Sands: “No Hard Feelings” About NBC Heads Up Snub
GPI’s current #9 was “disappointed,” before replacing Negreanu
Debating the 64 selections of the NBC National Heads Up Poker Championship is almost as popular as the event itself, and this year was no different. Those who get the coveted “invite” (and accept) can be counted on to express their honor and gratitude, but the opposite also happens. Players who feel they got “snubbed” are sometimes the first to point out as much. This was the case with David “Doc” Sands.
Sands was not among the 64 players who were originally confirmed to take part in the event, and he was not hesitant to protest. “Absurd to me that they don’t auto-invite the top ten in the GPI,” he tweeted on January 18. (The tweet has since been deleted.) Sands is currently #9 on the Index.
When Daniel Negreanu backed out of the tournament at the last minute, Sands was contacted and asked to fill in, and he was more than happy to oblige. Negreanu himself was happy to see Sands replace him, although he was not as happy with the way Sands had first reacted. We asked Sands about the incident directly, during the filming of the Heads Up Championship at Caesars Palace.
Marco Valerio: When you began seeing that everyone else was getting these invites, and you hadn’t gotten one, you expressed your frustrations on Twitter. Take us through that feeling.
David Sands: Yeah, I was frustrated and disappointed about not being on the list. Obviously it’s a really prestigious event, and I know it’s not the 64 best players in the world, but I think I’m an elite player and I think I’m a really marketable player.
One of the things that hurt me is that the company that does NBC Heads Up, Poker Productions, also does the World Series of Poker, and they really benefited from my fiancée Erika’s and my run in the 2011 Main Event. I just felt that we went out of our way to make [that] broadcast basically good for them and spent a lot of time doing interviews and off the scene stuff, for and in conjunction with them and the World Series, and they really played up our run.
And so I felt like the combination of me being marketable and having quite a bit of public recognition, and the fact that I consider myself an elite player and in the top 10 of the GPI… it just felt like a spot where I should have gotten an invite. A lot of people tweeted… I think the consensus was that Tom Marchese and I were the two biggest snubs. I think that the selection committee did a good job incorporating the public feedback and putting me as the first alternate.
When were you contacted by Poker Productions about taking Daniel’s place?
I was contacted about 24 hours before Daniel made his announcement that he was withdrawing. I wasn’t told that I was taking Daniel’s spot, I was just told that someone withdrew and that I was the first alternate and I’d be playing in the event.
That pleased you?
Yeah, I was really happy, obviously. It was great to be the first alternate and it was sort of an acknowledgement that I should have been in the event just based on the fact that there were a lot of other deserving people that didn’t get in.
Obviously the selection process isn’t a perfect process and there are a lot of variables by which this selection committee selects people, so I was honored to be the first alternate and I just jumped at the opportunity to be in the event.
No hard feelings.
Oh no, not at all. I have a great relationship with the people at Poker Productions and everyone here, from the makeup people to the photographers to the production people to Mori [Eskandani] the head guy, everyone has been awesome. So no hard feelings, although there wouldn’t have been any hard feelings if I hadn’t gotten in the event. A few might find that hard to believe, but I just wanted to play and I’m a very honest person and so if I feel something upsets me or if I’m disappointed, I’m definitely going to voice my opinion, and no hard feelings whatsoever.
I gotta ask you about the GPI, because you said you thought the top 10 should have been “auto-invited.” Do you really believe that?
I mean, obviously I’m a little biased, because I’m in the top 10 of the GPI and I wasn’t selected for the event, so it was an easy way for me to frame it to the public, who maybe doesn’t necessarily know how good I am relative to some of the players that got in. Now, the GPI is far from a perfect index – it really rewards putting in a lot of volume, something that I actually don’t do. I play maybe one tournament outside of the United States other than the PCA every year, so the GPI doesn’t benefit me that much, but it is a standardized ranking system and I do think it makes sense – if you’re having 64 of both the top poker personalities and poker players in the world, it makes sense that you should have the top 10 poker players in the world.
I readily admit that my list of top 10 tournament players in the world is somewhat different, substantially different from the GPI, so I would say the GPI isn’t a perfect system, but it is the best system out there, and it does make sense that if you’re bringing poker into viewers’ homes and into viewers’ minds in a unique situation where they don’t really get this glimpse of the industry that often, it definitely makes sense that you should have the 10 best players in the world. It’s hard to agree on who the 10 best players are, and I guess the GPI isn’t perfect, but I think it’s the best place we have to kind of start measuring people.