The 2009 World Series of Poker (WSOP) will kick off in exactly one week on May 27th. The traditional $500 Casino Employees event is the first to play out, followed by the new $40,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em tournament commemorating the 40th running of the WSOP. Poker News Daily sat down with WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack to gauge the mood at the Rio with just seven days remaining.
A total of 57 bracelet events will play out inside the mammoth Amazon Room at the Rio. This year, the festivities are presented by Jack Link’s Beef Jerky, which just signed on for a multi-year agreement. Pollack described the mood inside the all-suite hotel in Sin City: “The mood is really good. Operationally, it’s been a smooth year for planning and preparation. We started last summer and the work is paying off. From a sponsorship standpoint, the partnership with Jack Link’s is tremendous. We can have a lot of fun with them.”
Daily at 2:20pm, bracelets will be awarded to winners of the previous day’s tournaments in front of the gathered crowd in the Amazon Room. The national anthem of the winner’s country will be played in a scene that is likely to be reminiscent of the Olympics. Pollack explained the rationale for adding in the daily bracelet ceremony, which is scheduled to take place at the end of the first break: “I’ve said that we need to do a better job of promoting our bracelet winners. We’ll do an awards ceremony every day. If you win in the middle of the night, you’ll receive you bracelet in the spotlight in the Amazon Room.” It is not uncommon for tournaments to wrap up during the pre-dawn hours. Now, winners will receive their time in the sun.
Pollack confirmed that next Sunday, Ultimate Bet pro Phil Hellmuth will participate in special training with tournament staff. Last year’s festivities were marred by Hellmuth’s public tirades that played out on ESPN as well as Scotty Nguyen’s verbal abuse of players and Rio staff during the $50,000 HORSE Championship. According to the WSOP Commissioner, those incidents will be distant memories in 2009: “We’re going to be tracking penalties and warnings. Our officials will keep a more watchful eye than ever before. The result will be a greater degree of stability on the tournament floor. This is all just for a handful of people. The vast majority of players conduct themselves proudly and with respect.” A database will log infractions and identify repeat offenders.
Pre-registration numbers are up in 2009 in comparison to 2008. The number of hotel room bookings is also up year over year. Pollack explained, “We view those as very good indicators. Generally, the economic mood is a little better overall now than it was a few months ago.” Meanwhile, Nevada gaming revenues fell for the 15th straight month in March year over year. This time around, casino “win” dropped by 11% statewide.
When the festivities play out on ESPN, four tournaments will air: The $40,000 buy-in No Limit Hold’em event, the WSOP Champions Invitational, the Ante Up for Africa charity gala, and the Main Event. Pollack noted that the driving force behind this year’s programming has been the 40th running of the high-stakes tournament series. He explained, “A $40,000 No Limit Hold’em tournament will produce a final table for the ages. The Champions Invitational will be a truly historic event. Someone will walk out of that as the Champion of Champions. Because community relations are so important, Ante Up for Africa is a good addition. We think it’ll be a strong television year for us.” Tournament coverage on the cable station begins on July 28th.
Like readers of Poker News Daily, Pollack was closely following NBC’s hit reality series Celebrity Apprentice, which culminated with poker pro Annie Duke falling to comedian Joan Rivers. Many have questioned what impact Duke’s appearance on the highly rated network television show would have on WSOP attendance, if any. Pollack speculated, “I don’t know that we’ll see a bump because of it. However, poker has been re-injected into our pop culture thanks to Annie. We would have liked to see her win, but making it to the final two is no small beef. She will loom large at the WSOP this year.”
The 2009 WSOP Main Event begins on July 3rd with the first of four starting days. It will once again wrap up in November after a four month delay.