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World Poker Association Pushes for Universal Rules

Jesse Jones of the WPA Speaks with Card Player


Jesse Jones is so passionate about legitimizing poker as a worldwide sport that he is spending a good portion if his retirement focusing his energies on the World Poker Association, a non-profit organization he founded to protect the rights of poker-playing professionals and semi-pros who go to work at major poker events.

He believes the most pressing issue for big tournament circuits like the World Series of Poker and the World Poker Tour is for them to accept and universally enforce the WPA-approved tournament rulebook that would not only establish a gold standard, particularly concerning player behavior, but also ensure that all major events that tournament pros flock to are run the same way.

“I believe it’s the number one item, by far,” Jones said. “Can you imagine going to an NFL football game, and they play four quarters a game, and then you go next week and they play five quarters? That’s what we have in tournament poker now; standards that are not uniform.”

The standards are not only inconsistent from tournament to tournament, but it also seems the rules are not universally enforced within individual tournaments, with favoritism seemingly dangerously close becoming the norm.

Scotty Nguyen’s behavior and the lack of subsequent action by Harrah’s tournament staff during this summer’s $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event at the World Series serves as the freshest example. Nguyen repeatedly harassed, badgered, and taunted his opponents, breaking several of the WSOP’s own rules on his way to victory. Never did tournament officials step in and penalize Nguyen, even though, by written rules, they should have.

“When you taunt a player in any shape or form during play at the table, that is out of line. That is why they don’t allow it in any professional sports,” Jones said. “Particularly in poker, when you’re trying to intimidate a player with your trash talk and with your taunting, what you’re doing is your taking the focus away from the play at the table, and it now becomes about that person. What we want is the play, the sport itself.”

The final table was broadcast on ESPN and was an embarrassing moment for tournament poker, Jones said, not only because of Nguyen’s behavior, but because nothing was done about it.

The WPA has had some conversations with officials from the WSOP and WPT, but its lack of numbers — it only has around 1,400 members — makes it harder for it to be heard as loudly as Jones would like. With around 10,000-15,000 members, that would change, he said. He acknowledges that the people who would benefit most from a strong WPA are professional and semi-professional players who make their offices in the country’s cardrooms, rather than the casual fan, giving the WPA a smaller group to try to recruit members.

So far, besides one WSOP-qualifying event that was held under the WPA banner, no events have used WPA-written rules. Instead, rules vary from venue to venue, from tournament director to tournament director, and that’s just not good enough for Jones.

“That’s one of those things that is certainly one of the important aspects of the WPA, to establish a uniform set of standards that addresses player conduct, so that we can represent and present tournament poker as a professional sport,” Jones said. “The only thing that will happen will be the elimination of some of the things that have been allowed on the tournament [circuit].”

Another issue the WPA eventually hopes to address concerns tournament buy-ins. Jones and the WPA simply believes there shouldn’t be any for televised events. Like the PGA Tour, the prize pools for televised events should be funded by major sponsors and not by the players themselves. This clout would further legitimize the game of tournament poker as a sport, and would only work to expand its popularity and ensure that the players are treated as professionals.

“We’d like to see the same thing happen for our professional tournament poker players. In order for that to happen, the players have to support it, and once they support it in large enough numbers, I can assure them that the WPA has people interested in creating a series of events that would be televised for them using the WPA standards, and they would not have to pay an entry fee or a buy-in fee to participate in the events.”

But right now, increasing its membership numbers is the organization’s top priority. Players can join the WPA by visiting the WPT website. Membership levels range from $20 to $2,000.



over 13 years ago

a pretty weak analogy the football thing. Golf is played on vastly different course, with VASTLY different scoring systems (stroke play, match play stableford scoring, skins etc) Tennis is played on different surfaces, bowling on different oil patterns these are all much more akin to different tourney structures than the football comparison. That being said I DO agree with a uniformly enforced code of conduct.


over 13 years ago

well if they had a conduct phil hellmuth and others would be banned from poker with the lack of class they display at the tables


over 13 years ago

To truly make it a sport, then no chopping or playing without a true winner! Scotty and for that matter Layne should both be banned from play. Scotty for 1 year minimum for his rediculous behavior and Layne should get at least 1 month ban for participating in the bad behavior. I have absolutely no respect for either player from this point on. Just bad play on Scotty's part and bad interference on Layne's. Also, it this will truly become a sport???? NO DRINKING! Just ashamed of all this. There should be no alcohol while participating in a sporting event???