WSOP head honcho Jeffrey Pollack tackles the reader’s questions
The World Series is a gargantuan entity which takes an army to run and organise but when it comes down to it, there is just one man who cracks the whip, Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack. In just a couple of years in the job, Pollack has already introduced monumental changes, like the $50k H.O.R.S.E. tournament, the introduction of the Player Advisory Council and more affordable buy-in tournaments. But being the ultimate decision-maker also comes with its downsides – if anything goes wrong, the buck stops with Pollack and he has to take the heat from disgruntled players. A prime example happened this year when Pollack had to make a public apology for shutting out players who had registered too late. We arranged a meeting 24 hours after the incident to put all of your WSOP questions and concerns to him.
What are you going to do to make sure the day 1d shut out doesn’t happen again? Harry Brickman, Aberdeen
We’re going to continue pre-registration and on-site registration. Maybe players should only be able to select their start day if they pre-register or only do so till June 25 and if you register after, we assign the start day. Maybe we need some sort of seat deposit system to accommodate those players who can’t get the funds until the last minute. We never want to sell-out the WSOP, it’s never something we want to do. We’re going to take a hard look at ourselves, our policies and our procedures to minimise the chances of a sell-out. There was no option to seat additional players without compromising the integrity of the rest of the tournament. It was a difficult and an unpleasant circumstance but I do think good will come of all this. Although, I think that the days when you can assume you’re going to get a seat at the last moment are gone.
I heard that some big name pros managed to register after everyone else was turned away on day 1D. Is there any truth to this rumour? Stuart, Exeter
Let me start by saying we turned away a lot of big name pros, Patrik Antonius, Tom Franklin and TJ Cloutier among others. No one should have been admitted to the tournament after we declared the sell-out unless they were already on the manifest the night before. No one has come with any proof that anyone got in who wasn’t supposed to get in.
Last year, Phil Hellmuth got off scot-free even though he verbally abused a player. Do you dispute the fact that pros are treated better than the average player? Dan, Warwick
A lot of people are quick to judge without knowing the facts. For instance, with the Phil Hellmuth incident last year, he received multiple warnings with no penalties. He took that to mean that he got a free pass. At the eleventh hour when he got his penalty he was as surprised as he should have been because we had reinforced his behaviour throughout the series.
At that point, I realised that our system not only failed ourselves but also failed Phil. I didn’t feel it was fair to penalise him at that time when he hadn’t been penalised all summer. If we speed past a speed trap 10 times and don’t get a ticket, I think it’s fair to think you can exceed on the 11th time and not get a ticket. I’m glad to say that the system of warning that we introduced this year seems to be working nicely.
I noticed that players were spread all over the Rio this year, playing even in the corridors. surely that’s ridiculous for a ‘prestigious’ event like the World Series. What’s your solution? Gary Ringwald, Manchester
The first thing we’re going to look at is expanding our footprint inside the Rio, maybe the PokerPalooza where the trade show was. There’s more space that with proper advance planning we can absorb.
Do you consider poker a sport? And if so what are the attributes that qualify it as a sport. Cillian, Glasgow
I do consider poker to be a sport – for a couple of reasons. It is a competition which requires both skill and strategy. It requires a certain level of endurance, both mental and physical. It takes some fortitude to be able to sit at a tournament table for 19 hours. We’re what sports fans like to watch which is why we’re on sports channels around the world. It’s clearly non-athletic competition. I don’t think we need to convince people it’s a sport because it’ll always be subject to a variety of opinions.
There seems to be more events year on year. Are we going to get to 100? Warren Ashby, Lincoln
I don’t know that we’ll get to 100. But in the United States, 50 million poker players, 57 bracelets? That’s a pretty scarce commodity. We’ll probably introduce a few more events in the coming years.
The structures seem to change all the time. Wouldn’t you like to just see a standardised structure for each event? Peter Cullen, Ipswich
Given that there’s so much time between each WSOP, we always have an opportunity to make things better. We never look at just locking something in and just letting that be that. We want to be flexible and be responsive to the feedback. If we have nailed the structures once and for all, I’d be surprised. We’re doing something wrong in someone’s view within the first hour of the first day. You learn something new every year and try and incorporate that for the next year.
Would you ever introduce a seeding system like you find in tennis tournaments? Maybe the
big name pros could skip the starting days? Charlie Fenton, Hampshire
No, not for the main event. I don’t see how that fits with poker’s tradition or the way the game is played.
Would you ever consider moving the WSOP around the world like the Olympics or the FIFA World Cup? Robert Mackenzie, Barnet
I don’t think so. Las Vegas is the poker capital of the United States, the gaming capital of the world. I think Las Vegas is therefore the capital of the World. It has been in Las Vegas for 40 years and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. On the other hand, we are bringing bracelets to other countries such as the UK, for the WSOPE. What happens in London is an extension of what happens in Vegas. So if we have bracelets from 1-57 at the Rio, bracelets 58-61 are given away at the Empire.
Do you play poker yourself? Eric Morris, Beckenham
I don’t play at all. I used to play seven-card stud as a kid. I don’t play now, and I’ve never played in a tournament. I have no interest. I’m here to focus on the business of the World Series of Poker, growing the brand and the community. I’m a tremendous fan of the game but in terms of tournament poker, that’s never been an aspiration of mine. I personally think I suffer from too much ADD (attention-deficit disorder). I couldn’t sit at a tournament table for 12 hours a day, I’m not wired that way. I don’t think I need to play for me to do my job. I think I understand what players need pretty well. We have plenty of poker experts who can determine what schedules and structure they need.
What’s the best thing about your job? Tom Calderwood, Nuneaton
The sense that we are making a difference in the lives of a lot of people who care passionately about the game of poker. I think that we’ve made some real progress over the last four years with the World Series of Poker and that’s a good feeling. Giving out the bracelets is the best part. This year it was better than ever before. Every day at 2:20pm we have a moment of grace at the WSOP. We gave out two bracelets in two days to Germany [to Joh Carsten and Jörg Peisert] and the second time was pretty awesome.
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