What do you get the person who has it all? How about something that doesn’t actually exist—at least not yet? That’s where professional poker player Daniel Negreanu has set his sights these days. After making a fortune on the felt, the Canadian poker pro wants to buy a share of the Las Vegas NHL hockey franchise from Bill Foley.

Daniel Negreanu wants piece of Las Vegas NHL Hockey FranchiseIronically, Las Vegas does not have an NHL team, but the billionaire/millionaire team of Foley and Negreanu is aiming to change that. Bill has been on a mission to bring professional hockey to Sin City for some time now, heading up the organization Hockey Vision Las Vegas, which launched its own website late last year.

Last month, the NHL announced that it had received applications for expansions teams from 16 groups/individuals, but that it was seriously considering only two of them; “one from Bill Foley for a franchise in Las Vegas, Nevada, and one from Quebecor for a franchise in Quebec City, Quebec.”

Negreanu says the odds of Las Vegas being awarded an NHL hockey team are extremely high. “I just don’t see it not happening,” he said in an interview with Toronto Sun’s Mike Strobel. “We have a solid owner, an arena (nearing completion on the Strip with 17,500 seats for hockey) and we sold 13,000 season tickets,” said Daniel.

“Vegas has 2.2 million people. It’s a sports town,” he continued. “We’ve been starving for a professional franchise of any kind for many years.”

The highest winning tournament poker player in the world with over $30 million in cashes (plus 6 WSOP bracelets and 2 WPT titles), Negreanu made his fortune by correctly gauging the odds, and he puts the odds of Vegas receiving an NHL team at “99.9%”

What name does Daniel foresee the new team embracing? The Las Vegas Rat Pack, as in Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, and the rest of the crew. Of course, that’s only his vision. The usual naming contest would be held.

Daniel pledged to be at every game cheering on the team, and said he might even launch his own hockey talk show. But for now, “the focus is on getting the team”.

Does Las Vegas have a Slap-Shot at an NHL Hockey Team?

When the NHL began accepting applications for expansion teams, there were specific guidelines set forth. In order to even be considered, the applicant must be capable of substantial ownership, which Las Vegas has in billionaire insurance tycoon Bill Foley. An adequate arena must available, or at least plausible, which Sin City already has in The Las Vegas Arena.

Lastly, there must be an interested audience, and Foley has already obtained that as well. As Daniel pointed out, Foley’s campaign to harvest hockey fans was a huge success, having already secured over 13,200 season ticket holders, including 11,500 deposits, 1,000 commercial commitments and 735 suite seats.

If Las Vegas is granted an NHL hockey team, it would be at least two years before the franchise was up and running. Foley previously aimed to have the team dropping the puck by the 2016-17 season, but now says that goal simply isn’t feasible. “It’s got to be 17-18 right now.”

When we reach adulthood, we all make life choices, many of which our parents are sure to disagree with. It’s simply a part of coming of age. Career choices often fall into that category. But for one Orthodox Jew, whose father happens to be a rabbi, his decision to pursue a pro poker career came with the 100% support from his parents.

I’m referring to Ari Engel (pictured right), a highly successful live and online pro poker player originally from Toronto, Ontario. Engel grew up traveling the world with his parents, and continues to do so to this day as part of his pro poker obligations. During his early adolescence, the Engel family finally settled down in the United States metropolitan area of Chicago, Illinois.

Ari attended yeshiva, an Orthodox Jewish high school, in Chicago, where he was first introduced to the game of poker in his senior year. His yeshiva continued with a gap year in Jerusalem, where he continued to play poker on an amateur level before resuming his education at New York University. Again, playing poker took up a large portion of his weekly schedule, and in his second year of college, he began to raise the stakes by playing higher limit games.

Engel happened to be the roommate of Andrew Brown, who’s since become one of the highest regarded Omaha specialists of his generation. Brown helped his Jewish co-tenant hone his skills, and the results were phenomenal. The online poker prodigy found enormous success on the virtual felt, but unlike so many of today’s top pro poker players, that did not deter Ari from finishing his college education.

With a degree in finance from NYU in hand, Ari Engel sought employment in the financial field and had no trouble securing an entry level position. However, he also sustained his passion for online poker, spending his weekends and evenings siphoning chip into his bankroll. It only took a few weeks for the native Canadian to realize that his poker play was much more lucrative than his day job. Engel immediately quit his job to pursue a full time career as a pro poker player.

