Big Changes at the 2006 WSOP
Feb 13, 2006  
2006 Jason Kirk  

Early 2006 has been heavy on the transitions for Harrah's, owners of the World Series of Poker and (at last count) 199 out of every 200 casinos around the world. One of the first big changes was to the 2006 WSOP schedule. Upon its original release, many players had criticized for its lack of games other than hold'em. In response, Harrah's added a $50,000 HORSE tournament to make up for the lack of mixed games. They also allowed players in the Main Event to request particular starting days, with 4 days of 2,000 seats apiece being scheduled. The changes did not address all player complaints, but did show that Harrah's would at least try to respond to its customers' needs.

The next big change came in the form of the resignations of key WSOP staff. 2005 WSOP Director of Tournament Operations Ken Lambert left the company in enough time to head up the World Poker Open for his new employer, rival casino chain MGM-Mirage. Then came the resignations of 2005 WSOP Tournament Director Johnny Grooms and Assistant Tournament Director Jack Effel. Grooms and Effel headed up the team that ran the entire 2005 WSOP and were well-known for their popularity among players. After the completion of the Jack Binion WSOP Circuit main event at Grand Casino Tunica, Grooms and Effel announced that they would be leaving their posts at the head of the WSOP. With these departures, Harrah's suddenly had big shoes to fill.

Then came the announcement of an alliance between Harrah's and IMG, the giant sports and entertainment marketing firm, to help market the WSOP in the United States and around the world. "IMG has a strong heritage of successfully working with global sports and entertainment properties and we share Harrah's vision for the future of the World Series of Poker," said Andy Pierce, senior corporate vice president, IMG. "We are committed to applying our global marketing, media and licensing resources to continue to build this world-class, five-diamond brand."

Just recently, Harrah's named its new WSOP Tournament Director. Robert Daily, who is currently manages to poker room at Rio in Las Vegas, will make the transition to taking charge of the largest poker tournament in history. Aiding him in running the 2006 WSOP will be Michael Matts, poker room manager at Caesars Palace Las Vegas. Daily, 62, becomes the third tournament director for the WSOP in the last three years, following in the steps of the much younger Matt Savage and Johnny Grooms. Luckily for him, there will be more on-the-floor relief for him and his assistant than there was for previous tournament directors: they will be working in two shifts each day at this year's WSOP to avoid burnout and possible mistakes on the floor.

Former TD Johnny Grooms and his assistant Jack Effel haven't strayed too far since leaving their WSOP posts. WSOP Director of Communications and Operations Gary Thompson recently said that Grooms had been interviewed for a position related to the new partnership with IMG, and that Effel has accepted a position with Harrah's as the manager of the poker room at the Horseshoe Casino in Tunica, MS. That puts him right next door to his old boss, Ken Lambert, who now runs all poker operations at the neighboring Gold Strike Casino.

With all the changes, it's hard to say what sort of impact any one of them will have on this year's WSOP, but all players can still hope that the 2006 WSOP will be an overall improvement from last year's version.

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