It has been slightly over a month now since the highly anticipated debut of the World Poker Association. In that short time span, the organization has indicated a new dawn in the tournament world of today and renewed the excitement that there may actually be a way for all entities in poker to unite for the good of the game. It wouldn't have been possible without the vision and foresight of the founder of the WPA, Jesse Jones.
A longtime successful poker professional, Jesse saw the need for uniformity in the tournament world that exists today and came up with the ideas for the formation of the World Poker Association. While continuing to play at the highest levels (including strong performances in 2006 at the Aussie Millions and the WPT Invitational), he is a driving force behind the continuing efforts of the organization to become what many have called for in poker: an organizing body that would move professional poker into the realm of professional sports worldwide. Mr. Jones is not one to back away from a challenge, either; as a cancer survivor, he has fought through much tougher issues than deciding if his opponent hit the flush on the river or the small task of organizing millions of poker players worldwide, for sure! I recently had the chance to talk to Jesse regarding the World Poker Association and catch up on how the new group is doing.
PN: It's been a few weeks now since the announcement of the creation of the WPA. What has been the general reaction of the poker world?
JJ: The reaction has been very positive. Many high profile players have become members, with some of them joining as "Founding Members", including Phil Hellmuth, Kristy Gazes, Victor Ramdin, Joseph Hachem, Kathy Liebert, Tom McEvoy and many others. They join such prominent players as Barry Greenstein, Blair Rodman, Tony G, Kenna James, Ross Boatman and Joe Beevers as being strong supporters of the WPA and our continuing efforts.
PN: The WPA is looking to cure many of the ills in the tournament world. What do you see as the primary mark that the WPA can make in tournaments?
JJ: The primary mark for the WPA is to make tournament poker, wherever it is played, as uniform as possible so confusion can be eliminated between differing events. We want to establish a Code of Ethics and a Code of Conduct for tournaments, standardized the rules, and have an internationally recognized ranking system to recognize the best players.
The WPA's primary focus is tournament poker. The WPA is seeking to impact all segments of the poker world that offer tournament poker or wish to participate in poker tournaments.
PN: Can there ever be a poker organization that could bring all the different entities together, from recreational to professional players and the different tours?
JJ: My response is a resounding "YES!" It is to everyone's benefit long term, from the casual player to the professionals to the casinos, different tours and even the online sites, to organize with one governing body. Additional financial benefits will accrue to every entity associated with the WPA.
PN: What will each segment of the poker world have to do to make an organization such as the WPA successful?
JJ: The best thing I could tell anyone is to join now! The initial success of the WPA will come from many individuals and organizations becoming members. Qualified members are being asked to participate in WPA committees to formulate and recommend WPA policy. This is important, as the persons involved in the WPA will be the decision makers and set the policies and agendas for the organization.
So far, six of twelve committee chairmen have been selected and they are the best in their respective fields. These chairmen include Casey Kastle, Ethics; Eric Rosenberg, Media; Matt Savage, Tournament Rules; Sean McCabe, Players Rights & Benefits; and most recently Steve Brecher, Website; and Ken Lenaard, International.
PN: Will the WPA be visible during any of the upcoming events here in 2006?
JJ: Players can count on seeing quite a bit of the World Poker Association at tournaments as the year goes along. The WPA will have a major presence with a custom made booth during the entirety of the World Series of Poker. We will be outside the tournament room for the entire run from June 26th to August 10th.
PN: Let's move on to some more of the "poker playing" side of you.
JJ: (Laughs) All right.
PN: You have had some great success early in 2006 in tournaments. Has the drive to put together the WPA been a hindrance or helped you to improve your play?
JJ: I am playing less tournaments as a result of my commitment to establishing the WPA. In that sense, it is a hindrance. But it is well worth the end result of having a governing body for tournament poker for future generations that I accept that slight hindrance.
PN: What is your approach to the tournament game and how much does it differ from how you would approach a cash game?
JJ: Well, I rarely play in cash games any more. Tournament poker requires such a different analysis of the players, hand selection, positional betting, and the limitation of the chips in relation to the blinds that I have been away from cash games for some time.
PN: Have you personally achieved everything you have wanted to do in poker? If not, what else is there left for you to do?
JJ: I am fortunate to be able to travel the world to play in major tournaments. I've beaten the best and been beaten by the best. I have yet to win a major championship such as a WSOP event or WPT event. That would be a nice addition to the resume.
PN: What would you like to pass along to the young poker players today that you haven't had in your poker odyssey?
JJ: To be a professional, you act like a professional. Basically this means, win or lose, be respectful of everyone. Once we get all our money in, we have no control over the outcome of the cards, but we always have control over ourselves and our actions.
PN: Your life would make for an interesting read. Is there the chance that a book would be coming from you?
JJ: Many people have suggested I write a book. Are you volunteering to ghost write it, Earl? (Laughs)
PN: Could be interesting! Thank you for your time!
JJ: Thank you for your interest, Earl.
I want to thank Jesse for taking time from his busy schedule to talk about his life in poker and what could be a real legacy for his poker career in the World Poker Association. The WPA could very well be the poker organization that establishes poker as a professional sport in the eyes of many around the world. There couldn't have been a better man to create such an organization than Jesse Jones, who is one of the most highly respected people in the game today. For more information on Jesse and to learn more on the World Poker Association, be sure to visit their website at wpapoker.com.