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Poker Has Lost a Good Man
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by T.J. Cloutier   
Monday, 23 November 2009

Poker legend TJ Clouier shares tales from the poker trail.

Poker has lost a very good man in Jeffrey Pollack. He did some great things for the poker world. Jeffrey created the Players Advisory Council (the P.A.C.) for the WSOP. He instituted the World Series of Poker in Europe. And he returned the Poker Hall of Fame to the elevated status where it should have been for years. This year he coordinated a big dinner party with dignitaries and speeches and all the stuff that goes with ceremonial occasions. Jeffrey also instituted the “November Nine,” which has worked out terrific for poker, increasing poker’s popularity and reputation among fans.

One of the best things Jeffrey did was to seek out a lot of peoples’ opinions about issues that matter to the poker world. Believe me, if he could put up with me and my squawking, he could put up with anybody. I didn’t agree with some of the things he did, and let him know about it, but eventually we became very good friends.

Nobody has said a word to me yet as to whether Jeffrey resigned because of the new position that Harrah’s created one level above his, so I don’t know whether that affected his decision. When Jeffrey called me (and other members of the P.A.C.) a day before the announcement came out, he didn’t say a word about his reasons for resigning.

He was pretty much in control of the World Series. Obviously, he had to answer to corporate management, but he was as high up as the WSOP went. Now, this new position has been created. If I’d done all the things he’s accomplished during the short time he’s been “the commish,” I don’t know whether I’d like it if somebody fresh was brought in that I had to answer to about something that I helped create, somebody who’d be a buffer between me and top management. Beforehand, I think it was just Jeffrey and Howard Greenbaum and Seth Polansky, head of marketing. They were always involved with the P.A.C. and everything to do with the WSOP, including the hiring of Jack Effel, who has done a great job as the director of the WSOP.

Just look at the P.A.C. We started out with Howard Lederer and Annie Duke, Jennifer Harman, myself, and Barry Greenstein. Then Robert Williamson came in and a coupla years later, they brought in Steve Zolotov, Tom Snyder and David Williams. Later, we added other players to expand the scope of experience. Then they asked for the name of an amateur who should be on the committee, someone who would look at things more from the everyday, amateur standpoint than from the pro standpoint. Of course, the first people who came to mind were Bob and Maureen Feduniak. I knew that anything they said would be strictly for the benefit of the WSOP and the players. And since Bob had retired as a full partner of Morgan Stanley, he could also look at the business side of things and weigh that against the poker players’ side of things.

People don’t realize what a strong committee we are. It’s hard to estimate all the different things we’ve dealt with … and the huge amount of time we spend discussing issues through our e-mail chains and our conference calls with management. We’ve achieved a lot of things, too. For example, when Jamie Gold won the bracelet in 2006, he committed several infractions of the rules during the play, but nobody called him on it. We knew that wasn’t right. The crew that worked that final table didn’t give penalties when they should’ve been given, so that whole crew was taken off the duty roster for the final table. And since then, the rules have been pretty uniformly enforced.

We’ve also discussed the make-up of the tournament, which events should be added, which should be eliminated, and special events like the $40K no-limit hold’em tournament they ran last year to celebrate the WSOP’s 40th anniversary. We all talk a lot to air our opinions, especially Howard and Daniel Negreanu and Steve Z. Then I chime in from the old-timers’ point of view. Of course Annie and Jennifer are always right in there, too, as well as Clonie Gowan.

I give credit to Pollack for coming up with the idea of the P.A.C. and putting it all together. He also was instrumental in getting big corporate sponsors for the Series that included Jack Links, Planters, Miller Brewing and Betfair. Of course, I started complaining right away that part of that sponsorship money should go to the players. By bringing in these sponsors, Pollack made millions of dollars for Harrah’s, and what did Harrah’s give up? A $10 coupon … and they made players like it! They never added a cent to the prize pools, and further, we had to pay to stay at the Rio. What a marketing job he did for Harrah’s … to increase attendance (especially during the recession) and bring millions into the business, while getting players to accept it all.

To sum up, Pollack did a fantastic job of running and branding the World Series of Poker. Harrah’s is really going to miss him. So will the world of poker. Till next time, this is T.J. signing off to the world from the rain on the plains of Texas.

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