On Wednesday, March 14, Harrah's Entertainment and the World Series of Poker held a teleconference with various national media to provide "a rare opportunity to have all your questions about the 38th Annual World Series of Poker answered by the officials in charge of the event."
On hand from the WSOP were Jeffrey Pollack (World Series of Poker Commissioner), Howard Greenbaum (Harrah's Western Division Vice President of Specialty Gaming), Jack Effel (World Series of Poker Tournament Director), and Gary Thompson (World Series of Poker Director of Communications and Operations).
Here are some of the highlights of the teleconference:
"Seventy-nine days away" from the start of 2007 WSOP, Commissioner Pollack declared the pending operation "ready for business." In his introductory remarks, Pollack reviewed some of the recent WSOP related announcements. The 2007 WSOP schedule has been released and pre-registration has been opened to players. Harrah's has launched the WSOP Academy; a series of poker camps featuring Phil Hellmuth, Greg Raymer and Joe Hachem as instructors. Also mentioned was the recent advertising deal naming Hersheys as the "official chocolate of the World Series." September will mark the inaugural year of Europe's WSOP. Pollack also pointed out that the WSOP finalized a deal today with United States Playing Card Company, which will introduce the use of the high quality Poker Peek(TM) as the official playing card of the World Series of Poker. The deal also means that all tables in all bracelet events will begin each day of play with a new set-up; unlike previous years when decks were sorted and reused for many days.
After these initial comments the phones were then opened for questions.
Commissioner Pollack was asked in light of the potentially smaller fields this year, due to the effects of the UIGEA, how would he define success?
"We strive to do better than last year; quality and overall experience to the players is our standard - not numbers. As with any global sports and entertainment venture, ratings will come and go; attendence will come and go but our success is measured by the quality of the experience."
In reference to numbers, Howard Greenbaum said that the Series was prepared for 10,000 players for the Main Event. Several times during the teleconference the point was made that 10,000 was a high end working number and that no one associated with WSOP or Harrah's Entertainment was predicting, suggesting or setting a target of 10,000 players.
Harrah's will also be introducing more tables this year through the addition of a Poker Annex to be built adjacent to the Rio Casino; bringing the total number of tables up to 258. Harrah's specifically mentioned that they would be playing 10 handed, and not 11 handed, on the three 'first days' of the Main Event. Commissioner Pollack repeated "the World Series is open to everyone and we will accommodate everyone."
Responding to a question about the move to a June 1st start date, Pollack said that there has been a long standing attempt to bring the Series back to its original spring dates. An earlier starting schedule also facilitates ESPN's ability to broadcast during their summer schedule, and not in their already full late fall sports schedule. While the ESPN broadcast schedule is still not finalized, Pollack said to expect an even faster turn around time from event date to broadcast date than ever before.
Dealer training was another complaint for players in 2006 and the WSOP is addressing that issue with a new comprehensive training program that has already begun for the over 300 Harrah's dealers in the greater Las Vegas area. Expect a more in depth look at the WSOP dealer's situation in a later PokerNews.com article.
Tournament Director Jack Effel had some very good news for players in the lower buy-in events. For 2007, the starting chip stacks for all of the events less than $10,000 will be doubled from last year. Many players felt the smaller events with short starting stacks didn't allow for enough play for a WSOP event. The structures for all events will be available online with the next week or so.
Another change mentioned by TD Effel was the addition of two and three table satellites with multiple winners. These will run along side the traditional Single Table Satellites and these structures and buy-ins will also be available online very soon.
A final question raised the issue of further mainstream sponsorship deals on the heels of the Hershey's "Official Chocolate of the World Series of Poker" announcement. The word from Commissioner Pollack was that there would indeed be more announcements in this arena prior to the opening of the Series on June 1st. Stay tuned for further information.