Jack Effel has served as the World Series of Poker Tournament Director since 2006.
Effel’s leadership has earned him the respect of players, colleagues, and poker fans, just about everywhere. Now with 225 gold bracelet events under his supervision through the end of 2009, Effel has overseen more events than any Tournament Director in the 40-year history of the WSOP.
Effel recently sat down for in interview at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, where the 2010 WSOP will commence on May 27th. In this interview -- the second in a two-part series -- Effel discusses what players and fans can expect at this year’s WSOP. Part 1 of this interview can be seen here: http://www.wsop.com/news/2010/Mar/2714/THATS-A-FACT-JACK.html
Question: Harrah’s took over the WSOP back in 2004. The tournament moved to the Rio for the first time in 2005. Most players who came that first year remember experiencing what has been called a “wow” moment. Each of us walked into the Rio. We saw more than 200 poker tables and the brand new setup and we collectively said, “Wow!” Do you think the year 2010 will have any “wow” moments for those who come here and participate?
Jack Effel: Absolutely. When players come to the Rio this year and see 250 poker tables in the new and expanded Grand Pavilion, I expect that will leave quite an impression. Then, if you add in the Amazon Room (where most of the tournament took place in previous years), that’s actually 377 total tables – the most of any poker tournament in history.
Question: So, there are now two main tournament rooms – the Grand Pavilion and the Amazon Room. How will the new setup work?
Jack Effel: All noon tournaments will start in the Grand Pavilion, which is the bigger room. Day Two players will return and restart inside the Amazon Room. Also, the tournaments starting at 5 pm will begin inside the Amazon Room. Of course, the final tables – which includes the ESPN main stage – will also be held inside the Amazon Room, just as in previous years. The idea will be for players to play there way into the famed Amazon Room. As players survive and go deeper into the tournament, they move further north, up to the point where we hold the final tables at the far end of the Amazon Room.
Question: You’ve been a strong proponent of trying to maintain a healthier and more comfortable WSOP experience for poker players. Can you discuss the length of playing days (and nights) this year?
Jack Effel: Sure. The noon starts will play ten one-hour levels on Day One, and then stop. With breaks, that puts the end of each night at about 12:40 am. The re-start times for those events on Day Two will commence at 2:30 pm. Then, we will play ten more levels, or to the final table, whichever comes first. On average, Day Two will last until about 3:00 am. Day Three will consist of the survivors from the previous day or the final table, and we will then play down to the winner. Of course, I must add that some tournaments could be tricky. For instance, the $1,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tournaments may get such large fields that we may have to add an extra day. We have to remember that this is usually the biggest poker moment of these players’ lives and we want to do whatever we can to keep players in the best shape possible in order to compete. So, we reserve the right to make changes when necessary that will ensure a successful event.
Question: What about the 5 pm tournaments?
Jack Effel: Those will be a little different. We will play eight one-hour levels on Day One. There is a 60-minute dinner break instead of the 90 minutes afforded the noon starts. Day Two will usually go ten levels, or down to the final table, whichever comes first. Then, the final table will be played on Day Three.
Question: This year, there are 57 gold bracelet events to be held in Las Vegas, which is the same numbers as the previous year. Talk about what went in to making this year’s schedule.
Jack Effel: We strive to create a balance between what most players want as well as maintaining and protecting traditional games that should also be part of the WSOP menu. We also like to sprinkle a few new things and try out new ideas. This year during every weekend, we created what we call a “No-Limit Hold’em Extravaganza.” This means there will be a $1,000 buy-in (NLHE) event running over every weekend at the World Series of Poker. The $1,000 buy-in tournaments also have two starting days -- on Saturdays and Sundays. So, players can choose their starting day. These events will be flanked by something like a $1,500 buy-in (NLHE) event, which will start on Fridays and Mondays. It’s going to be “Poker for the People” with these huge events running on the weekends. Then, the mid-week days will primarily consist of the other forms of poker -- such as Stud, Omaha, and the other games.
Question: What motivated you to make these changes?
Jack Effel: Last year, the average participant entered 1.6 events at the WSOP. We received a lot of great feedback from players who said that if some of the No-Limit Hold’em events were closer together, they would be interested in entering more tournaments. We know that many players who come to the WSOP may have only a limited amount of time to stay and play. So, if they could only play in one event before, now we want them to have the opportunity to play perhaps two events, or more.
Question: What about amenities non-players, including spectators who want to come and watch the WSOP?
Jack Effel: Of course, most of our final tables have open seating. Spectators are encouraged to come and watch, as long as they are over the age of 21. And, it’s all free.
Question: Will the gold bracelet ceremony continue at this year’s WSOP?
Jack Effel: Yes. We want players to be recognized for their accomplishment. Before last year, most of the champions received their gold bracelet in the middle of the night, sometimes at 4 am or 5 am. There would be few people in the room to witness the spectacle. Not only that, but the players were often so exhausted they could not enjoy their moment of glory. The gold bracelet ceremony, which will take place the day following vicory at 2:20 PM in the Pavilion Room, allowing the champion(s) to shine and gain the recognition of their peers. Remember, the reason why tens of thousands of players come from all over the world to play in the WSOP is to win a gold bracelet. We want to make that moment special for those who are fortunate enough to reach poker’s mountaintop. And believe me, this year will be the most impressive bracelet award ceremony poker has ever held.
Question: Is the “November Nine” here to stay?
Jack Effel: I think the “November Nine” concept is one of the best things ever to happen to the Main Event. I certainly hope so.
Question: What is the one thing that will leave a lasting impression on players who come to the 2010 WSOP?
Jack Effel: Everything here this year will be bigger, and hopefully better than before. We have spent much of the past year planning an international event that promises to provide a wonderful experience for players, family, friends, and all fans who attend.
Question: Let’s end this on a more personal note, Jack. Do you ever root for players in the tournament? If so, who?
Jack Effel: No. I never root either for or against any player. I want the player who plays the best to win. That’s how it should be. That doesn’t mean the best player necessarily wins. Sometimes, the less-skilled or less-experienced player actually outplays the better player, at least for a short time. So, if I have a rooting interest, it would be for the player who plays the best to win every tournament.
Question: One last question -- what’s the best thing about being the Tournament Director for the WSOP?
Jack Effel: Being the Tournament Director of the WSOP allows me to live out a lifelong dream. Everything I have wanted as far as a profession is contained in this job – whether it’s organizing, working with the players, managing operations, or making a mark on history. I’m fortunate to be at the epicenter of the poker world, which allows us to create an event and an experience that tens of thousands of people playing, and millions of people watching (on television) are going to remember for many years to come. In a way, it’s like managing poker’s version of Woodstock. People who were there at that music festival still talk about their experience 40 years later. I hope to create a similar sense of affection for what we do here in poker. Our goal is to leave a lasting positive impression that lasts for a lifetime.