Anyone familiar with the Orthodox Jewish religion is surely aware just how far against the grain Ari’s decision was. Gambling of any type is heavily frowned upon, and with a rabbi for a father, the fallout of his career choice could have been devastating. Fortunately for Engel, that was not the case at all. His parents not only supported his decision, but shared the same view that poker is a game most often won by those who implement skill and strategy; not a mere game of chance.

Earlier this week, Ari Engel was interviewed by Jewish news source, JTA, while competing in a poker tournament in Atlantic City. He detailed his feelings towards poker and casino gambling, saying “it’s very unfortunate that poker takes place in casinos. It doesn’t really belong there.”

As for the skill versus chance argument, Engle said, “Poker definitely has a lot of things that are beyond one’s control, but it has plenty of things within your control. I don’t gamble at all. I’m trying to get an edge when I play poker, and I try to make a living out of it.”

At 31 years of age, Ari Engel is currently ranked the 23rd best pro poker player in the world by Bluff Magazine. He’s accumulated over $1.84 million in live tournament winnings, and nearly $3.14 million from his online poker exploits, more than half of which was won at Bodog Poker under the nickname, “BodogAri”.

Late last week, rumors began circulating that two of the most active members of Full Tilt, Viktor Blom and Gus Hansen, are losing their positions as Full Tilt Pros. There was plenty of skepticism surrounding the reports, but the growing speculations were enhanced by the fact that The Professionals – the name chosen by the daunting duo of high-stakes poker pros – no longer appeared on the online poker website. Alas, Full Tilt has confirmed the story, stating that the site’s contract with Blom and Hansen “has expired”, while offering no interest in renegotiation.

Validation of the reports was provided on Tuesday via a spokesperson from Full Tilt who said, “We can confirm that Full Tilt’s sponsorship of Viktor Blom and Gus Hansen has expired. We would like to wish Viktor and Gus all the best in their future endeavors.”

When the popular online poker room rolled out a completely revamped version of its website last week, linkage was no longer provided to view the Full Tilt Pros, known as The Professionals. It was first thought that perhaps an error had been made, because searching within the parameters of the Full Tilt poker site for their names on Google immediately brought up the existing web page. As we know now, the omission of Viktor Blom and Gus Hansen was no mistake.

Just a few months ago, Tom “durrrr” Dwan was listed alongside Blom and Hansen as a member of The Professionals, but he chose to remove himself from the team. Perhaps that got the new heads of Rational Group to thinking about new ways to promote the online poker room. According to the spokesperson, the judgment “follows a year-long review of the Full Tilt brand and a decision to move away from pro-centric advertising to focus on the experiences and stories of the vast majority of our players.”

Despite the fact that the company assessed the situation as a means of altering the focal point from a few high-profile poker pros to a much broader range of more common player types, one has to wonder if there was more to the decision than that. Realistically speaking, Viktor “Isildur1” Blom and Gus Hansen haven’t played their best poker lately.

Hansen may have just under $10 million in live poker tournament cashes, collecting 1 WSOP bracelet and 2 WPT Championship titles along the way, but since mid-2009, he’s lost over $20 million in high stakes cash games and his last significant live cash was more than two years ago. Likewise, Blom has 7-figures in live event cashes, and while he’s always been known for his intense upswings and downswings on the virtual felt, he’s dropped below the negative $3 million mark this year alone. He also declined to participate in the 2014 World Series of Poker, doing little to increase his luminary status among the profession.

Obviously it doesn’t do an online poker room much good to sponsor a pro poker player that is no longer performing up to their former merit, but Full Tilt’s decision to sever professional ties with these high-profile players is even more justified from a fiscal standpoint. The online poker operator has been supporting these guys for years now, paying 100% rakeback to their accounts. With thousands of hands played on a regular basis at nosebleed stakes, just imagine the profit Full Tilt (or any other online poker room they play at) would make by collecting rake from their endeavors?

Whatever the case, Full Tilt seems to have major plans for the future, as the spokesperson then alluded to. “Full Tilt will celebrate the excitement, fun, and intrinsic enjoyment of playing our poker, blackjack, roulette, and slots games. A new TV campaign will launch imminently, representing this new approach,” he said, promising more details before the week is out.