Jeff Shulman to Shake Up Poker Industry

Taking It to the Next Level, He Says?

by , Aug 25, 2009 | 7:04 pm

In the last edition of Card Player Magazine that I may receive (canceled the subscription after his initial WSOP comments), November Nine member Jeff Shulman takes the sly opportunity to make another unclear accusation point about the WSOP and Harrah’s.

To refresh memories, Shulman was headed for the final table of the WSOP Main Event in July and made some comments regarding the possibility of winning the bracelet, namely that he would throw the gold in the trash. Two days later, published a story allowing Shulman to clarify his feelings. He noted therein that he was disappointed in how the WSOP is run, and that it is no longer run by people who care about poker or have the players in mind. Some of his comments:

“Look, I love poker and entered with the hopes of winning,” Shulman stated. “But, more importantly, I support making the industry stronger and better for the players, and to do this, there needs to be some major changes to the way the World Series is run at the highest level. Hopefully, by doing something like this, people will start talking about those changes. I am going to stand by my commitment, but instead of pointlessly throwing it in the trash, I have come up with a few ideas.”

Jeff Shulman’s alternative bracelet ideas:
1. Auction off the bracelet and give the money to charity
2. Hold a tournament for all players shut out of the main event and award the winner the bracelet
3. Give the bracelet away in a tournament
4. Give the bracelet to Stephen Colbert

As the Card Player Media President and COO, Shulman has the magazine at his disposal in which to write a lengthy explanation of what is so wrong with Harrah’s and how he could fix poker. Instead, though, a page in the September 1 issue is dedicated (as always) to the Card Player TV show entitled “The Scoop with Adam & Diego,” and this time Shulman was the guest and excerpts were printed from the interview. Right off the bat, Diego Cordovez asked a question that baffled me coming from someone in the poker press:

“Now, the last couple of days, the poker press, what there is of it, has started to quote you and stir up controversy, which you initiated…”

Anyhooo, his answer? “…I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say that somebody’s got to do something about it. I’m not sure I’m the right guy, being that I’m in the industry, but it’s not like we have some special relationship here. They hate us, for whatever reason… I think they hate anyone who’s not a celebrity, or maybe it’s just that they treat the celebrities so much better than everyone else that they have special rules, they don’t get penalties. I’ve never seen anything like it. If we really want to take poker to the next level, you can’t have different rules for different people.”

Evidently, by disrespecting the WSOP bracelet and Harrah’s (and all the players who would do anything to be in his final table position), he plans to take poker to the next level. Would that be the rude and insulting level? Would that be the vague and evasive level? Would love to hear some thoughts on this issue…

(The opinions/insinuations herein are Cali Jen’s views and not necessarily those of Pokerati or Pokeratizens.)

23 Comments to “Jeff Shulman to Shake Up Poker Industry”

  1. Ed

    I have an alternate ending for him.

    5. He busts out in 5th place.

  2. Kevin Mathers

    From yesterday, Shulman on the Poker Show Live from the UK:

    When asked what he would do to change the WSOP, he says little. He mentioned a claim of “some guy” (not saying Hellmuth) who got his rebuy refunded to him while he got smashed at a UB party. At least he’s actually involved in the magazine while Dad’s on yet another trip around the world.

    Maybe as it gets closer to November, he’ll actually publish something in the magazine about these various critiques.

  3. California Jen

    Ed, it would be nice if karma did its job.

    Kevin, I don’t believe he has any ideas for improvements, but that’s my opinion…and I must admit I don’t know the guy whatsoever. Despite what he says, he sounds bitter about past media rights encounters, and if he wants it to sound any different, he should say something intelligent. You run a magazine, Happy! Write something!

  4. DanM

    @Jen, you actually paid money for CardPlayer? You know they give that thing away!

    ***He mentioned a claim of “some guy” (not saying Hellmuth) who got his rebuy refunded to him while he got smashed at a UB party.***

    I wonder where he read that. Im pretty sure it wasn’t CardPlayer, ha ha:

  5. Kevin Mathers

    Happy didn’t mention the UB party part, but it’s part of his comments about special treatment for the poker superstars.

  6. California Jen

    Dan, I don’t go to the casinos regularly (understatement), so I don’t get the freebie mags.

