On Wednesday, the World Series of Poker held a conference call to preview the 2011 WSOP. Ty Stewart, WSOP executive director, and Jack Effel, vice president and tournament director, teased the Series, provided some new information, and fielded questions. Here are five thoughts about some of the changes introduced during the call.
1. The WSOP and ESPN have a deal through 2017, and this year 55 bracelet events will stream online.
The online streaming is old news but to know that the WSOP has a contract with ESPN through 2017 is very reassuring. After Black Friday, the landscape of televised poker changed completely. PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker were huge players because of the amount of money they spent on advertising and production, so without them the only real game in town is the WSOP. The success of televised poker has a direct effect on the popularity of the game, so, hopefully, WSOP and ESPN can carry the torch for the next couple of years.
2. Automatic shufflers will be used at every final table and will be awesome.
The WSOP and Shuffle Master have teamed up to provide automatic shufflers for every final table at the 2011 WSOP and, and, in some cases, for multiple tables in the same event. This is huge. Automatic shufflers speed up the game tremendously, and clearly the best place to introduce them is at final tables because that’s when players want to see more hands per blind level. If this is a success – which it will be – then the 2012 WSOP will feature even more automatic shufflers in every event. The Twitter feedback from players about this innovation was overwhelmingly positive. It is a quantum leap in the right direction.
3. The Poker Hall of Fame will implement a “Chip Reese Rule” – all nominees must be at least 40 years old.
Thank goodness. I was really worried that that punk Tom Dwan was going to be nominated too soon.
All jokes aside, though, age shouldn’t be an issue regarding the Poker Hall of Fame. The voters are savvy enough not to vote in someone like Dwan or Viktor Blom prematurely. Likewise, everyone knows that Phil Ivey is a living legend, so why should we have to wait five more yours to “immortalize” him? One of the great things about poker is that – as long as you are old enough to play – age doesn’t matter. Unlike in major professional sports, you don’t retire from poker because you are unable to play; you just keep playing until you keel over or go broke. Surely this new rule will keep the old guard happy, but on a broader scale, it is pretty insignificant and nitpicky.
4. The WSOP seems nonchalant about Black Friday.
A handful of questions regarding Black Friday were tossed at Effel and Stewart during the call. They claim it’s business as usual because they don’t have any strong ties with the indicted sites and likened wearing a logo of one of the indicted sites to wearing a fur coat at a PETA convention. Somewhere, Michael Vick isn’t laughing.
They did offer assurance that some European sites will still have licensed space, but that the WSOP has not contracted with any of the indicted sites. This will come into play during the 55 final tables that will stream on ESPN3, and, of course, during the Main Event. What kind of advertisements will players be allowed to wear? Will we see an uptick in nonpoker patches? There is a possibility that new ways of advertising arise, but I don’t think WSOP final tables are going to look like the Daytona 500.
5. Media can only sweat a table for five minutes before moving on for at least 30 minutes.
What happened at the Partouche Poker Tour Cannes event was terrible, and Ali Tekintamgac should be perma-banned, but this rule is fairly insane. What happens when there are only five or six tables left and one of them hosts two or more of the chip leaders? What happens when all the high rollers register late and are sitting at the same table on Day 1 of a sleepy $1,500 event?
Bloggers are tasked with provided interesting and newsworthy content, and sometimes that entails floating around a table with a lot of notable players. Not only does this rule handicap our ability to perform our jobs, it’s also going to be very hard to enforce. The tournament directors already have enough on their plate, and now they’re going to have to follow us around with stopwatches to ensure we’re not sweating tables too long or too often. Instead of making a bogus rule, the WSOP staff – including the dealers – should be vigilant during tournament play. If someone is unrecognizable or being shady, then address it. Don’t punish the hardworking people who are trying to provide readers with the best story they can.
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