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Economy may steal WSOP headlines: Pollack
With the start of the 2009 World Series of Poker a little over 100 days away, WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack is anxious to see how a tanking U.S. economy is going to affect the action in Las Vegas this summer.
"I think the economy is going to be a big story line this year," Pollack told PokerListings.com.
"Seeing who shows up for what is going to be very interesting. For the first time ever we are heading into a World Series of Poker where the economy could have a meaningful effect."
That's not to say Pollack is predicting doomsday for the 2009 WSOP when the newly released 57-event schedule kicks off May 27.
In fact, he believes the Stimulus Special $1k No-Limit Hold'em event set for opening weekend could break the registration record of 3,929 set at the first $1,500 No-Limit tournament in 2008.
"We think the Stimulus Special will be a really fun event and a great way to start the 40th annual World Series of Poker," he said.
"We understand that in these unique economic times, more than ever, we have to have something for everyone - top pros and amateurs. We think this schedule caters to both ends of that spectrum, and we're excited about it."
To further woo both amateurs and pros, Pollack and the WSOP team have bumped the number of events with a buy-in under $2,500 to 39 from last year's 37, while also increasing the number of $10k World Championship Events from eight to 10.
Plus, they've added a onetime commemorative gold bracelet $40k No-Limit Hold'em tournament that Pollack expects to attract "a star-studded field."
"We believe it's our responsibility and obligation to offer a broad palette of events," he said.
"Adding two more $10k World Championship bracelets and the one-off $40k event is really about our commitment to being recognized as leaders in the world of poker, and we think the rest is an exciting schedule that attempts to offer even more value given our current economic environment."
Pollack claims the five rebuy events from 2008 have been removed from the schedule because of a groundswell of players claiming rebuys create an uneven playing field. The World Series does not want to give the impression a bracelet can be bought.
But with a few adjustments aimed at fixing the flaws, "poker's big night" will be back again with the second edition of the November Nine.
"The delayed final table of the Main Event is coming back," Pollack revealed. "We can always do things better and although we would always be willing to admit a mistake, the delayed final table was not one. [By] all of our measures, and even ESPN will tell you, it was a great success.
"Yes; we need to tweak it to make it a little more successful in terms of the amount of heads-up play viewers will see and the drive for promotion outside of ESPN for the nine players who get there, but we will never rest on our laurels, and hopefully it can get bigger and better this year."
The number of bracelets on offer at the Rio from late May to mid-July is up by two as well, but Pollack believes there's still no danger of watering down the value of the coveted jewelry.
"The Olympics have continued to increase the types of events where medals are offered and I don't think anyone will dispute the value of the single gold medal," he said. "Our pledge each year is to do better than the year before, understanding we will never do as well as the following year.
"The team is hard at work right now and we can hardly wait for the end of May."
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