  7. Poker Shrink

    IMHO, Jeff Shulman has the right to say whatever he wants about the WSOP. Maybe even more of that right now because he is one of the November Nine. He did make it that far after all. Yes, I do wish he were a bit more articulate and would use his platform at CardPlayer to be explicit but if he did there would be critics who would say he was abusing his rights as a publisher.

    On the other hand, poker media, what there is of it! also have the right to observe and write what they want. However, we all know that name poker players get some special privileges. I personally have no problem with Phil calling in to register or the other Phil having someone at Full TIlt handle his buy-ins. These guys bring in a lot of fans, cash and media coverage, who cares if they get some perks. Rules at the tournament table are a different story–equal enforcement is the only fair way to go and we have all seen the professionals get preferential treatment there.

    But what troubles me the most is all of this noize. Let Happy say what he wants but as poker media why not speak the the real problems with the WSOP. Certainly there are changes of substance that could and should be addressed without getting sidetracked with pointless drama.

  8. Champ

    I think this presents itself as an opportunity to get the full story.

  9. DanM

    The funniest part is that he is a magazine publisher … that’ a pretty powerful position, ya know! I mean, um … he could always do a cover story: What’s wrong with WSOP and How to Fix It … or even just write a publisher’s note saying as much. (Because really, I do understand why a trade journal might not want to be so dramatic.)

    Apparently Happy Shulman is the kinda guy who likes to whine and then expects other people to do the work for him? Just a guess — I don’t know the guy, so have no idea if that’s his MO, but it seems plausible.

    But let me ask the rest of you poker media this: is anyone really upset or offended by any of this? I’ll reserve fun-making of Jen for later … but I’ve honestly never known anyone who actually canceled a subscription because of something someone said. I mean what do we care about the WSOP? We don’t work for them. It’s not like he’s saying the WSOP is a sham because they let black people in.

    I personally dig the side-show he’s created. Will be interesting to see WSOP execs faces on ESPN should he, say, take down a huge put via fortunate river card.

  10. JW

    As a past roommate and friend of Happy, I can say that he is a great person and his contributions to moving poker forward in its popularity can not be ignored. He is a person who likes to “stir the pot” and then sit back and watch it all play out…this quote and this whole controversy is classic Happy.

    Harrah’s is a two faced corporation and many of Happy’s points about their handling of the WSOP are more than valid. They tout responsible gaming while their biggest whale, Terrance Wantanabe claims they supplied him with endless booze and prescription pills to keep him at the tables. They took a great, high-end property ( The Rio) and made it crap and are currently in the process of doing the same with Caesars. These examples are consistent with classic Harrah’s ever since they were the Promus corporation under the watch of Phil Satre…

    Happy has the right to make any of these comments and “the media” is blowing this simple comment way out of proportion.

    You all need to take a xanax and chill……

  11. California Jen

    @Shrink – I’m definitely not saying that Shulman shouldn’t speak up. By all means, say something, but say SOMETHING. Vague accusations won’t get him very far. And you say that the poker media should speak up about “real problems” with the WSOP. If I had a real problem, you better believe I’d say something. But since I don’t, I’ll leave it to others to voice concerns if they have them.

    @Dan – I do my best not to patronize businesses with which I have sincere disagreements. Not to bring politics in, but an example of late is that 36 (and counting) sponsors have pulled advertising from the Glenn Beck show. Clearly, people think he’s over the top, and they’ve pulled away. Boycotts work, and I know I’m definitely not the only one who canceled a CardPlayer subscription in the last month. I’m not pushing that move on anyone; just saying that it’s my way of expressing my disgust with Mr. Shulman.

  12. California Jen

    @JW – I disagree that the media is blowing this out of proportion. Do you not think that if some big pro golfer said he would take a prestigious trophy and toss it in the trash that it wouldn’t be covered by the media? Yes, this is poker, but Shulman’s comments about the WSOP bracelet need to be addressed.

    You’re making some serious claims about Harrah’s and the WSOP, and if those are the kinds of things Shulman is aware of and wants to expose, why not take his grand forum and start outlining those examples? Vague references to wrongdoing make his point fall flat, so if he really has a genuine beef, he needs to say it. He has the right to say anything he chooses, but if he doesn’t back up his claims with specifics (or at least solid accusations), no one can take him seriously.

