The other day I was invited to lunch with WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel. I really like Jack and figured he would have a comp so I accepted. I brought my wife along as well, as I knew that he would have to be nice to me if I brought Maryann. I have considered Jack a friend for a couple years now and respect the job he is doing. It is hard to comprehend what a monumental task running the WSOP is, unless you have done it.
We discussed many topics and I asked him if I could share them with my readers, to which he responded, "Of course. We are transparent here at HET." (HET is the abbreviation for Harrah's Entertainment, owners of the WSOP.) I was happy to hear it, and even though I knew he went to up the ladder a few rungs for approval before agreeing to the interview, I understood.
Jack Effel was born and raised in Dallas, Texas and took offense when I told him that he sounded like he was from the South. He has a college degree in real estate finance from Ole Miss and has been with Harrah's since 1997. Over the past ten years he has held just about every poker job. His many different roles have included dealer, floor supervisor, shift manager, poker manager, trainer, tournament assistant, tournament coordinator, tournament director, and director of poker operations. Along the way he has worked in Tunica, Bossier City, Atlantic City, San Diego, and now has his office in Las Vegas at the Rio, the home of the WSOP. Effel prides himself on being a great organizer and looks forward to the challenges the WSOP brings.
Jack gave me a little bit of insight into the Player Advisory Council, its members, and the decisions they have made. The Committee is a huge group of HET employees, television producers, media, and amateur and professional poker players. The PAC is headed up by WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack and is attended by Harrah's executives Howard Greenbaum, Ty Stewart, Gary Thompson, Bruce Benson, Joseph Scibetta, and Effel. Player representatives are Howard Lederer, Daniel Negreanu, Jennifer Harman, Annie Duke, Phil Gordon, TJ Cloutier, Cyndy Violette, Robert Williamson III, Mickey Appleman, Wendeen Eolis, Barry Greenstein, Chris Ferguson, Bob and Maureen Feduniak, Marissa Chien, Tom Schneider, and Steve Zolotow.
Also among the PAC members are WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla, and from the television-production side, Matt Maranz, David Swartz, and Jamie Horowitz. With such a large group it would seem impossible to agree and even harder just to get everyone together with so much going on in the poker world, but this is the WSOP and the issues are too important to miss. Many people, including me, think that the success of the WSOP is directly related to the health of poker in general. This is the same group accused of dropping the ball last year on the WSOP event structures and the PokerPeek cards used, as both were up for scrutiny by the group. Jack promises me that those kinds of mistakes will not happen this year as the PAC is taking a long, careful look at the details.
Just about every player who attended the 2007 WSOP was aware of the major complaints and Harrah's has spent the last ten months working on the details to guarantee a great experience for the players and employees. Jack shared some of the rules changes in store for the 2008 WSOP. I'll finish Part 1 with a couple of them, and continue the list in tomorrow's Part 2.
Jack gave me one of the final drafts of the 2008 WSOP rules and there have been a few changes, although the Tournament Directors Association rules will still be used. One of the most controversial rules that will be changed is the "show one, show both" rule, which means that players will not be forced to show both of their cards if they choose to show one of them AFTER the hand is over.
One new rule that I like is Rule #36 which states: "Excessive celebration through extended theatrics, inappropriate behavior, or physical actions, gestures, or conduct may be subject to penalty. Hevad Khan and Humberto Brenes could be in real trouble in 2008.
Rule #43 (i) states: "Advertising a .com gaming site that conducts business with U.S. residents" refers to the once-blanket ban against "dot-com" appearances. That ban goes away, and it will again open up the logo wars to many online companies around the world. However, online poker sites that accept US business (such as Full Tilt and PokerStars) will not be allowed to use the ".com" suffix, and must use ".net" advertising instead.
Make sure you get a good look at Rule #88, the new "Cell Phone Rule": "Penalties will be given for using the phone at the table, whether in a hand or not." Also, note Rule #89: "iPhones, iPod Touches, Treos, Blackberrys with headsets are not allowed."
Jack did inform me that there will be a change to the late-entrant rule, #87, and they are currently working out the final details and wording.
More tomorrow, specifically on tournament structures, registration, and changes to the facility.
See you at the final table!
Matt Savage is one of the world's most recognized poker tournament directors, and has been involved with over 350 televised events including the World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour, and many others. Matt is a founder of the Tournament Directors Association, the first inductee into the Poker Managers Hall of Fame, and actor in the movie Lucky You. If you have questions about any rulings please send them to AskTheBoard@PokerTDA.com or check out Matt's website at SavageTournaments.com.