Thursday, May 12, 2011

Coming Soon... the 2011 WSOP

2011 WSOPYesterday the World Series of Poker held its annual conference call for the media. That’s when folks like Seth Palansky (WSOP Communications Director), Jack Effel (WSOP Tournament Director), and Ty Stewart (WSOP Executive Director) share news and answer questions regarding the upcoming Series, now less than three weeks away.

I’ve participated in this call before, but was unable to this time as I was giving that final exam I wrote about yesterday. Got up to speed fairly quickly afterwards, though, thanks to Twitter and all of the usual suspects providing accounts of the main stories.

We learned that automatic shufflers would be used at the WSOP this summer (unlike in the past). Response seems generally positive to that innovation, from what I gather.

The WSOP has picked up a few new sponsors, including Miller Lite (replacing ghastly Milwaukee’s Beast). Dearfoams, makers of slippers, has (oddly) signed on, too, as a sponsor. Apparently all who play the Main Event will be given some slippers for entering, which guarantees everyone will start out being dealt a pair.

Thank you. I’m here all week.

There was some further talk of the expanded coverage (both online and on teevee) that was announced last week. The nomination process for the Poker Hall of Fame was brought up as well, with a few changes discussed, including the not-unexpected insitution of a new “Chip Reese Rule” making 40 a minimum-age requirement.

Skimming through the Q&A stuff, I see a question was asked about how “Black Friday” would affect this year’s WSOP and am not surprised by the “business as usual” response. There will be effects, though, most particularly if Full Tilt Poker fails to deliver players’ funds by June.

Talk of men playing in the Ladies Event resurfaced. (I covered the Ladies Event last summer, writing about the experience here.) TD Jack Effel noted that the WSOP had “no respect” for any man who enters, though conceded that from a legal standpoint the WSOP can’t do anything to stop men from doing so.

Keep MovingSounds like there was also some discussion of that rule, listed in this year’s media guidelines, stating that “media shall not place themselves in the area of play at any poker table in excess of five (5) minutes per each half hour,” a rule that goes on to say media also need to move on if asked to do so by dealers, players, or staff.

At the time some fretted over this rule, as well as the one indicating that “credentialed media may not speak with or in any other way distract players during tournament action while they are seated at the table,” both of which were likely added in response to the incident late last summer involving the player Ali Tekintamgac conspiring with a faux-blogger to cheat at the Partouche Poker Tour Grand Finale. (For more on that incident, read here.)

Word yesterday was that yes, such guidelines will be enforced. I, for one, am not overly concerned about the restrictions, as I feel it is certainly possible to do the job of reporting without speaking directly to players (even if there are instances where it makes things a lot easier to do so). And really, it’s not often I need to be stationed at a table for more than five minutes at a time, either, although I think there the point is merely to prevent unreasonable “sweating” of players -- i.e., to keep the media from unduly affecting play, a concern which I’d hope everyone interested in the game’s integrity would share equally.

Speaking of media getting involved, a post-conference call brouhaha erupted over Twitter when another guideline regarding media was made public, an “unwritten rule” (said the person manning the @WSOP account) that credentialed media weren’t allowed to play in any bracelet events!

I follow quite a few folks who regularly report on the WSOP, many of whom also occasionally play in events, too. The news of this prohibition against playing was surprising. The reaction was not.

Remko & FrankLike myself, many of those who got into writing about poker did so out of a love for the game. Just a couple of nights ago I got a big kick out of listening to Remko Rinkema (@happyfreaked) and Frank Op de Woerd (@webjoker), the two Dutch poker reporters alongside whom I’ve worked at past WSOPs, being interviewed over on QuadJacks. I enjoyed hearing them partly because they are a couple of funny guys, but also because they so obviously love poker (and covering it). Their enthusiasm when describing what was happening at EPT Madrid was infectious, and reminded me of some of the reasons why I’ve found myself writing so many words over the last few years about people playing cards.

Loving the game (like most of us do), it only follows that we want to play as well. Thus the negative response. Also, as writers we tend to value the written word, and perhaps that gave us another reason to object to this new “unwritten rule.”

To the WSOP’s credit, we were told a little later in the day that the rule was going to be revisited, with a suggestion that something would be done to allow credentialed media to enter events. In my mind, requiring such folks to leave their tags back at their hotel rooms and not do any reporting while playing in a given event would seem a reasonable enough request, but we’ll see what happens.

In any event, all of the WSOP buzz certainly got me thinking about the Series. My plan this summer will be a little different from the last few years. Rather than go out for the entire Series, I’ll be heading out about three weeks in this time, staying until the November Nine is decided on July 19th. That had actually been my plan prior to Black Friday, and I’m grateful the events of April 15th haven’t disrupted things too terribly.

Indeed, with all that has happened over the last month, I am probably even more curious than I would have been otherwise to see just how it all shakes out this summer.

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