WSOP 2011: A day with Jack Effel

wsop2011-thumb-blog.pngEver wonder what goes on behind the scenes at the World Series of Poker? We decided to be Jack Effel's shadow shortly before the Main Event kicked off. Effel is the vice president of international poker operations and director of the World Series of Poker. He has executed some of the biggest live poker events in history for over a decade and this is his sixth year as director of the WSOP.

Many events at the 42nd Annual World Series of Poker hit record-setting attendance numbers. We've seen Effel running around the Rio, awarding bracelets, kicking off tournaments, and making sure every event runs smoothly. We wanted to dive deeper and see what it's really like to direct the biggest poker event of the year. We'll put you in his shoes, show you what it's like in the days leading up to the Main Event, and show you what he does in a typical day at the Rio.

We started our day together when Jack arrived bright and early at 10:00 a.m. to begin his day at the Rio. The Amazon room was quiet when we met with WSOP media and ESPN production heads. The meeting was about the upcoming ESPN schedule and the broadcast of the Poker Player's Championship Final Table that will was to take place.

They discussed everything from the types of chips that will be used on TV to when it will air on ESPN3, ESPN2, and ESPN. There are so many details that need to be discussed, such as when dinner breaks will be so they line up with ESPN2's schedule, when the color ups will take place so the chips look good on camera, and how the tables in the room will break during the Main Event so that ESPN will be able to get the best coverage. The only other people in the room are the ESPN crew prepping the "Thunder Dome" to make it ready for ESPN and the final table.

Right after the meeting we were on the move again scurrying through different rooms of the Rio looking for a phone so Jack can call in to ESPN radio Cleveland to do an interview. We secured a phone in the Pavilion room, where Jack talked to the station about the WSOP, the potential Horseshoe Casino that will open in Cleveland with a poker room, and about the Main Event just days away. Immediately after the interview Jack kicked off the noon $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em event and unveiled Jonathan Duhamel's Main Event champion banner that will grace the rafters in the Amazon room.

Immediately after the kick-off Jack was approached by various people asking questions about the schedule for the day. He met with some of the tournament directors to go over details for the rest of the day.


Jack Effel

The next part of the day consisted of visiting with different poker supervisors to coordinate the multiple tournaments that were going on. He needed to find tables for the growing noon event that had over 2,500 runners, the mega satellites, and the cash games that were going on all inside the Pavilion room. There were also tournaments that started later in the day so the breaking order of the tables needed to be determined in order to make room for every event.

After going over logistics for most of the morning Jack had a little time to answer mentions in his Twitter feed. Most of them had to do with tournaments and starting times. We talked a little bit about how great social media, especially Twitter, has been for the WSOP. Twitter allows Jack to answer questions on the spot for numerous people at the same time. It is also a good way to get information out that is time sensitive.

We continued our day and Jack scanned the room to make sure there was a poker supervisor in each area and that there were enough dealers for each section. We checked in with each of the supervisors to see if they needed anything. We visited Charlie, one of the supervisors in the blue section where the Poker Players Championship was set to restart later that day. The tables set aside for it were the wrong ones since they did not have automatic shufflers. Jack resolved the issue within minutes.

After the Amazon room sweep, Jack was visited by the head of security with some problems going on in the cage area. The lines were so long for registration for each of the events and there were people everywhere. We swung by the cage to fix the problem and worked on figuring out the puzzle to getting people registered for the $1,500 event and the 1:00 p.m. Mega-Satellite.

We found some time to grab a quick bite to eat while fixing the registration problem and preparing for the bracelet ceremony. Jack awarded two bracelets from the main stage that day. He read a short biography, presented the winner with headphones, a Diamond card, and of course the gold bracelet. He then resumed the $1,500 noon tournament at the end of the ceremony.

When business was finished with the conclusion of the ceremony we made another complete sweep of both the Amazon and Pavilion rooms. Jack had been strategizing with the tournament supervisors to figure out where to put the over 4,000 players that would be playing in the various tournaments. The tables began filling up at 10:00 a.m when the $550 Mega-Satellite started. The noon $1,500 event brought in over 3,000 players. The deepstack that started at 2:00 p.m. was pushed back to 4:00 p.m. because of the long registration lines and more tables were. On top of all that there was the restart of the Poker Player's Championship and the start of the$5,000 Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-low Split-8 or better to worry about.

The later it got in the day, it became more clear that Jack isn't just the voice behind the microphone. We have been busy running around the Rio all day. Everyone we ran into and met with kept telling us that Jack knows this business better than anyone else. For instance, we met with Kevin, a supervisor who told us that Jack has been telling everyone for days that this day was going to be a busy one. He was right. Jack told us that it was been the busiest day of the Series so far. He managed to give a brief interview for Bluff Magazine when they pulled him aside in the hallway and then he scurried off to a private meeting with some players to discuss how to make the Series more player friendly.

As Jack was leaving his meeting he was pulled into the Amazon room to make a ruling at the $50,000 Poker Player's Championship. A player had used derogatory language and directed it towards another player. Jack decided that an appropriate ruling would be a one hand penalty, rather than a whole round. The player was obviously very upset and tension was high since there are only a few players left in the tournament. Jack says he makes decisions like these everyday and thought that the penalty was needed. After the ruling we went back to the media center to meet with supervisors and make sure the events were going as planned. The biggest issue of the day was dealing with logistics. With 408 tables, and over 5,000 players looking to play, the events need to be strategically planned around one another to make it all work. Jack oversees all of this and helps fix the daily problems that arise from running a tournament of this scale.

When his day ended at the Rio, he headed home to relax and take care of his new twin babies. Even when he is at home he says he will get phone calls throughout the night to deal with situations that happen during the tournament.