Sexton's Corner - Vol. 13 - "Don't Forget About the Fans"
The 2007 WSOP was a great experience to work, as a reporter for PokerNews.com. It is hard to explain, but you almost have to work the event, to fully appreciate all the components that make it a success. As a reporter, I got a ringside seat to observe just how hard the poker dealers, floor supervisors, ESPN staff, and media personnel work throughout the whole seven weeks.
Jeffrey Pollack, the WSOP Commissioner, has been absolutely amazing marketing the WSOP, since being at the helm; Gary Thompson, and Craig Abrahams are Jeffrey's eyes and ears for the WSOP, as well as handling many other important responsibilities for the company. The three of them just returned from London, after launching the first ever European WSOP; Howard Greenbaum, is VP of Specialty Gaming, in charge of staffing, ordering supplies, the Sportsbook, and several other important duties. The WSOP Media Director is none other than Nolan Dalla, who I've known for many years. Harrah's is lucky to have him in this position, as he goes the extra mile to get the job done, and treats everyone 1st class along the way. Nolan of course, is the author of the best book ever written on Stu Ungar and all of his mystique, called "One Of A Kind". It is one of those must read books!
I know it is hard to fix everything at once at the WSOP, as hard as everyone works to improve it each year... it is a growing phenomenon! However, one area that needs some serious attention is: How the WSOP Fans Are Treated!! They have unintentionally been lost in the shuffle. The decision to keep them out in the hall in long lines for hours the first 5-6 days in the Main Event, was made because there simply isn't enough space to allow them to enter the room! If they did, the aisles would be too clogged, perhaps creating a fire hazard, as well as making it almost impossible to function from an operational point of view.
In fact, every day for the duration of the seven weeks, there were three events in motion on the floor. Consequently, fans were constantly asked to leave the room 10 minutes before the players had to break, so the players would have a chance to leave and get back in a timely manner. Frankly ,the fans looked like a herd of cattle coming and going. Ironically, after battling to get into the room, it is almost impossible to see or follow the action anyway with 200 tables, unless the player your following was assigned to the ESPN Final Table, where tiered seats might await you. I feel it is time for the WSOP to enter A New Era For The Fans, and have a constructive suggestion to make their experience an enjoyable one. There is no need to hear fans leaving so frustrated. Having lots of people attend the WSOP is a good thing for the Hotel Casino. They spend money in restaurants, gift shops, the pit, and are a highly targeted market for the Corporation to buy WSOP memorabilia and branding items, etc..
So, What Is The Answer To Solve The Problem?
The answer is for the WSOP to create a VIP Arena for the spectators, that has booths and long tables set up with TV monitors, similar to those found in the Sport's Book for horse racing. The difference is, these TV's would feature a list in alphabetical order of the players and their assigned tables, with the option to view any of the 200 tables from the overhead cameras to follow the action. The technology is here to do it, with options of 4 way split screens to follow 4 tables at once. Fans would gladly pay a daily, weekly, or entire tournament fee to have access to this amazing viewing area. A fee for general admission would allow fans to watch action at the ESPN Final Table, watch Internet posts on a large screen of the various action happening in the tournament, including key hands, chip counts, and a top 30 Leader Board.
Yes, this would take money to implement, but the Corporation will make a lot of money from the VIP Fan Arena every day. Even if the cost factor broke even, it would be a Win/Win situation for the both the WSOP and the fans. Add to this, the notion that the WSOP might soon have this Online Internet restriction lifted, with seeing poker legalized and regulated.... How big will this event become then... 10,000 to 15,000 entries? How will the fans ever survive without modernizing the viewing area. At this point, various Internet Poker Sites would be only too glad to have booths surrounding the fan viewing area, and would pay top dollar for the opportunity.
Many of the famous top pros, who are affiliated with Online Sites, would periodically be available to the fans for autographs and photos with their fans in the VIP Fan Arena. Ideas like parading the Final Table through the VIP Fan Arena, with players briefly introducing themselves before doing battle, would add interest and color for the fans. The ideas that could work are truly unlimited! What you are reading here, I'm convinced, is the future of the WSOP becoming bigger and better than ever!!
I know there are always some who are negative, who might say.... Nice idea, but the driving force of Poker Internet Sites is currently throttled. I think Harrah's knows that there are a lot of things happening behind the scenes that is going to change this picture dramatically, and for the better! Don't wait... plan for the future growth of the inevitable!
"Don't Forget About The Fans"
The Cab is Parked,
Tom Sexton is a featured columnist for PokerNews.com. Tom attended the University of Oklahoma on a full gymnastic scholarship, where he was captain of the team four straight years, becoming the first NCAA All-American and Big Eight Champion in OU's gymnastics history in 1968. The Sexton family is well established in poker and includes Tom's brother Mike, the World Poker Tour commentator and poker's "First Ambassador", as voted by his peers. Tom welcomes your thoughts and comments about any of his articles. His e-mail is TSStarbuck1@aol.com.