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World Series of Poker -- Tournament Director Jack Effel Talks About Ongoing Summer Series

Effel Talks About Scheduling, ESPN Broadcasts and TDA Rule Changes

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Jack EffelJack Effel is the Vice President of International Poker Operations for Caesars Interactive Entertainment and has been the Tournament Director for the World Series of Poker since 2007.

In 2013 he was added to the Tournament Directors Association Board of Directors. Effel is widely credited as being one of the key parts of the growth and development of one of poker’s most prestigious events, bringing the WSOP into the modern era.

Card Player will be checking in with Effel throughout the summer to bring you his thoughts on the poker world’s greatest tournament festival.

Beth Davis: The $50,000 Poker Players Championship has started. On the schedule, it runs directly after the $111,111 One Drop High Roller and during the final day of the $25,000 six-handed no-limit hold’em event. Were these events grouped together on purpose? What factors go into determining the calendar of events at the WSOP? How do you determine if an event is no longer a draw for the players, or perhaps it is just in the wrong time slot or day of the week?

Jack Effel: Traditionally, we put the $50,000 Poker Players Championship close to the main event because there’s a lot of European players that don’t come until that time. So having the $10,000 PLO, the $50,000 event, and the main event all together has just been best for scheduling purposes. When you put the Poker Players Championship sooner in the schedule, a lot of players miss out because they can’t come for the entire series. Some players don’t want to make two trips. This year, we had a specific date that we had to slot for the One Drop event to coincide with the release of the Cirque Du Soleil Michael Jackson show. That naturally preceded the $25,000 six-max event, so obviously it seemed like a good place to put that along with the $50,000 event leading into the main event. So yes, all of those events are put together by design. I will say that typically, when you look at a schedule, we try to do the best job of having the smallest buy-ins of any discipline to the highest. The WSOP schedule as a whole is a Jenga puzzle. We start to move stuff around so that no two events are too close together that someone would want to play both. We try to categorize things and spread them out so that the players can play the most amounts of tournaments that they can.

BD: This year, ESPN will air the WSOP Asia Pacific final table and the WSOP National Championship final table along with the 24 episodes of the WSOP Main Event. Do you think ESPN is missing out on a made for TV final table like the One Drop High Roller event or is poker better served when the world can focus on one singular event?

JE: When the general public thinks about the WSOP, they think about the main event. I think that all of the events that are televised on ESPN have their place. The main event is by far the biggest that we run during the year. The Asia-Pacific and all the WSOP Europe are equal, in terms of stature. They’re the championship in their own right. All the televised WSOP events are great and fascinating to watch. The 24 episodes of the main event obviously are very cool because that’s what people come to know. So you have the audience that wants to see all the different championships from all the different nations that we travel to and then there are the hard-core main event fans tune in. I think the audiences are different. I think the audience for Asia-Pacific is more poker centric where main event is more general. It’s kind of like when you watch The Masters versus the U.S. open. I think that’s the best way to put it. People who are very into the sport are going to watch both, but the general public is probably going to just watch The Masters. I think that’s the best example I can give. It caters to different audiences. The idea is to be able to show the world that this is what the WSOP is all about. These are the events we have and this is where the stars are made and where the millions are won.

BD: As Daniel Negreanu noted in his blog, the Tournament Directors Association met last week for their annual conference and as a result, some new rule changes have been made. Previously, a player had to be seated by the time the last card off the deck hit the button in order to avoid having their hand killed. Now, a player must be seated by the time the first card is dealt. What was the reason for this rule change and do you agree with it?

JE: In a general sense this is my opinion. The rule in theory is a good idea. There have been some issues with players trying to run back to their seat trying to get their hand, you have the guys that are standing trying to look at other players hands before they play theirs, the hand-for-hand where guys are running around looking at the other stacks at all the other tables. All of these things are issues from the operator’s standpoint. Like all rules, these rules, even though approved by all of the tournament directors, have not been officially approved yet. Even though these are the rules, they have not been put into play yet. The European Poker Tour uses this rule already for the same reasons I just discussed earlier. As part of the TDA I support a lot of the changes, but there is a process at the WSOP. For the WSOP, I like to have acceptance for change, I like the players to feel like they have a voice and have a chance to give me their feedback. If there’s a rule change, I want to get a little feedback from the players. There are a couple rules I have at the WSOP that no other tour uses because they don’t believe they should be used. I use them because I run million dollar events and I have to have certain rules set in place for certain situations. For instance, I use a little bit more of a liberal talking rule because I know certain players like to use verbal strategy during play. I also make a winning hand show in order to get the pot. I want verification of the pot. The TDA does great work in that being part of the board and being able to create standardized rules that govern 90 percent of the tours is great, but I’m not sure if the WSOP is always going to fall into the same box as everyone else. I’m going to continue to be supporter of the TDA and give my input and address the challenges that come up and I do agree with most of the changes that the TDA has made for this year. Whether or not I can use them all, I can’t comment as of now. The WSOP is going to continue to rule with an open mind with as much support for the TDA as we can because I do believe that almost all of the rules are perfect for every single tournament. However, until they go into play next year all we can do is continue to talk about them for now.

For complete coverage of the summer poker festival, check out our WSOP landing page.