On the first day of the 2009 WSOP Main Event, I had the opportunity to follow WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack as he went about his business. With the exception of a one-hour mid-day meeting and an appreciation dinner, Pollack never stayed in one place very long, moving from room to room, interview to interview, and person to person.
010:44 am: Jeffrey Pollack’s day starts long before he gets to the Rio, with phone calls and emails all morning. Pollack arrives to the Rio around 10:30 am and heads straight to his shared office (which he affectionately calls “The Bunker”).
After settling in, he spends about ten minutes choosing music to play in the Amazon Room in the time leading up to “Shuffle up and deal.” Pollack decides that each starting day will feature music from a different decade, starting with the 1970s (when the WSOP first began) for Day 1a, and progressing through the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s for the next three days.
110:50 am: Jeffrey Pollack chats with WSOP Vice President Ty Stewart, who is double-checking some of the sponsor swag that waits for the players (Jack Link’s beef jerky and a seat cushion from Everest Poker).
210:53 am: Jeffrey Pollack checks in with WSOP Head of Communications Seth Palansky in the press room.
310:55 am: Jeffrey Pollack stops by the cage to check on the day’s registration numbers with Daniel Vogel. Pollack is pleased with the numbers so far.
411:06 am: Tony Spencer, head of WSOP Security, checks in with Jeffrey Pollack about a minor security issue that’s already been handled. No, it was nothing dangerous, but Spencer keeps Pollack informed of things throughout the day.
511:17 am: Jeffrey Pollack walks through the Pokerpalooza to check out the vendors, and stops to say hello to 2007 WSOP Main Event champion Jerry Yang, who is signing autographs.
611:19 am: Poker pro Annie Duke pulls Jeffrey Pollack aside for a quick conversation on the floor of the Pokerpalooza.
711:23 am: It wasn’t planned this way, but since Jeffrey Pollack is here for the start of Annie Duke’s class at the WSOP Academy booth, he takes the opportunity to introduce her to the crowd. He introduces her as both a top professional player and a close friend.
811:27 am: Jeffrey Pollack stops by the “Mike Sexton Suite” to wish Sexton good luck in the tournament. While online poker sites aren’t allowed to have sponsored suites in recent years, they have created unbranded suites around some of the top players, such as Sexton, Phil Hellmuth, Chris Ferguson, and Joe Hachem.
911:32 am: Jeffrey Pollack stops in the hallway to chat with ESPN producer Matt Maranz (right) and a few others. With half an hour before the start of the Main Event, the hallways are starting to fill up with players.
1011:44 am: Jeffrey Pollack visits with the writers and reporters on Media Row about 15 minutes before the action begins. Pollack notices that there is no music in the Amazon Room — his playlist should have been running since 11:20 am, but the sound system is silent.
1111:48 am: ESPN Producer Dave Swartz has some bad news for Jeffrey Pollack — they had to turn off the music in the Amazon Room. It’s a bit complicated, but if there is music on ESPN’s background audio, they have to clear the rights before they can use the footage. Pollack is bummed, but he negotiates one song — “Benny and the Jets” — that will play in the final minutes before the day begins.
1211:54 am: As the media gathers to record “Shuffle up and deal,” Jeffrey Pollack chats with Seth Palansky (left) and WSOP Head Tournament Director Jack Effel.
1311:59 am: Jeffrey Pollack removes the Main Event bracelet from his pocket and sets it in a safe place for a few minutes until it’s needed during the ceremony.
1412:01 pm: Jeffrey Pollack introduces WSOP Head Tournament Director Jack Effel to the crowd so he can go over the opening announcements and some reminders on the rules.
1512:05 pm: When the announcements are complete, Jeffrey Pollack presents the WSOP Main Event bracelet to the crowd to remind everyone what they’re playing for.
1612:06 pm: Jeffrey Pollack brings the Jack Link’s mascot, Sasquatch, onto the stage to give the traditional “Shuffle up and deal.” Since Sasquatch only speaks in grunts and growls, Pollack ends up translating for him. Here, Sasquatch examines the bracelet after Pollack asks him to keep it safe during the Main Event. (Sasquatch will get a little help from WSOP security, of course.)
1712:17 pm: Once the action is underway on Day 1a, Jeffrey Pollack gives Sasquatch a tour of the WSOP. Sasquatch draws a lot of attention as they walk through the field, but both players and fans want to meet Sasquatch and pose for photos. Pollack has wanted a WSOP costumed mascot for years, because he feels that “Everyone loves mascots.” While Sasquatch got a lot of confused expressions at first, the crowd quickly warms up to him.
1812:19 pm: Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune has been covering the World Series of Poker for years, and he briefly interrupts the tour to ask Pollack a few quick questions.
1912:26 pm: Jeffrey Pollack gives Sasquatch the full WSOP tour, from final tables to media row to the behind-the-scenes areas like the Dealer Breakroom. It was around this point that I realized that Sasquatch was receiving the exact same tour that NHL Commissioner (and Pollack’s half-brother) Gary Bettman received a few weeks ago.
20NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman (right) may be a bit upset when he learns that he got the same tour as the Jack Link’s Sasquatch. (This photo is from WSOP Day 22.)
2112:31 pm: Sasquatch asks for an extra large WSOP t-shirt in the gift shop across from the Amazon Room. The full VIP tour includes a walkthrough to look at the wide variety of merchandise available.
2212:40 pm: ESPN Correspondent Heather Ankeny asks Pollack for an unscheduled interview, and is surprised that he is ready to go immediately. Ankeny sends a message to her camera crew to meet her at the center of the Amazon Room.
2312:44 pm: A few minutes later, Pollack is on camera to talk to ESPN about the Main Event and Day 1a.
2412:55 pm: The entities from Wicked Chops meet Jeffrey Pollack in the Amazon Room to record the Commissioner’s Video Blog. Unlike his numerous interviews, this is Pollack’s opportunity to talk about the things he wants to talk about.
2501:50 pm: Jeffrey Pollack returns to the main cage to check the day’s registration numbers with Jack Effel. They are both pleased with the numbers so far as registration is about to close. There are about 1,100 players for Day 1a, with about 4,300 registered for all four days so far. (The official number for Day 1a would be 1,116 players.) Confident that the field will easily reach the 5,000 mark, Pollack begins using that information in his interviews (“at least 5,000 players”).
2601:53 pm: Jeffrey Pollack stops for another unscheduled interview, this time with Mauritz Kechmiri of Poker.se (a Swedish poker website). Pollack hasn’t turned down a single interview request all day.
2702:24 pm: Jeffrey Pollack goes over his notes before the final bracelet ceremony of the summer, which will also include the presentation of the David “Chip” Reese Trophy for the winner of the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event.
2802:37 pm: David Bach (center) receives the David “Chip” Reese Trophy from WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack (left) and WSOP Head Tournament Director Jack Effel. The top of the trophy is Bach’s to keep for the year.
2902:58 pm: The bottom half of the H.O.R.S.E. trophy stays at the Rio, where it will be engraved with David Bach’s name as the 2009 champion. Around 3:00 pm, Jeffrey Pollack grabbed a sandwich from the food stand outside the Brasilia Room and went into a closed-door one-hour meeting.
30This photo was taken earlier in the WSOP, as Jeffrey Pollack was leisurely walking through the Brasilia Room to chat with players like Ali Nejad. Pollack usually does this at least once or twice a day, but on Day 1a of the Main Event, he couldn’t find the time.
31This photo was taken earlier in the WSOP, as Jeffrey Pollack checks in with TD Bob Smith on the second day of one of the bracelet events. They also noticed that they were wearing nearly identical outfits.
32This photo was taken earlier in the WSOP, as Jeffrey Pollack sent out a Twitter message shortly before the final table of the Champions Invitational. Pollack keeps himself accessible to players, staff, and media, both in person and electronically. Pollack also sets aside time to respond to emails several times a day.
3305:54 pm: With the closed-door meeting over, Jeffrey Pollack uses some Purell on his hands as he chats with WSOP Head of Communications Seth Palansky and WSOP Events Manager Angele Marshall. Pollack says there are three things he needs to personally get through the WSOP: water, Isogenics Bars, and Purell.
3406:35 pm: The VooDoo restaurant at the top of the Rio has a long table waiting for Jeffrey Pollack’s appreciation dinner for the WSOP Players’ Advisory Council (PAC).
3507:18 pm: Jeffrey Pollack chats with Robert Williamson III as players and the WSOP staff arrive for the PAC appreciation dinner.
36Jeffrey Pollack invited one of his friends from his days in the sports industry, Josh Greenberg (standing), to be a special guest speaker, addressing the Players’ Advisory Council on the subject of the global economic crisis. Pollack also invited Laine Kline (seated, center), a film executive from Los Angeles and one of Pollack’s best friends.
3710:43 pm: After the PAC appreciation dinner, Jeffrey Pollack walks back to the Amazon Room with Annie Duke, and she is stopped in the hallway by a 71-year-old fan from Jacksonville, Florida who won her way into the Main Event via satellite and proudly survived Day 1a. Annie excitedly introduces the woman to Commissioner Pollack.
3811:01 pm: With Day 1a ending early (after four levels), most of the players have left the Amazon Room when Jeffrey Pollack and Annie Duke return. Andrew Feldman (right) of ESPN is interviewing actor Jason Alexander (center) who finished Day 1a as one of the chipleaders. Jason Alexander asks Annie to evaluate one of his key hands, while Pollack (not pictured) slinks away to check in with the floor staff.
3911:20 pm: At the end of a fairly short day, Jeffrey Pollack packs up his Toyota Prius with Laine Kline (center) and Josh Greenberg (not pictured). They are headed to the Wynn Casino to make an appearance at a birthday party for a friend in the poker media.
40The moon sets after midnight over the Rio Casino.