Pollack resigns as WSOP Commissioner

13 November 2009

Saying he has accomplished "everything he had set out to do" and that he liked the idea of "going out on top," Jeffrey Pollack resigned as commissioner of the World Series of Poker on Friday.

"The arc of my entire career has always been to move on to something different every four or five years, so the time seemed right for me to make this move." the 45-year-old Pollack told Casino City on Friday, a few hours after he made his resignation official by posting on his Twitter account, "Thank you for allowing me to be part of the WSOP these last few years. I will always be a fan and friend to the poker community…."

jeffrey_pollack

Jeffrey Pollack has stepped down as WSOP Commissioner. (photo courtesy of WSOP)

Pollack said the he first started thinking seriously about stepping down over the last few weeks. He said that had never even heard of the World Series of Poker five years when he was offered a marketing job with the WSOP, which ended up creating the position of commissioner for him in January of 2006. But since that time the WSOP has made tremendous strides.

In fact, despite the implementation of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006, participation in the WSOP has increased by more than 300% in the last six years, going from 13,036 player registrations in 2004 to 60,875 this year, which was an all-time high. This year the total WSOP prize pool exceeded $155 million for the fourth straight year – compared with a total of $354 million in prize money awarded during the WSOP's first 36 years.

"I'm proud because I think I accomplished all of the things that I set out to do as commissioner," Pollack said. "I stepped into the job as a novice to poker, but now the game holds a very special place in my heart. The poker community gave me a chance. They accepted my ideas and while I've had my share of detractors, everyone has always been gracious and honest and with me. I've really come to love this game and the people who are involved with it."

Pollack said he is most proud of the increased participation in WSOP events during his tenure, not only by the number of people who played but the fact that 115 different countries were represented this year.

"We really put the 'world' in the World Series of Poker," he said.

In addition, Pollack said he's proud of the increased exposure women have received in the game and the success of the World Series of Poker Europe, which completed its third year in London in September.

But the one thing Pollack may be most remembered for is the decision two years ago to delay the final table of the Main Event. The move to create the November Nine was made in order for the final table to gain more exposure and have the ESPN broadcasts lead into the day when the Main Event champion would be crowned, rather than already having the winner decided. Despite some resistance from the poker community, the move has done what the WSOP hoped it would accomplish, judging from TV ratings and the live gate for the final table, which was moved to the Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio.

"I ultimately made the decision to green light the November Nine, but the idea was generated by a lot of different folks, including ESPN, the Player's Advisory Council and Harrah's, so they all deserve the credit," he said. "It was a calculated risk. But in my career I have never been afraid to experiment or try different things if I thought they would be beneficial in the long run."

Pollack also said it wasn't unusual for him to not know much about poker before taking a job with the WSOP.

"When I started Sports Business Daily 15 years ago, I didn't know anything about publishing or the sports media in general, but I liked the concept and just this year they celebrated their 15th year of existence," he said. "When I went into NASCAR (as Managing Director of Broadcasting and New Media for NASCAR Digital Entertainment) I had never watched a NASCAR race from start to finish and when I started to work with the NBA on their Collective Bargaining Agreement, I didn't know much about it. So I knew I could be successful as the WSOP Commissioner, even though I didn't know much at all about tournament poker."

The WSOP issued a statement via e-mail on Friday saying, "there is no intention at this time to replace the Commissioner role."

"We appreciate Jeffrey's contributions over the past four years and wish him the best in the future," the statement read. "The World Series of Poker remains the market leader with this year's tournament exceeding all expectations, and we are well positioned for the future."

Two of the biggest names in poker lamented the loss of Pollack via their Twitter accounts.

Phil Hellmuth posted, "Jeffrey Pollack was a terrific WSOP Commissioner, and he is a fair and reasonable man!" Annie Duke wrote on her Twitter account, "I don't think people know how much Jeffrey Pollack has done for the players. Our biggest defender and protector is gone from WSOP."

Pollack, a native of New York, said he was looking forward to flying to his home in Los Angeles to spend some time with his wife before plotting his next step.

"My trade is with sports, media, marketing and poker," he said. "If there's someway that I can stay on that track, I'd like to do so. But no matter where I end up I will always be appreciate to Harrah's and Gary Loveman for the opportunity they afforded me the last 4 and half years. I was given the chance to be part of a very special brand and I will always be thankful for that. Gary had a vision for the WSOP and he deserves as much credit as anyone for its success."


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