Harrah's Entertainment has named Robert Daily, the poker room manager at the Rio All- Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, as the Tournament Director for the 2006 WSOP, which is scheduled to take place on June 25-August 10 at the Amazon Room of the Rio Pavilion Convention Center.
The 62-year-old Daily will be the third Tournament Director for the WSOP in three years.
"We (at Harrah's Entertainment) have learned a lot from the past two years and we intend to make the 2006 World Series of Poker the best ever for our guests," said Daily. "Many of the issues brought up by the players last year, including restroom access and smoking, have been addressed."
Prior to his 30-year career in the casino gaming industry, Daily was a contract pilot for "Air America", the airline owned and operated by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), during the Vietnam War.
"I am a very experienced poker person," said Daily, "Being a pilot, just like being a tournament director, requires you to multitask and make correct decisions under pressure."
Harrah's also named Caesars Palace Las Vegas poker room manager Michael Matts as an assistant tournament director for the 2006 WSOP.
Daily and Matts directed the two WSOP Circuit events, as well as the 2005 WSOP Tournament of Champions, held in Las Vegas last Fall.
According to WSOP Director of Communications and Operations Gary Thompson, Harrah's will name additional assistant tournament directors for the 2006 WSOP in order to keep the workload of each assistant tournament director reasonable.
"The tournament directors at the 2005 WSOP were working 16-to-18-hour days everyday for over 40 days, and they were exhausted by the time the Main Event started," said Thompson. "We need to keep our tournament directors fresh and awake so that they will be able to make correct rulings that may involve hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars."
"The tournament directors will be split up into two shifts," said Daily. "The day shift will start the tournaments in the afternoon and the swing shift will come in to finish the day of tournament play sometime between midnight and 2 a.m."
Daily and Matts replaced 2005 WSOP Tournament Director Johnny Grooms and 2005 WSOP Assistant Tournament Director Jack Effel, both of whom have resigned from their positions as WSOP Circuit Tournament Director and Assistant Tournament Director respectively, after they directed the WSOP Circuit event at the Grand Casino in Tunica, Mississippi in January.
The resignations of Grooms and Effel followed the departure of 2005 WSOP Director of Tournament Operations Ken Lambert, who left Harrah's Entertainment in December 2005 to work for rival casino operator MGM Mirage. Lambert is currently the Director of Poker Operations at the Gold Strike Casino Resort in Tunica, Mississippi.
According to Thompson, Harrah's Entertainment has interviewed Grooms for a role related to the new WSOP sales and marketing partnership formed by Harrah's and sports entertainment marketing "super-agency" International Management Group (IMG), while Effel has chosen to stay with Harrah's by accepting a position as Poker Room Manager at the Horseshoe Casino in Tunica, Mississippi.
Thompson also said that Harrah's will implement a number of operational changes at the 2006 WSOP in response to the issues raised by many players and media members in 2005:
1. In order to reduce the long lines at the restrooms during breaks, Harrah's is planning to install high-end portable restrooms, equipped with air conditioning and carpeting. The tournament room will be divided into multiple sections so that restroom breaks for players seated in different sections will be staggered.
2. A designated smoking area will be provided to smokers in order to keep cigarette smoke from polluting the air in the hallways of the Rio Pavilion Convention Center, which will now be non-smoking.
3. A players' lounge will be provided with food and beverage service.
4. One of the restaurants at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino with the shortest walking distance from the Amazon Room will be open at least 20 hours each day.
5. Harrah's has made a proposal to television broadcast partner ESPN to hold the final two days of the 2006 WSOP Main Event at one of the showrooms of the Rio All-Suites Hotel, with theater-style seating for spectators.
6. The WSOP media relations staff will be expanded to serve the needs of the growing media contingent covering each WSOP event.
However, the tournament structures for the 2006 WSOP preliminary bracelet events, including those events with buy-ins of $1000 and $1500, will remain the same as they were in 2005 despite some complaints from players, primarily due to time constraints, according to Thompson.
Looking ahead to 2007, Thompson said that Harrah's is planning to move the WSOP to a time slot that will be closer to the traditional April-May time frame in response to a request by ESPN, which wants to conclude its 2007 WSOP broadcasts prior to the start of the 2007-2008 season for the major over-the-air broadcast TV networks in mid-September.
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