World Series of Poker Europe: Foreshadowing
An Interview with Jeffrey Pollack
By Justin West
Recently, PokerPages reported on Harrah's announcement of the first World Series of Poker events to take place in another country - the World Series of Poker Europe (WSOP-E). Our own Mike Paulle penned a great analysis of this decision, one he feels was a long time coming.
"For sure, I underestimated WSOP Commissioner [Jeffrey] Pollack," Mike wrote in his new weekly feature, Here and Now. "I'd been under the impression that Jeffrey was passing through poker on his way from NASCAR to Bud Selig's seat in Major League Baseball. But he's impressed me with WSOP Europe, a classic marketing 'line extension' of poker's premier franchise. Pollack showed me he means business in poker."
"This is the first time bracelet events will be awarded outside of Las Vegas," said Jeffrey Pollack, World Series of Poker Commissioner, via press-release. "The World Series of Poker Europe will have a unique identity, style, and flair, but will remain true to the 38-year tradition and heritage of the WSOP."
To recap, this September Harrah's will host three WSOP-branded events in London. They are scheduled to take place at Fifty, Leicester Square and the Sportsman, three casinos that belong to the London Clubs International group that was recently acquired by Harrah's.
You can view the complete World Series of Poker Europe schedule here, at PokerPages. It's worth noting that this far in advance there is a chance that there will be changes to the schedule, but at the moment this is pretty set in stone.
I had the chance to take some time from Mr. Pollack's schedule to discuss the World Series' first venture overseas. He called no less than ten minutes ahead of time, catching me a bit off guard, as I was still preparing the questions I planned to ask him.
I began, shuffling through papers and pacing back and forth in the office, shushing my coworkers. For some reason any time I do a phone interview is when they all decide to throw a party, hanging from the ceilings and screaming maniacally in the background.
Justin: So, have you been busy since the announcement?
(I think he may have been too tired to chuckle, and the sounds coming from his end of the phone told me he was in the back seat of a car... a limo, perhaps?)
Jeffrey: Pretty much since yesterday morning, I've been doing interviews around the clock.
Justin: How long has the World Series of Poker Europe been on the table?
Jeffrey: We started thinking and talking about WSOP events outside of the U.S. in late 2005, really when I got to Harrah's. We'd been exploring doing something in Europe [for] just about all of 2006, and when we acquired London's Club, that accelerated our plans and our thinking.
Justin: The WSOP-E main event has a buy-in of £10,000 (not Euros). In US dollars, though the specific translation changes every day, that amounts to close to $20,000. Would, then, the $10,000 US World Series of Poker NLHE main event still be the World Championship?
Jeffrey: How do I say this? These aren't apples to apples. These are apples to oranges, right? The main event in Las Vegas is the main event. [It] is the global championship for No-Limit Texas Hold'em by virtue of how big the field is, how big the event is, and how many years that event has been staged.
The World Series of Poker Europe is a standalone tournament that will have its own meaning and value and place in the poker community. So, it isn't a comparative exercise. This is another event that we're doing, end of story.
Justin: So, then, you'd say that the winner of the $10,000 main event in Las Vegas will still hold the title of "World Champion."
Justin: I'm aware of the changes in policy regarding advertisements and online buy-ins to the WSOP, but my question is whether or not the European World Series events will have any differences in policy, given that the governing nations in Europe do not necessarily share the U.S.' outright abolishment.
Jeffrey: There will be online entrants for European events. We will have an online partner for the European events, but our policy as a company is to be in business only with companies that do not face the U.S. companies... [those] that do not take U.S. Bets.
While the WSOP main event in Vegas will still bear the name "World Championship," something else was tugging at the back of my mind. There are three events scheduled for the European series: a £2,500 ($4,900 U.S.) H.O.R.S.E. event, a £5,000 ($9,800 U.S.) Pot-Limit Omaha event, and, finally, according to the Harrah's press-release:
On September 10, the WSOP Europe Main Event - a six-day, £10,000 (approximately $19,600 U.S.) No-Limit Texas Hold'Em Championship - will begin at LCI's Leicester Square, The Sportsman and Fifty. The playing field will be consolidated beginning September 13 at Leicester Square.
Interesting. I remember before the event schedules were released last year there was a lot of talk about moving the main event over to Caesar's, or possibly running the first days of the event at the Rio and at Caesar's Palace simultaneously before combining at one place or the other. That's exactly the kind of structure they've employed here, and I couldn't help but ask Mr. Pollack if it might be foreshadowing for American events yet to come.
Jeffrey was surprisingly open to the possibility of that kind of structure making an appearance at the World Series of Poker:
"It's not out of the realm of possibility," said Pollack. "This year at the Rio you'll see that we've done some creative things to create more space for the players in the tournament, and depending on how we continue to grow or not grow, we have talked about staging certain events at other properties in Vegas. It's not something, obviously, that we've decided to do yet, but it's an idea that we have floated.".
Finally, if these events prove successful, might we see WSOP events in other countries?
"In terms of events in cities other than London and Las Vegas," Jeff said. "We are looking at that and we may have additional announcements in the next 12-16 months."
For more insight into the addition of European events to the World Series of Poker's growing brand, please head on over to Mike Paulle's weekly column, Here and Now.
Justin West played poker since the age of 17, he spent more than a year earning a living on the green felt; a modest living, to be sure, but a living nonetheless. His aim was at one point to win the WSOP main event, thus causing Hell to freeze over. However, given his penchant for sin and his extreme dislike of cold weather, Justin has put that dream to rest.