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Jesse Jones and the WPA: Working for Poker's Future
With poker's burgeoning popularity and the skyrocketing economic implications that have come with it, it's become more and more apparent that the old way of doing things is no longer viable. When Doyle Brunson first started winning bracelets, there were no multi-million dollar television contracts or sponsorship deals, and poker largely stayed out of the public eye. These days, poker is big business, and players are rapidly waking up to the fact that those sponsorships and TV contracts are worth more than most tournament prize pools. As players push for more and more slices of the pie, and casinos and tournament organizers push back, it seems clear that some sort of regulatory body is needed.
Jesse Jones is working to create that organization. The fifteen-year professional and three-time cancer survivor has dedicated himself to his fledgling World Poker Association, a governing body that he has said he intends to make the PGA (Professional Golfer's Association) of poker. I caught up with Jesse at the WPA booth in the Rio, and he explained the philosophy of his organization.
What is the WPA?
WPA is the World Poker Association, which is the governing body for tournament poker worldwide. We'll establish effective standards for tournament poker, rules, structures, payouts and a universal ranking system.
What led you to start the WPA?
I had the idea of protecting tournament players, and I think a standardized set of rules will make things more effective. Players, I think, need a professional association now that poker is as large as it has gotten, and they need it now more than ever.
It's not just for the players but for the entire industry. The venues themselves have a variety of issues that they need help with. So I've invited individuals as well as organizations to join the WPA and have a working relationship to establish professional standards.
I see you've got quite a list of professionals who've jumped on board.
Yeah, the founding members - individuals who have paid $1,000 to be recognized as a founding member. And they're top professionals, like Phil Gordon, Barry Greenstein, Johnny Chan, Daniel Negreanu, Clonie Gowen, Mike Matusow, Kenna James, Blair Rodman, Joe Hachem, last year's Main Event winner - they're all founding members. We have over 65 founding members paid, and the list keeps growing. We're about 700 members strong now, and we're hoping to grow here during the World Series.
What do these players get for their $1,000?
For their $1,000 they get a two-year membership instead of one, but more than that, they are recognized as a founding member for all time. They get a special Web page with their names and their photos, and a bio will be added. And they're also listed in our literature as a founding member. It's only available until the end of the year, so whatever number we have come December 31st, that's the number of founding members we'll have.
The normal membership is $50 annually for a voting member or $10 annually for a non-voting member.
And anyone can become a member?
Anyone can become a member, yeah. The voting member has voting privileges during the annual board meeting and the benefits of being in the WPA. Non-voting members get a newsletter once a month, and some of the other benefits of the WPA.
Are you dealing mainly with live-poker players or is membership open to those who play online also?
Both. I've invited online sites, casinos and tours to join as organization members, as well as individuals. Individuals being poker players from the pros to the recreational players, fans, dealers, tournament directors, and even casino employees. Anyone that wants to support what we're doing.
What kind of sway do you have in the industry? For example, have you had a dialogue with Harrah's or some of the other casinos?
Well, we have had three conversations to date with Harrah's, with a meeting upcoming this weekend. They do have an interest in being a part of the WPA, and we've had some really good conversations.
Same thing with the World Poker Tour. I'm meeting with WPT officials tomorrow, Friday, to open that dialogue, and I'm hopeful that they'll be willing to join the WPA, as well as many other casinos around the world. We have our first organizations to enter the Association; one is the Swedish Poker Federation and the other is a poker group called Poker Strategy.
What's your ultimate vision for the WPA?
My ultimate vision is to use the WPA to organize uniform standards and eventually have an objective ranking system that's utilized so that we're all playing by the same rules, and that will ultimately bring in more television revenue and sponsorships to the industry that will benefit all.
Well thanks very much, Jesse, and good luck getting the WPA off the ground.
Thank you. I appreciate it.
Those wanting to know more about the World Poker Association or wishing to join can visit Jesse's .