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HOME > NEWS > Poker News > WSOP Director Jack Effel talks Main Event mayhem

WSOP Director Jack Effel talks Main Event mayhem

17 July 2017

By Gary Trask

LAS VEGAS – As Jack Effel instinctively recites the numbers off the top of his head, even he is impressed by the magnitude of it all.

516 poker tables. 2,000 temporary employees. 300,000 transactions at the cage, worth $250 million. Participants from 111 different countries. Nearly 121,000 overall entries and 7,221 Main Event players, the third-largest field in history.

"And that's all in a seven-week span," the World Series of Poker Director says with a shake of the head. "It's a massive operation. But all of the planets aligned, and luck was on our side. It's been a fantastic summer."

The 48th annual World Series of Poker began Memorial Day Weekend, which to Effel and his staff must seem like a lifetime ago. But as the Main Event got underway for Day 7 on Monday with just 27 players remaining, the end was near.

Casino City caught up with the affable Effel in the hallways of the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino on Sunday afternoon and asked him to reflect on this year's WSOP, the 13th of his career after starting as an assistant director in 2005 before taking over as director in 2007.

Interview was edited for clarity and length.

Casino City: You've been at this for 13 years, and the numbers for 2017 have been impressive. How has the WSOP managed to continue to expand and progress after all of these years?

Jack Effel: I'm proud to say we learn from our mistakes. We try to see the forest from the trees and prevent the fires. We try to collectively communicate with everyone. We're more strategic thinkers these days.

You still have to be reactive, but when you are, it needs to be about things that are out of the ordinary and out of your control. When you put this many people through the gates in such a short period of time, something has to give. And I think our team is amazing in being able to be responsive and respond to these things and not get too sideways in the process of doing it.

I view the World Series of Poker as a continuous improvement project. But I do think that there are definitely areas we can continue to improve on. I think there are things that didn't go so right this year that can be fixed for next year. And, of course, next year we'll do it all over again and battle some other things that we didn't think about.

Casino City: One of the items that caused a bit of controversy this year was the playing cards. A few weeks ago, some players complained that they were easily marked. Tell us about that situation and what has been done to rectify it.

Jack Effel: Cards are cards. The cards that were in production this year were the same cards we used last year. There's probably some argument that the design might have been too dark, which accentuated any marks on the cards. Of course, we addressed that, but when you need 30,000 decks of cards I can't just say, "Hey, send me another truck tomorrow." It's a process.

But we got more cards. I found a small supply of cards that I could use in the mixed games for four- or five-card games, Pot Limit, draw games — all the games where people want to peek at their cards and do that crazy stuff. I found a few hundred setups that I could use for those games, because they are the ones that were getting punished the most and getting mishandled. I'm not blaming the players. [The cards] couldn't withstand the natural course of play. And then we were able to get another shipment to come in so I could handle the last couple events, including the Main Event.

There was no issue with the cards in 2016. And the same cards are being used in 2017. It's just that the design was generic. Our partner (Copag) has been fantastic. They worked with us. They're very responsive. They already started to look at the cards and they're trying to see what kind of modifications they can make to make them better next year. I'm confident they'll be able to deliver on that.

Effel at a previous Main Event.

Effel at a previous Main Event.

Casino City: One of the new rules implemented into the 2017 WSOP was calling the clock, giving the floor person more discretion. Has the new rule accomplished what the WSOP intended it to do?

Jack Effel: I think the rule worked very well. It took a week or so to get everyone used to it. It took some time for the supervisors to get enough courage to enforce it and to understand what situations are worthy of calling it.

It basically changes the thinking of always letting everything be in the players' hands. The truth about tournament poker is that there are situations where it's in the entire table's benefit to not play hands; to stall the clock so short stacks at other tables can bust out before them so they can move up in the money — and we're talking about significant money.

So to counter that and to be able to have more tools to give my guys, we need to keep the game going at a good pace for the betterment of the tournament. And we need to bring back the respect among the poker players, so they can play as many hands as possible in the blind levels.

It doesn't benefit anyone if every hand is taking 10 to 15 minutes. All the information that you could think can be thought of relatively quickly. When you are playing for your tournament life, when you're all in, you should be able save that extra time that you need and use it in those particular situations.

Look, in tournament poker there is an inherent problem. Some people take longer than others to act on their hands, and we have to be able to intervene when that occurs so we can keep the pace of play going at a good rate.

Casino City: After nine years of the November Nine concept, this year's Main Event final table will be played two days after the participants are decided, rather than waiting until November. Now that we are a couple days away from getting to that point, how are you feeling about the decision?

Jack Effel: I think it's going to be good for the momentum. The players are going to get a little bit of a break with a couple days in between, so they'll be able to collect their thoughts and come in ready to play their game.

Obviously they won't have as much opportunity as they've had in the past to get some coaching, study their opponents, and get sponsorships and all of those things, but I think allowing the natural progression of the tournament to take place is a good thing.

With the live everyday coverage we have this year with the ESPN/Poker Central/PokerGO partnership, there's really no sense in having that four-month delay. Before, you had the packaged shows over several weeks and then we would lead into the live shows and play it out.

Now, you can see it every day. Now, you're seeing everything in real time. You know what's happening. It's not like we're putting the cart before the horse. We're letting the whole story play out from start to finish. Because you're doing that, I think it makes a lot of sense to just play it out.

Just like everything else, we're continually trying to shift the paradigm and move things forward, and figure out what's good for the game in the long run. And this is something we believe strongly is the best for the game.

Gary Trask
Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has worked as a writer and editor more than 20 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

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