What changes would you like to see to the WSOP?
The key thing that I like to see changed is the schedule. I put a schedule for next year at my Web site at [an online poker site that sponsors him] that is not so Hold'em heavy. What they have realized is that Hold'em events create more entries, but this is not what the World Series is about. It's a test of overall games and different formats. Right now it's 80-85% Hold'em events, four years ago it was 40-50%. The schedule that I put forward is a 42 event schedule with 22 Hold'em events, ten being No-Limit. And not any duplicate events, it's silly. Why should you have more than one $2,000 No-Limit Hold'em event? I'm going to ask you this question: who won the $2,000 No-Limit this year?
I don't know.
You don't know because there are several guys. In the old days everyone knew, this is the $2,000 No-Limit champion. They've all but taken Stud Hi-Lo, a beautiful form of poker, and eliminated it from the World Series by adding one $1,000 event. Also, the buy-ins are too small. In 1998, the smallest buy-in was $2,000, now you have $1,000 buy-ins. I realize that Harrah's wants to make this every man's poker floor, but it's not. This is the most prestigious event in the world.
When you do that you water down the value of the bracelets, you water down what it means to have a bracelet. The idea of giving away bracelets for the events that starts after the Main Event is absurd, you don't do that. Those are fun tournaments, you can't give bracelets away for that kind of thing. We need to protect the integrity of what a bracelet is and the prestige that it holds.
Will you play in any of those events if you get knocked out of the Main Event?
No, there is no chance I will play in those tournaments because the World Series of Poker ends with the Main Event. It simply does, that's the last tournament. It's always been that way, only the last year or two they decided to add events, and that's fine for the people that are here, but these are not World Series of Poker events. Some guy will win a bracelet while half the field, the best players in the world, is still in the Main Event. That's not a fair playing field.
Do you have other big players with you in this cause?
Absolutely. I'm on the player advisory board for the World Series of Poker. I've voiced these things, and frankly that's the thing that we most talk about, the structure and the schedule. Bob Feduniak is very vocal about it, as is Howard Lederer and Chris "Jesus" Ferguson and the rest of us. The integrity of poker needs to be protected. This is not the Worls Series of Hold'em, it's the World Series of Poker. They need to see the bigger picture.
Yes, you get 1,500 players for the Hold'em and only 600 for Stud Hi-Lo, but so what, it's a unique event. That's not how the World Series of Poker should be, based on the bottom line of like "not enough people play it." It's still a beautiful form of poker and a lot of people do. In Stud Hi-Lo, the event they didn't want to have, there were 700 players. That's an amazing amount of players. A huge increase over years ago. All the events are up.
Are there any other important issues?
Frankly there are a lot of problems with the World Series. I've mentioned several in my blog, and it's a process. I mean you have new people dealing with this, it's a corporate issue now. When you deal with corporations there are different sections, so they have to answer to different people. They have to worry about their bottom line, whereas in the old days Benny Binion ran things. If there was a problem you'd go to Benny, and Benny would take care of it. Now you get to talk to this department, that talks to that department, that talks to that department. It's a lot more difficult to get things done than it used to be, it's much more of a struggle. I'm proud to be on the advisory board hoping I can fix some of the things.
They also need to change they way they see money being made here. Barry Greenstein said it best when he said: "Just because you get 1,500 players for No-Limit Hold'em versus 600 Stud players doesn't mean you make less money. Because what do you think those other players are doing on Stud day? They're in your casino. They are playing cash games and satellites. They are buying food in your restaurants and buying souvenirs, playing in your casino. Chances are you will make more than the $1,500 you would have made from the entry fee."
They need to see the bigger picture and realize that what's most important is protecting the integrity and prestige of these events, not maintaining 1,000 player fields. That's not important.
Can this hurt the status of the World Series?
Absolutely, it has already diminished. So many bracelets are given out for so many different events, and that's not good for the World Series, and especially not for ESPN. You're watching the shows and every week you are like: "Ok, I don't now any of these people." How is that good for marketing?
What they really need is some star power and some recognizable faces at the table to maintain the prestige. Cinderella stories are great, one Cinderella story out of nine. But nine Cinderella stories, then it's not a Cinderella story any more. In last year's Main Event, Mike Matusow was the last pro. He was knocked out ninth, and then you had eight players you had never seen before. It defeats the purpose of it being a professional game. How much of a story is it now for an accountant to make the final table? It's not a story, it's the norm.
Are they listening to what you are saying?
They are listening, but it's going slow. I was a little disappointed that we couldn't have as much say for this year's World Series, but the group was put together very last minute. Hopefully, for next year, we can talk more about the schedule and other things related to revenue sharing as well. A lot of money is brought in to the World Series of Poker, but not a lot of that money is being shared with the players.
For example they sell these programs with pictures of all the players and a lot of people buy these programs only to get autographs from the players. They wouldn't sell half the programs that they sell if we didn't autograph them. We should see some revenue come our way for the inconveniences. I'm on a 15 minute break sometimes and I'm signing autographs instead of relaxing and taking my time off. Meanwhile the program money is going to Harrah's and they're getting it all based on what I'm doing for them.
There are small issues like that and bigger ones as well, but what we poker players need to do is unite a little bit, because now there is no one for Harrah's to negotiate with, and unless the WPA, which is the new organization really flies, we have to have a voice.
Are you hopeful?
I'm very hopeful, and I will say this on the record: I do feel like Jeffrey Pollack gets it, I feel that Jeffery is very good at relating to players. He is doing his best to give us what we want. Obviously he can't give us everything we want because he has people to answer to as well. He's on the same page as far as the prestige. He wants to maintain that, he wants to cultivate that and make it even bigger. He does want to listen to the players, and as much as he can, he will listen.