Wednesday, May 09, 2012

WSOP Stirring Things Up for 2012

The WSOP held its pre-Series conference call yesterdayAs happens every year around this time, the World Series of Poker held a conference call yesterday for media to talk about the upcoming WSOP and give writers things to hype up here during the last few days before the sucker starts.

It’s getting close. Sunday, May 27 is when things get going for real at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. That’s when the first two events start up, the Casino Employees Event (No. 1) and the first of many $1,500 no-limit hold’em tourneys (Event No. 2).

You can find plenty of “live blogs” and other articles running down what was covered yesterday, so I’ll pass on that sort of thing here. I suppose the biggest “news” concerned some rule changes regarding player conduct, including allowing players more freedom when it comes to table talk as well as celebrating. The former sounded a bit like an invitation to engage in Jamie Gold-like banter (“I said top top!”), while the latter reminded some of Hevad Khan (“Bulldozer!”).

Speaking of speaking at the table, another rule that will likely get some pushback from players is one requiring those at televised feature tables to announce their action verbally. Not everyone plays poker this way, with many just letting the chips and cards do their talking for them, and so some have already begun to voice displeasure over Twitter regarding having different requirements for feature-table players than for the rest of the field.

There was other stuff about the “Big One” (the $1 million buy-in event), the new WSOP APAC, the ladies event and men playing, and so on. Like I say, you can easily find news on that elsewhere. Next week the media guide comes out, and I assume we’ll get a look at the official new rules soon as well, so there will be continued buzz going forward.

Someone brought up the topic of the huge banners of past WSOP Main Event champions that decorate the Amazon Room each year, asking in particular whether 2000 ME champ Chris “Jesus” Ferguson’s banner might be obscured given the Black Friday-related charges against him and all the other Full Tilt Poker folderol.

Chris Ferguson's banner, hanging in the Amazon Room at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and CasinoThe reply was that the WSOP would not be doing anything with the banners that might resemble any sort of statement of position on Ferguson. (A similar issue has been raised in the past with regard to 1994 ME champ and Russ Hamilton and his involvement in the UltimateBet insider cheating scandal and cover up.)

I’m with the WSOP on this one, by the way. The banners are meant to refer to WSOP’s history, and it’s not like you can change the past. If a past champion was found later to have cheated in order to win, that’s a different story. But it’s silly for the WSOP to get into the business each year of casting judgment on past champions. I say hang those banners and let the people looking up at those faces form their own opinions about each one.

In delivering that response, Executive Director Ty Stewart pointedly noted that the WSOP didn’t “want to get into having a standards and ethics committee,” an unsubtle jab at their ex-colleague Jeffrey Pollack, Annie Duke, and the Epic Poker League. As if that weren’t clear enough, a further dig came when it was unnecessarily noted that “” didn’t stand for “wicked series of poker” -- a reference to that domain URL purchasing business and the early plan pursued by the EPL to try to name itself the Wicked Poker League.

We’ve already seen evidence of the WSOP’s dislike of the EPL. Whether it derives from personal animosity toward Pollack, irritation at what was perhaps once perceived a competitor, or other behind-the-scenes stuff we haven’t heard about, there’s something a little unseemly about it coming up unprovoked like this in the context of the annual conference call.

Don’t get me wrong -- Epic is most certainly deserving of criticism, and my six-month tenure as a contributor to the EPL blog hardly prevents me not only from believing that, but from voicing such criticism myself. But to me the WSOP might do better to continue to try to appear above all that applesauce.

Still, the call worked well enough to get me excited about it all again. Am starting to think about my return to the Rio this summer, and my instinct is to think that whatever this new loosening up of restrictions regarding player talk and behavior will do to the game, it will likely help create more interesting stories to report.

So maybe I shouldn’t criticize the WSOP for its own “loose talk.” As Dashiell Hammett’s Op says in Red Harvest (1929), “sometimes stirring things up is all right.”

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Blogger Terrence Chan said...

another rule that will likely get some pushback from players is one requiring those at televised feature tables to announce their action verbally.

The f-? I somehow missed this one. That's amazingly dumb. What happens if you refuse? Or if you have a speech issue or don't speak English? Wow. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

5/09/2012 9:23 AM  

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