A shocker but not really … Jeffrey Pollack and Harrah’s are breaking up.
The WSOP Commissioner, President, and Twitterer in Chief‘s last day with Harrah’s and the World Series is today.
“I’ve made the decision after four years of successfully leading the WSOP as a global sports and entertainment property,” he says. “[Today] is my last day. Friday the 13th.”
Pollack — who has never played a poker tournament — took over the reigns shortly after the 2005 WSOP, the first year Harrah’s ran the 35-year-old tournament series bought from Binion’s.
The list of accomplishments under his aegis include drawing more competitors from more countries (putting it on par with the Olympics in terms of numbers), supporting women in poker, helping Don Cheadle and Annie Duke build Ante Up for Africa into a Hollywood A-list charity event, and working closely with players (via the Players Advisory Council) to steadily improve what is undeniably the biggest and arguably the best annual festival of poker tournaments in the world. He credits his team for incorporating TV broadcasting (most recently securing a new long-term contract with ESPN), new media, sponsorship, licensing, and summer-time side events that have made the Rio a real home for the WSOP and part of sure-to-endure poker lore.
“I’ve achieved everything I set out to do and more,” Pollack says.
In his 4 1/2 year stint, Pollack shepherded the World Series through it’s biggest boom year, 2006, and then its recovery period after the UIGEA. In 2008, WSOP-parent Harrah’s went from a publicly traded company to a private one, and in May of this year, created a new corporate step-parent — Harrah’s Interactive Entertainment — with attorney-turned online gambling exec Mitch Garber at the helm.
“All organizations change over the years,” Pollack says.
The new boss, Garber, of course, has navigated through the same turbulent industry waters … as the former CEO of PartyGaming (the WSOP’s biggest online gaming partner in 2006) and before that as Executive Chairman of FirePay and president and CEO of its parent, Optimal Group, an online gambling payment processor that settled two weeks ago with the US government for pre-UIGEA transgressions for $19.2 million.
A WSOP spokesman says: “We appreciate Jeffrey’s contributions over the past four years and wish him the best in the future. The World Series of Poker remains the market leader with this year’s tournament exceeding all expectations, and we are well positioned for the future. There is no intention at this time to replace the Commissioner role.”
Pollack describes the split amongst suits as amicable but “bittersweet”. The team he worked with — Ty Stewart, Seth Palansky, Craig Abrahams, Jack Effel, and many others — are all staying on board. Pollack is not sure what he will do next. He says possibilities include media, sports, entertainment, poker, and gaming.
“I’m very bullish on the future of poker. The industry is just hitting its stride,” he says.
“Maybe I’ll even play the main event next year.”
Read Wicked Chops for more on JP’s tenure at the WSOP.