Circuit Event opens with visit by WSOP commish
Baseball has Bud Selig. The National Football League has Roger Goodell. NASCAR has Brian France.
And poker has Jeffrey Pollack.
Pollack, the Commissioner and Vice President of Sports and Entertainment Marketing for the World Series of Poker, was at Caesars Indiana Monday for the weekday opening of the WSOP Circuit Event, which began Sunday and runs through April 6.
The top dog of the world-renowned WSOP since August of 2005, Pollack has been a driving front-office force for other professional organizations such as the aforementioned NASCAR and the National Basketball Association.
In 1994, he started the first and only daily trade publication for the sports industry, The Sports Business Daily. After he sold the newspaper, he moved on to the NBA as head of marketing and as the NBA’s Communications Consultant during the collective bargaining negotiations during the lockout in 1998. From there, he moved on to NASCAR, helping the organization partner with America Online, Speed Channel, XM Satellite Radio and Turner Sports Interactive as Managing Director of Broadcasting and New Media.
In just a couple of short years the Pollack’s hand has been on several major sponsorship deals, as well as a newly formed WSOP event in Europe.
The Corydon Democrat sat down with Pollack for heads-up action with the most powerful man in poker.
C.D. ‘ What did you feel like you could bring the World Series of Poker that it didn’t have before?
J.P. ‘ The WSOP is a very blessed property. It has a blessed 38-year history. What it hasn’t had is a lot of strategic management over the years. My contribution and my focus is on growing the WSOP the same way you would grow any other sports brand. Having great television and new media partnerships, sponsorship, licensing, international growth, good player relations. These are all of the pillars, if you will, of any sports property. My focus is on making sure our work with ESPN is as productive and meaningful as it can be. Last year we brought in Miller Brewing Co., so it’s now the World Series of Poker Presented by Milwaukee’s Best Light. Corum Watches is now our official timepiece. We announced a deal with Hershey’s Chocolate earlier this year. So, up until we did those deals last year, there was never a sponsor for the WSOP, yet here’s this long-standing, very popular and prestigious sporting event that airs on ESPN and really had no business structure to support its growth. (The growth) is what I’m focused on.
C.D. ‘ How did the newly-announced WSOP Europe come to be?
J.P. ‘ Obviously, it’s a team effort, but when I arrived at Harrah’s in late 2005, going international was one of the things we starting talking about. The theory was we should stage a very select number of premium events around the globe. We’re not in the tour business. We stage exclusive and prestigious poker tournaments very well. And that’s what we’re going to do in London. It’ll stand on its own. It’s not an alternative to the WSOP in Las Vegas. I wouldn’t consider it a Circuit Event. It is its own thing.
C.D. ‘ Do you think some poker professionals will see the European version as cheapening an American WSOP bracelet victory or what’s going on in Vegas?
J.P. ‘ Some may, but I hope not. If they do, I hope they’ll come express their concerns to me so I can answer them. I think it’s brand enhancing. It doesn’t cheapen what we do in Vegas. I think it will promote what we do in Vegas more than anything else.
C.D. ‘ Online gambling has really fueled the WSOP in the past several years with online players such as Chris Moneymaker turning Internet success into success at the WSOP. Do you believe the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act ‘ which bans Americans from funding online poker accounts ‘ was a good thing for the WSOP, or a bad thing?
J.P. ‘ I don’t know that it’s a good thing or a bad thing. Our corporate position is that before the government acts further, we hope it will really study the nature of poker and online poker because we believe it is its own thing. We don’t measure our success each year with the number of players who turn out. We measure it based on whether or not we did it better than the previous year. We’re planning for a better tournament. We’re planning for more people. But that doesn’t mean we’ll have more people. If we don’t, that’s okay. We’re still going to be the richest and most prestigious poker tournament in the world. That’s not going to change. We’re the only poker brand that has the backing of Harrah’s, which is the world’s largest gaming company. The WSOP has been around for 38 years and it’ll be around for another 38 years.
C.D. ‘ While the No Limit Hold’em Main Event at the WSOP is the driving force of the tournament, many gurus would argue the $50,000 HORSE (Hold’em, Omaha, Razz, Stud, Stud-Eight-or-better) tournament is a better gauge as to who is the best poker player in the world. Do you think the WSOP body will try to push that ahead of the NLHE tournament at any point, or that the ESPN network will try to showcase that event more than they have in the past?
J.P. ‘ They will this year. There’s no question the $50,000 HORSE event is going to become the most coveted bracelet among professional poker players for the very reason you cited. The Main Event is what it is. First, because it’s the oldest event, but also because it’s the biggest. I don’t think anyone would attempt to make the claim that the winner of the Main Event is the best poker player in the world at that moment. I think whoever wins is a terrific poker player. You have to be. And probably one of the best NLHE players and certainly the best NLHE player for that tournament, that year. (2006 World Champion) Jamie Gold is a terrific poker player, but I don’t think anyone would argue or attempt to argue that he’s the world’s best poker player.
C.D. ‘ What do you see in the future, say, five or 10 years down the road, for the WSOP?
J.P. ‘ In five years I’d like to see us staging events in Europe, Asia and Latin America. I would like to see what happens in Las Vegas continue to be the best it can be and I’d like to see at least another six corporate sponsors.
The interesting thing about being on ESPN. Poker is not athletic competition, but it’s what sports fans like to watch. Because of the audience that we deliver ‘ men 21 to 54 ‘ we do have a very powerful platform for corporate partners. That’s why we’ve attracted the companies that we have.
There’s still time to get into the game
While the third World Series of Poker Circuit Event at Caesars Indiana is already underway, there’s still plenty of time to get in on the action, including the $5,000+$150 buy-in event that awards a Circuit Event ring and a seat to the WSOP Main Event in Las Vegas in June.
Past winners of the Circuit Events at CI are Vinny Vinh and Chad Batista.
In addition to single-table satellites, cash satellites and other tournaments that take place daily, here’s the rundown of the remaining Circuit Event schedule at Caesars Indiana:
March 28 ‘ Event No. 3 ‘ No Limit Hold’em (NLHE), noon, $300+$40;
March 29 ‘ Event No. 4 ‘ NLHE, noon, $500+$50;
March 30 ‘ Event No. 5 ‘ NLHE, noon, $1,000+$60;
March 31 ‘ Event No. 6 ‘ NLHE, noon, $500+$50;
March 31 ‘ Event No. 7 ‘ Pot Limit Omaha with re-buys, 3 p.m., $500+$50;
April 1 ‘ Event No. 8 ‘ Ladies Only NLHE, noon, $200+$25;
April 2 ‘ Event No. 9 ‘ HORSE* or HOSE (*pending IGC approval of Razz), TBA, $1,000+$60;
April 3 ‘ Satellite Day, Mega Satellite at noon and 6 p.m., $500+$50;
April 4-6 ‘ Event No. 10 ‘ NLHE Circuit Championship, $5,000+$150.
Mega satellites with $300+$30 buy-ins will be held today through Friday at 6 p.m.
Mega satellites with $500+$50 buy-ins will be held Saturday through Tuesday at 6 p.m.
For every $5,150 generated in each mega satellite prize pool, Ci will award a seat into Event 10.
For more information, or to register, or call the poker hotline at 1-800-660-9744, or visit the poker room at Caesars Indiana.