Demetriou answered our questions about some of the specific problems he’s seen and his perception of what is being done.
CC: The World Series of Poker has been a big part of your poker career. Take us through 2002 and 2003 as far as your experience playing at Binions.
Demetriou: I have to say I hated Binion’s as it appeared to be a run down dump but it was still the poker Olympics venue. 2002 was a novelty whilst 2003 was disappointing as I had regressed as a player as early success had probably gone to my head and I thought it was too easy. Nonetheless this was all part of my learning experience and it was obvious that to be successful I had to learn to adapt to large fields and widely varying skill in opponents.
CC: With Chris Moneymaker, poker caught lightning in a bottle. You were on the biggest stage in poker the following year, getting to the final two tables of the Main Event. What was noticeably different about the World Series in 2004 besides the larger field?
Demetriou: Can’t really recall anything other than bigger fields except for having to go 11 handed when tables were lost as they blocked exits onto Freemont Street.
One thing I did notice, however, was that there were a lot of people rooting for me in the crowds and it was great to have live audiences in close proximity to the players as the field whittled down to the last few tables in the old Bingo Hall at Binions.
CC: 2005 was the first year the entire World Series was at the Rio, and the fields increased even more. How would you describe last year compared to other years in terms of how the World Series was managed?
Demetriou: It’s difficult to say really. The numbers were so large that allowances have to be made. Nonetheless I was still not too pleased with the organizers. Overall they did a good enough job coping with the numbers of players but the main difference was the significant increase in No Limit Tournaments and the dilution of the value of a bracelet by having all those other bracelet events added towards the end.
CC: What were the most significant shortcomings that you saw last year?
Demetriou: Very poor floor staff and decisions being made. Even worse was that absolutely no one seemed to want to listen to any constructive suggestions that I or any other players had to offer.
CC: You’ve been vocal about issues this year, and I’d like to explore these in detail. First, let me ask a general question. Is the World Series of Poker different than other tournaments, and should it be?
Demetriou: Yes they are definitely different in that they represent the premier brand today in poker. Other prestigious events exist (eg WPT) but these are still the events and as such they should be different. That’s why it hurts so much to see them devalued and abused by Harrah’s.
CC: Before getting into specifics regarding events, what improvements have you seen at this year’s World Series compared to previous years you’ve been involved?
Demetriou: There have definitely been improvements but not enough of them in my opinion. But lets stick to the plusses. We have a few extra toilets and a food tent out back. There are more three day events and limits to day lengths. Additionally, the reintroduction of a mixed game event.
CC: What areas have been poor or need to be addressed?
Demetriou: Here are my concerns:
- Tournament of Champions eligibility.
- Late changes to formats (6 handed shootout when 9/10/11 handed was expected).
- Payout staff continually completing forms incorrectly, and it takes forever to get paid.
- Poor Floor Personnel, with little improvement over last year.
- Lack of communication with players
- Poor literature, including lack of literature about deductions.
- Registration difficulties and lack of consideration for overseas players.
- Perceived general lack of concern for integrity of game and players themselves.
CC: You’ve been very vocal about two events: the $50k H.O.R.S.E event and the $2k Shootout. First, let’s talk about the HORSE event. What were your concerns about this event?
Demetriou: This appears to have been a blatant attempt to appease one or two high profile players who wanted it. I have no problem with the event itself, but it smacks of elitism. They should have had mixed games with lesser buy-ins and not just $50k. They made it clear that $2000 was being deducted from each entry, and I refuse to pay this much for any high profile event that takes out so much even though it was a mere 4%. As a result, I chose to not play and boycotted it for these reasons. It also was ridiculous to have a No Limit final table when all the other levels were fixed limits. It seemed a bit contradictory really, but then the television wanted it.
CC: Were any of those concerns allayed having seen the tourney run to completion?
Demetriou: Not really, but it was very disappointing to see that the players had to go all night long until 9:00am on day 2. They should have made provision to extend it after consultation with the players. They got a high class field and final table. I am glad I didn’t play but will not castigate those that did.
CC: Let’s talk about the Shootout next. It’s a bit ironic that you were so upset, as with your short-handed success at the WSOP, the altered format played to your strength. First, give us the details of what happened.
Demetriou: After 10 stacks were laid out on every table and around 15 minutes of play, it was decided that there would be a 6 handed table shootout format. I was disgusted that this decision had been made as it was a drastic deviation from what was expected by the overwhelming majority of players. They tried to defend it with their published structure but this was very ambiguously presented and as such a weak argument as there is no way they would have had 100 heads up matches if only 200 entered. Anyway on the announcement, I wanted to see a senior tournament official and called for the floor. I then demanded a full refund as this was a drastic change from expected and screamed and shouted how disgraceful this was and disrespectful to the players. The floor person (not giving me any warning at all) then told me to shut up, so I screamed and shouted at him for a senior floor person and Jeffrey Pollack to attend. He then picked up my chips and told me I was disqualified and got security to evict me. I asked for an appeal with a senior floor person but was told they were too busy. Eventually around 40 minutes later, a senior official offered to reinstate me or refund my money. I took the refund as I felt it was inappropriate for me to play the altered format even though it grossly suited me over my rival players.
CC: What were the biggest reasons you were upset about the changes?
Demetriou: They showed disrespect to the players and the integrity of the game itself and more specifically the way in which they introduced the change after play had started. This is totally unacceptable and could not be allowed to go through unchallenged.
CC: What has happened since you left the event?
Demetriou: I got a refund and an audience with Jeffrey Pollack and other senior WSOP officials. As a consequence I believe there has been a major step forward in Player/WSOP Management relations and a vehicle is being established whereby beneficial change for players and organizers will result.
CC: Do you feel the management of the WSOP has been responsive to the players’ feedback?
Demetriou: Not up until now but I believe we now have a real opportunity to go forward together in the future.
CC: Should they be?
Demetriou: They must be responsive or the WSOP will die and rivals will usurp them. We will never agree on everything or totally get our own way, but things will hopefully improve.
CC: Now a day removed from these events, what are your plans for the rest of the World Series?
Demetriou: After my meeting with WSOP officials I will play a few more events ending with the main event. Had the meeting not taken place or been so fruitful I would never have played another WSOP event. Thankfully that is not the case and so I can now refocus on trying to win a WSOP bracelet and not have to worry about cutting my own nose off to spite my face. I and other players can be the WSOP best allies and friends but to date they have been unable to utilize our expertise in helping them keep the WSOP as the premier series of events.
Read Part I – a background and player interview on Harry.