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Interview with Jeffrey Pollack: The 2007 WSOP

5 March 2007

Newly hired World Series of Poker Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack didn't have enough time to make his presence fully felt during the scheduling of the 2006 WSOP.

Harrah's hired the former NASCAR executive in August of 2005 to manage the explosive, yet wild growth of the WSOP, and do for the felt what he did for the race track.

Pollack told Casino City in a wide-ranging interview this week that he had a wealth of ideas about how to spread the WSOP internationally, how to streamline advertising guidelines and how to make the schedule, accommodations and structure match the demand of the players.

But only a tiny portion of those ideas were implemented prior to this year. His most significant changes were the additions of the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. tournament and the plentiful restrooms and food stands that made life easier for the thousands of poker players.

Overall, the 2006 WSOP was a resounding success. Records were broken, attendance was at an all-time high and Pollack was front and center at each bracelet ceremony to present poker's most prestigious award.

He enjoyed the success, but admits he wanted more. Even last year, his sights were set on the future.

And this year, the poker world will really start to feel his presence.

Bracelets for Europe

Pollack announced the creation of the WSOP Europe this week. This three-tournament series in London will award players the same bracelets handed out at the Las Vegas event. Pollack said the idea for this tournament series began in 2006, but it took time to iron out the details.

The three WSOP Europe tournaments will take place at the London Clubs International this September, including a 10,000 pound ($19,600) Main Event expected to draw large crowds from the poker crazy European market.

Pollack also said WSOP Europe is just the first step. He doesn't want the WSOP to become a tour, saying other brands already do the tournament circuit quite well, but he didn't rule out the possibility of adding worldwide events that would make the WSOP run all year.

"Our goal is to hold ultra-prestigious poker events," Pollack said. "We already have the world's largest event in Las Vegas. We plan to add other geographic locations, like Europe, to make our worldwide brand stronger."

Advertising, strictly speaking

Advertising guidelines were a sticky point in 2006. With the Department of Justice warning media companies about accepting online gambling ads, the WSOP banned all ads and clothing bearing dot.com Web sites.

It was literally a midnight ruling change. WSOP officials enforced the new standard while players were sitting down to the play the first event. Throughout the Rio, players turned their t-shirts inside out and rolls of duct tape circled the tables as opponents helped each other block out the dot.com addresses.

Given the last minute nature of the 2006 advertising policy, enforcement was lax. But Pollack said making specific advertising rules is a priority in 2007. And yes, strict enforcement will occur.

That doesn't mean players can't make money, however.

Unlike Harrah's, which won't allow dot.net advertising from sites affiliated with real-money rooms that take U.S. players – like Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars -- players can wear as many dot net advertisements on their bodies as they want, as long as they don't exceed 12-square inches.

When asked if he believed poker players would resemble NASCAR drivers, wearing uniforms covered with ads from all over the Internet, Pollack chuckled. His old job was the Director of Broadcasting and Digital Media for NASCAR Digital.

"That is not out of the realm of possibility," Pollack said. "As long as they stick to the guidelines, players will be allowed to seek endorsement deals and advertise as they wish."

Players cannot wear advertisements pitching real money online gaming to U.S. customers.

And the schedule please…

Scheduling concerns were also high on Pollack's to do list.

Complaints about tournament structure, such as too much Texas Hold'em tournaments, were commonplace at the 2006 series.

So Pollack introduced a series of controls to ensure the 2007 schedule was player friendly.

He created a player's advisory council, made up of the world's best professional and amateur players, to provide input. He surveyed the players, dealers, and sponsors to see what worked and what didn't.

And he created a poker operations team to run the tournaments and advise him on the ins and outs of poker tournaments and culture.

All three groups provided valuable information that lead to the 55-event 2007 schedule.

"By a 3-1 margin, the surveys indicated that the game of choice was No-Limit Hold'em," Pollack said. "We have very full palette of games and choices and no matter what the survey said -- we were going to take into account the wishes of the players. We added the heads-up event and kept the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E event because of popular demand. I think the schedule reflects the best interests of everyone involved."

Pollack was wary of adding too many events. He didn't want to create too many bracelets and subtract from the prestige of poker's top prize. But he couldn't escape the game's popularity. The players will come in masses, so Pollack wanted to give them every opportunity to come and compete.

He believes 2007 has the right number of events. But that doesn't mean things won't change again in 2008.

"It's not a matter of quantity," Pollack said. "It's about finding a mix that provides players with a quality World Series."

Nice accommodations

Pollack moved the 2007 WSOP up to June 1, a month earlier than the 2006 series.

"The tournament season was originally designed to run in April and May," Pollack said. "We wanted to bring it closer to the original season."

College schedules and the September WSOP Europe did not affect the scheduling, Pollack insisted. The main reason for moving the series to early summer was to allow the TV coverage to air before the fall shows kick off.

Record-breaking crowds for Event # 2 and the Main Event forced Harrah's to allow alternate entries and multi-day tournament schedules last year. Pollack hopes to avoid that in 2007 by adding tables and dealers.

There will be up to 300 tables at the Rio, enough to accommodate the tournaments, the side-games, the satellites and the second chance tournaments.

Pollack said he expects to host at least one tournament where he will need 235-245 tables, well within the WSOP's room limits, but still a strain on the Rio's resources. If there is a larger event, Pollack said they will have alternates. At no time will the WSOP stop running satellites and cash games.

"Our goal is to accommodate," Pollack said. "We plan to be able to give a seat to everyone who wants one."


Mucking McLane
Interview with Jeffrey Pollack: The 2007 WSOP is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Ryan McLane
Ryan McLane

Ryan McLane was a poker reporter for Casino City. Although he has a strong background in reporting, the same can't be said for his poker skills. He has never won a major tournament nor is he a professional player. He applied for this job thinking it was a joke, only to find it out that it's true, people will pay you to write about poker. His favorite word is ridiculous.

After receiving his BA in History from Stonehill College in Easton, MA, he somehow ended up freelance reporting for a couple years before being deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom III with the Massachusetts National Guard. He's back now and is a strong advocate of the phrase "God Bless America."

Currently, Ryan lives in Boston and occasionally makes international treks to cover tournament poker and news. Feature writing is his passion and there is no need to ask for his opinion, he'll probably offer it first - free of charge.
Ryan McLane
Ryan McLane was a poker reporter for Casino City. Although he has a strong background in reporting, the same can't be said for his poker skills. He has never won a major tournament nor is he a professional player. He applied for this job thinking it was a joke, only to find it out that it's true, people will pay you to write about poker. His favorite word is ridiculous.

After receiving his BA in History from Stonehill College in Easton, MA, he somehow ended up freelance reporting for a couple years before being deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom III with the Massachusetts National Guard. He's back now and is a strong advocate of the phrase "God Bless America."

Currently, Ryan lives in Boston and occasionally makes international treks to cover tournament poker and news. Feature writing is his passion and there is no need to ask for his opinion, he'll probably offer it first - free of charge.