    My whole point of this post was not to slam Shulman for disliking Harrah’s (and evidently the poker media), but that he needs to be specific and give some examples of what’s wrong and how he’d like to see it fixed. Otherwise, he has no point.

  13. DanM

    ***I’m not pushing that move on anyone; just saying that it’s my way of expressing my disgust with Mr. Shulman.***

    But why “disgust”? Who cares? He has some opinions, I have opinions, you have opinions … all good! Do his anti-harrah’s sentiments really take away from the quality of all their Full Tilt ass-kissing we have come to expect from CardPlayer?


    I happen to be a big fan of the WSOP, and think they do a pretty good job as stewards of the game. But I don’t know everything … am more than happy (har har) to listen to folks’ beefs. (I also agree that the Rio is pretty much a dump, btw.)

    At best his desire to “trash” the precious bracelet makes me roll my eyes and smirk. As in like whatever.

    I swear I’m not trying to pick on you, Jen. I’m just trying to understand why disparaging the WSOP is seen as such a mortal sin. I’m totally down with not spending money on CardPlayer — I never would. But truth be told, Jeff Shulman’s willingness to express an unpopular, anti-industry opinion makes me more likely to pick it up for free.

  14. California Jen

    My disgust came from the way he went about expressing his opinion. To throw the WSOP bracelet in the trash? Uncalled for. If he simply chose to use an outlet to express his opinions about the WSOP, that would be perfectly fine, though if he felt so strongly, it makes no sense to me why he’d spend his money on WSOP tournaments. Regardless, I’m all for having and exchanging opinions, but when a person does it in such a tactless, rude way, that disgusts me.

  15. Vinny B.

    Hopefully this dope busts out in 7th place so we don’t have to hear any more from him. It is pretty clear that he is still upset about his rag being shut out of the WSOP a few years ago.

    If he actually wins the bracelet, he’ll do none of the above. He’ll keep it for himself. I doubt we’ll ever find out though.

    I read Card Player sometimes while I am waiting for a seat. It is garbage.

    I wish no one would even waste a minute of their time on hime, not this site, nor anyone else. F Him.

  16. DanM

    @Jen Fair enough.

    I think I get it. If he really wanted to look out for poker and help the WSOP be the best it could be, he’d graciously go on to win the event and use his status as a champion (and everything else in the industry he already has) to affect change from the inside.

    And if he really has a problem-problem with the WSOP, he shouldn’t be patronizing them — a la canceling a subscription — in an effort to muck up their gig. Doing so would be the equivalent of you (or anyone else) flaming CardPlayer’s forums to vocalize hatred of their product.

    @Vinny I agree, from a poker persepective … I’m thinking 4th or 5th place seems likely. And in a way, he has hindered himself — adding one more thing to think about beyond the cards themselves when it gets down to a few players. i’d like to think a win requires super-duper focus.

  17. Steve L.

    I agree with Happy for the most part.

    How would you feel if you ran Sports Illustrated and the NFL gave exclusive rights to the Superbowl to ESPN the Magazine? Like CardPlayer or not the have the highest circulation in the industry and they are treated poorly by the biggest event.

    As far as Harrah’s running the WSOP, they have, since they took over:
    – showed repated favoritism to poker celetrities. If you want examples, I can think of at least 5 offhand. This puts everyone else at a competitive disadvantage.
    – charge a fee to enter the WSOP main event… an event in which they earn millions in revenue (guarantteed through 2017). It’s obscene. the revenue they generate should easily wipe out any entry rake required for the main event.
    – have increased the percentage of fees in WSOP events since taking over.
    – and they handled day 1D extremely poorly

    As far as Happy doing a cover story on the WSOP / Harrah’s problems… that will look very transparent and he would get killed by the poker media, what there is of it 🙂

  18. Kevin Mathers

    CardPlayer had the rights to the WSOP, and they didn’t do a good enough job when they held them. The following year, they lost their rights/gave up their rights/were outbid for the rights (depending upon who you speak with)

    What would your five examples of special treatment be? I’m sure those in the poker media (what there is of it) could come up with plenty of examples.

    Harrah’s didn’t invent the idea of taking money out of the prize pool. When the WSOP at the Horseshow was run Becky and co. took their fair share out of the prize pool (and then some if you talk to certain dealers).

