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WSOP organizers already eyeing 2008 improvements
The 2007 World Series of Poker took its first steps on shaky legs in June as complaints of winding registration lines, indecipherable playing cards and shrouded final tables surfaced almost immediately.
The pair spoke to media at a press conference at the Rio Tuesday morning before introducing the final nine players of the WSOP championship table.
Among the issues discussed at today's conference was the debate about the final tables to which Harrah's blocked media and fan access by having the events played in a black tent. The idea was to allow WSOP fans to buy live coverage - which included a peek at players' hole cards - of the tournaments from the organization's Web site.
The move was unpopular with media organizations and irked players who wanted their family members close at hand during their final table appearances.
Nonetheless, Pollack deemed the test a success in terms of live streaming of bracelet events and viewing hole cards. He did note, however, that the WSOP has to figure out a better way to make the tournaments accessible to fans and players' supporters.
"We appreciate everyone's patience this year as we went through that test, but I think it was a worthwhile effort," he said. "I think that the World Series of Poker, from a broadcasting and new media standpoint, the foundations of the business are set in terms of the next wave of global growth for us."
Another question fielded by the duo concerned the choice of chip colors for the events, specifically why the WSOP opted to have orange $5,000, $10,000 and $50,000 chips.
Tournament organizers met with WSOP chip-manufacturer GPI and went through the colors, contrasting them side by side, said Effel.
"You're having to pick a different color for each denomination and you don't want to have a repeat color, especially one that's in at the same time as one of the others," he said. "And when it got to the $5,000 and $25,000s, they looked good in a room with dim light but they didn't look good in a room with a lot of light out there on the tables with the green felt.
"In a darker landscape they look much better," he said. "So I definitely think the $25,000s need reevaluating for next year, and I think that if you take out that color, it will show a better contrast with the rest of the colors and the chips will blend much better," he said.
A nuts and bolts issue opened for discussion at the media conference included changes to tournament structures. The 2007 WSOP saw organizers do some tweaking to create more play for competitors in the early levels.
But the Series is still weighing further changes to improve player experience for 2008, said Effel.
"I definitely think a couple intermediate levels and bringing back 90-minutes levels at the final table for preliminary events would also be a good move for next year," he said.
Another area of concern that players can expect to be addressed by the WSOP officials next year was brought to attention by Pollack. The commissioner said he'd like to put an end to the aggressive agenting taking place within feet of the tournament tables at the 2007 Series.
"I personally see that as disruptive to the game and that is something that, in the off-season, we're going to take a very, very hard look at," said Pollack.
The World Series of Poker will always be supportive of players trying to maximize their revenue using their success in its tournaments, he said, but added that the organization will not allow agents working for companies to infringe on players' rights to compete without distractions.
"While we're not looking and will not regulate agents - I have no interest in doing that - I think we're going to have to define some sort of geographical boundary because what I've seen the last couple weeks was not right in terms of the integrity of the event and how we're trying to position ourselves," said Pollack.
Possible penalties issued for breaking any guidelines set out for the 2008 World Series of Poker would be against the companies, not the agents themselves, he added.
"This is me putting some folks on notice," he said. "The last couple weeks I saw some things that I really didn't like seeing."
Hand-in-hand with this issue are the rules for player apparel at the tournament table - something Pollack said the WSOP will likely tighten up for next year to maintain respectability at the Series. He cited pro player Robert Williamson III as a player who has a lot of sponsorship but looks good on the felt, thanks to a signature sport coat he had embroidered with the logos of his sponsors.
"He's a great example of how poker players can end up looking like NASCAR drivers in the best way," he said.