Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Ten Things I Hate About Harrah's

Like most poker players who can't make it to Vegas for any part of the WSOP, I'm more than a little jealous of those who are there.

Not just for the thrill of competing for a bracelet, but for the buzz of all the side action. The total immersion in the poker culture, as documented so evocatively by the likes of Anthony Holden.

As I've said to others, the attachment felt by poker players to the WSOP is more than just financial. It has an emotional pull similar to that felt for our families, friends, or the sports teams we were brought up to support.

Just because the management are fools, we don't abandon our team. It's bigger than that. An inescapable gravitational force that draws us back no matter what.

Yet over the past few days, my WSOP envy has somewhat diminished as a succession of reports from the front have filled me with dismay at the mishandling of the entire event by Harrah's.

I'm the sort of guy who can stumble across a mediocre English 1st division game on Sky Sports - caring not a jot about the result - and within five minutes be frothing at the mouth about some diabolical tackle, or abysmal decision. I can't help getting annoyed, even when it doesn't affect me directly.

With that in mind, I've rattled off a list, in no particular order, of some of the idiocies imposed on the players (also known as paying CUSTOMERS) this year:

1. Pay the dealers properly - part 1. There have been multiple complaints about the poor quality of dealers, and the floor decisions during the event. Rumours abound of some of the tips from last year not making it to the staff, and changes to the pay calculations this year leaving employees short. If the staff are not competent and happy, the game isn't going to run smoothly.

2. Pay the dealers properly - part 2. As everyone knows, at the WSOP it's not just about the big tourneys, it's also about the cash games and STTs. Due to dealer shortages presumably caused by point 1, players are being forced to leave the Rio and play elsewhere due to huge waiting lists for side games.

3. The poker room rate - As usual, the players are getting stiffed. The rate offered to players is less than the rate some tourists are getting by just wandering in off the street.

4. The tax - UK (and some other European) players don't pay tax on poker winnings. So stop asking the players for money they don't owe from last year, and start paying out in full this year.

5. The cards - In the blue riband $50k HORSE event, which was juiced to the tune of approx $300k, Andy Bloch complained so vehemently about the poor quality of the cards that he was eventually given a penalty. The cards were marking easily, and this in various stud versions where the marking could provide a big edge.

6. The organisation - part 1. Changing the structure of an event without advance warning is a joke. Is it any surprise Harry Demetriou got so annoyed? I wouldn't expect that from a £20 game in my local cardroom.

7. The organisation - part 2. Today's event is a $1500 PLO freezout, err rebuy, err both! A new bracelet event added with just hours notice. Why? Who asked for it? Why was it agreed to? Is it all about the money?

8. It's the World Series of POKER - As pointed out on Blonde Poker, in 2001 Hold Em comprised about 40% of WSOP events, in 2006 it's more like 75%. The World Series should be about promoting poker - not exploiting those who play - by always going for the lowest common denominator.

9. Treating the players like crap - Miniscule food comps, eleven handed tables, alternate lists bigger than most regular tourneys. If the lists are too long, cap them. The smaller buy-in comps start with low chip stacks already. Stop exploiting the players by charging to run a crap shoot.

10. Show me the money - The tables are sponsored, the beer is sponsored, the TV rights are sold, the live update rights are sold, but the juice continues. There should be money ADDED - at least to the bigger buy-in events - instead the taking continues unabated.

Of course the players need to get their act together too. If they continue to let Harrah's push them around, things just won't improve.

I liked the suggestion by Julian Thew that players on the TV table could hit back by refusing to show their hole cards to the camera.

Unfortunately I couldn't locate the tourney T&Cs on the WSOP website, so I don't know if that would be a breach or not. If it's feasible, it would be a VERY effective bargaining tool. Worthy of investigation I think.

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