    As the fees have gone up, so have the costs to actually run the tournament. It’s not going to be the glory days when fields of under 200 were able to get a free buffet from the generosity of Jack and Benny Binion.

    The blame for day 1d has to be shared between the players and Harrah’s (I’m sure part of your list of 5 examples could include people who got in in the day 1d fiasco).

    The point of Jen’s post was that if Jeff Shulman’s upset about the way Harrah’s has treated CardPlayer or the players at the WSOP, then name names and give examples of how to improve the event. If you listen to his interview on the Poker Show Live that I linked, he mentioned himself that “the rake was the rake”.

  19. Steve L.

    Special Treatment by Harrahs… (and I am not in the “poker media”… this is just a few examples I am aware of from my very limited knowledge):

    1. Certain players got in on 1d after registration closed (you or I would have been SOL)

    2. Phil Hellmuth got a penalty for foul language and then got it overturned (do you think you or I could have appealed to have a penalty like that overturned???)

    3. Scotty using profanity and drunk during the HORSE tourney. (again, what do you think WSOP would have done if it was just you or I?)

    4. Scotty playing in a WSOP event a while back and showing up hours late. Refusing to play until he got a full stack (much of his stack had been blinded off). (again, do you think you or I would have been able to pull this off)

    5. Phil Hellmuth having attire with logos that greatly exceed the allowable size. Then the WSOP says it’s not that big a deal because of camera angles and such… give me a break (again, what would happen if you or I had a giantic logo on a jersey that greatly exceeded the limits).

    That’s 5. Give me a few days and I could probably come up with 5 more. In short, if you are not a poker celebrity you are at a competitive disadvantage. Don’t think for a second they treat all players equally.

    regarding taking money out of the prize pool, it’s true Harrah’s did not come up with that idea, they just expanded on it meanwhile their revenue (TV, licensing, etc) is, I would venture, about 10,000% greater than it was ten years ago and about 1000% greater than when the took over the WSOP.

    What other “sport”, with millions of TV viewers, takes money from the players?

  20. Kevin Mathers

    T.J. Cloutier and Patrik Antonius were among those shutout on day 1d.

    There was an article over at PokerNews Daily that mentioned there were almost 200 warnings/penalties/etc that were recorded in the database this year.

    The Scotty Nguyen profanity issue was attempted to be resolved with the recording of various indiscretions for the 2009 WSOP.

    Regarding logo sizes, I’m sure there were other people who had overly large logos besides Hellmuth. Also, I believe there were periods where they did cover up the UB in the circle when he appeared at the table.

    Also, poker’s not a sport, no matter how many times people try to make that claim.

  21. J

    in all seriousness, shulman needs to do the following things if he wins:

    1) get a black glove and throw his fist in the air

    2) help take poker to the next level by having the bracelet shot into outer space in hopes of promoting the game to potential alien news outlets

  22. Johnny Hughes

    Happy a.k.a. Grumpy has made a large error, not understanding our sound-bite world. He is the guy who said he would throw the bracelet in the trash. He will always be known for that sound bite.

    My dear friend, and long-time co-worker, Lloyd Maines’ daugher is Natalie of the Dixie Chicks. Her offhand remark about George Bush will always be part of her life, in a big way. Our Lubbock radio stations still boycott the home town girl made good.

    Being publisher of the oldest, and one of the biggest, poker magazines is a special, responsible position. Saying you would throw the bracelet in the trash insults all the bracelet holders, but also all the dreamers out there. I am sure it was an offhand remark. He should apologize heavily. Right or wrong is not an issue. It is the soundbite for life he should not be happy about.
    Dumb or smart, that is the issue.

  23. ThePokerPlayah

    A couple of points.

    1. Card Player Magazine is not even remotely close to being supported by its subscriptions. Boycotting will do nothing, remember, they give it away for free.

    2. Can anyone honestly come up with a better poker magazine than Card Player, the so called “trash” or “rag” of the industry? As far as I’m concerned, Bluff is the only thing that even comes remotely close in terms of quality and they have a serious issue with spelling errors, not to mention their habit of writing about unconfirmed forum rumors. (Their photos are fantastic, btw) I won’t even get into the others, who are pros at regurgitating press releases and results.

    3. Who cares? At least it’s a little bit of interest in these boring months leading up to November.