Open, the British Open and the PGA Championship (with the Players’ Championship thought of as the unofficial “fifth” major); in tennis, it is the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the U. S. Open – the goal of any player is to win all four events in the same calendar year. Conversely, there is also the career “Grand Slam” (winning each event one time) or what some called the “Tiger Slam” or the “Serena Slam” (when golfer Tiger Woods and tennis legend Serena Williams held each of the four titles but not in the same calendar year). In poker, however, there isn’t something along that line for players to chase down, which was somewhat provided in the pursuit of poker’s “Triple Crown.”
Not so fast! In this writer’s opinion, poker HAD a “Grand Slam” for many years. Consisting of the WSOP Championship event, the WPT World Championship, the Aussie Millions, the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event and the EPT Grand Final (hey, five works too!), poker’s “Grand Slam” was just as difficult as its counterparts in golf and tennis and provided for the same globetrotting excitement. The problem with this concept now is that only two of the five events are still in existence.
When the EPT’s doors were shuttered, so was the history of the EPT Grand Final, historically one of the most difficult tournaments on the circuit and in Europe. The WPT has mucked around with its close of season schedule, basically eliminating the World Championship in exchange for its Tournament of Champions. And the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure? Now just a cog in the PokerStars Championships, renamed the PokerStars Championship Bahamas (even the name is boring). So it is time to create a NEW “Grand Slam” for the world of poker.
We can keep the WSOP Championship Event in the mix, along with the Aussie Millions; despite having no circuit tie-in, the Aussie Millions is one of the biggest international poker events in the world (it also doesn’t hurt that it is usually contested around the time of the Australian Open in tennis). Others? Let’s consider the Super High Roller Bowl (if it were open to all, it would be a snap entry) because it brings the biggest names in the game to the table. An event that is an open-entry tournament, the $50,000 WSOP Poker Players’ Championship, is a key part of the potential new “Grand Slam” as it is not only a prestigious tournament but also a thorough test of a player’s skills in its mixed game format.
What about some tournaments like the second longest No Limit Hold’em tournament in existence, the Irish Poker Open? The Irish Poker Open has had a rollercoaster life, with player participation fluctuating over time (in 2007, it drew 708 players for a €3500 tournament; in 2016, it drew 802 players for a €1000 buy-in), so it might be considered. Can partypoker, with the hand of leadership from John Duthie, come up with a jewel for poker’s “Grand Slam” with its burgeoning live schedule? And it is still possible that PokerStars rights the ship with its PokerStars Championships (they didn’t hold to that adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” with the EPT, unfortunately). There’s definitely room in the mix for more foreign events on poker’s “Grand Slam,” they just have to break out of the pack.
Maybe it’s time to pay some attention to the “other” poker events in the world, those that aren’t connected to a “tournament circuit.” Playground Poker Club in Canada is one of the biggest destinations in the country for poker, but they haven’t stepped up to provide their OWN world-class event (WPT tournaments notwithstanding)…at least not yet. The Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, FL, has hosted the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open during the “dog days” of summer in August; its $5000 Main Event has almost become THE tournament to head to after the WSOP’s conclusion in July. And King’s Casino in the Czech Republic will host this year’s WSOP-Europe (another contender for the “Grand Slam”)…they could easily create their own tournament, separate from any entity, that could be a worthy part of poker’s “Grand Slam.”
The ability to set goals and achievements are what make competitive endeavors worthwhile. If it weren’t for the challenges that people set for themselves, then it would just be a friendly gathering that no one cares who wins. By setting goals such as poker’s “Triple Crown” – or now, its “Grand Slam” – there is a level of excellence set while providing a target for its denizens to pursue. While it is highly unlikely that anyone would win all the “Grand Slam” events in the same year, it does give a career goal to look towards. It also gives the fans a historical frame of reference to use as debate points in the discussion of “greatest poker player.”