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Poker News | World Poker News

Harrahs Destroys WSOP Legacy

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In another life, I made a living as a computer consultant. Over the years many ideas were proposed and became the flavor of the day. One of these was ‘Expert Systems' and the idea was to take a stock program and provide it with RULES. This turned the program into an expert in a specific field. You could supposedly provide it with parameters and it would be: a chef, rocket scientist, or even a Jewish grandmother. It would offer you expert advise based on the type of expert it was. This never really worked but it was an interesting exercise in the world of computers.

All programs have some concept of the expert system. It is very specific and also very limited. Online poker rooms are a form of an expert system. Like the dealer in the brick and morter world, they assign the winning hand and maintain a standard set of poker rules. Some differ from the normal rules but they are consistent. In the real world human frailty is introduced. House rules vary and the employees of a poker room are charged with enforcing the house rules. Most of the time they succeed admirably.

What is the poker player entitled to? If he knows the room's rules he can expect they will fairly and consistently be enforced during his playing session. The next time he visits the room he will expect the same consistency. This is what you are entitled to from the room and you are paying a rake which implements a specific, limited contract.

Most of the above is a no-brainer. We may not bring it to the front of our consciousness when we sit down at a table but it is important when we ask for an interpretation. Dealers are as subject to human frailty as we players. If someone believes the rules have been misinterpreted he may appeal to the floor and have the issue fairly reinterpreted.

I have blogged more the last few days about poker than I had in months. The WSOP is the reason. The contract that is assumed when a poker player enters a room should be inviolate. Last year's tournament was the transition from the old version run by Binion's and the new Harrah's ownership. They hired a seasoned Tournament Director and the tournament succeeded admirably. For such huge fields over the many tournaments seated, the disputes were settled with professional standards. These tournaments were clearly defined with all the rules in place well before the start of play.

After the tournament, Johnny Groom, who was the director, left the employ of Harrah's. The remark was a cryptic one stating there was a dispute between him and management on how player's rights should be handled. This was a bit cryptic and quite interesting in hindsight. An attorney might refer to this year's WSOP as arbitrary and capricious. The rules and offering have been set in jello. They quiver from one set of rules to another on various days. The rules are the rules of the moment and anything but set in stone.

The question now becomes how could this happen. One of the transitions that Nevada has implemented over the years is a Gambling Commission to protect all interests. The various houses have benefited from this. They are now known to spread a fair game. If the Bellagio were the old era gambling house that did angle shooting to maximize the house profit, then the 'Big Game' that plays in Bobby's room would move down the street to a more reputable house. The Bellagio's integrity is what keeps the game playing there. The result is that each day they earn fees from the players by providing a consistent playing environment.

The WSOP is one of poker's premier events. If anything, it should be more scrupulous in providing a game that is fair and impartial and well defined. As the premier event it should provide premier management. This has seemed to become anything but the case. Every day a new problem seems to crop up that casts new questions of integrity. Poker's rise had been meteoric. It would seem unstopable. One of the things that can stop it is the question of integrity. Because the WSOP is poker's premier event it has premier impact on the game. The poker industry benefits from this expotential growth. People have and will continue to question it's sustainability. The number of increasing registrants at the WSOP is a major example used by the industry of poker's sustainability. Many rooms that hadn't spread poker in years have put new rooms in their casino. This is often at the cost of their slot machine business-their most lucrative offering. They have done this more as an attraction to their casino than an improver of their bottom line. If poker is no longer 'hot-hot-hot' those rooms could be reverted to slot play at what the casino would consider a low cost. This would cause the loss of casino jobs and impact the local economy-added employees are not required for slot play.

Harrah's has the capability to impact poker more than any other entity. This includes the online rooms that have contributed to the WSOP's expotential rise. If their clients find the WSOP less attractive in the future, they will spread fewer tournament that provide buyins to WSOP events. This will give the media and law makers an excuse to report or act against the rise of poker. Poker seems to be at a cross-road and another year of poor management could be a nail in the coffin of poker growth.

It is Harrah's day in the poker spotlight and it has failed miserably.

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