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Poker News | World Poker News

Changes at WPA - Jones Steps Back, Others Step Up

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Significant changes began to come to the fore in June of 2008 when Wendeen Eolis resigned from her leadership position at the World Poker Association (WPA) and several other members of the Board of Directors followed her out. Founder Jesse Jones stepped back into the leadership role and subsequently reconfigured the focus of his organization in order to concentrate more on tournament players’ needs. As the months went by, more changes were in the works.

In November of 2008, Jones wrote a letter to WPA members with updates on the organization. He noted that the only board members remaining after Eolis’ departure were he and Blair Rodman, and within months, Rodman left as well. Admitting that it was difficult to find other board members to join the WPA in its efforts due to philosophical differences with himself, he was again in the position of asking for support and a belief in what the WPA stands for.

Jones’ hope for the WPA is to represent the tournament poker players of the world. He noted that the number of individuals who entered poker tournaments in 2008 is nearly 500,000, and while the casinos and poker tour organizers make the money, he asserts that the players deserve representation and a piece of the tournament pie. But without a thriving WPA, he is unable to do that.

He wrote, “I take full responsibility for falling short in leading the WPA. As much as I’d like to I am unable to continue to fight the good fight in a leadership capacity. Because of declining health I am happy to continue to serve on a WPA Board but will not be able to be its leader. I also have severely curtailed my tournament playing due to stamina issues.”

His letter went on to ask 3 - 5 of the WPA’s members to submit their credentials for positions on the WPA Board of Directors. And he received responses, as was evident by the recent appointment of two members to the board - Tom Franklin and John Leontakianakos.

Franklin is a long-time professional poker player, having begun his poker career in 1970 and accumulated more than 50 tournament wins, including a World Series of Poker bracelet, during that time. In addition to earning more than $1.5 million in tournaments, he also served as the Corporate Director of Games Compliance for Lyle Berman and the Grand Casinos, which included the task of writing all games procedures and poker rules. Known as “Captain” Tom Franklin in the poker community, he is also known as a husband and father of five in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Leontakianakos is not as well-known on the tournament circuit as Franklin, but he has been a high-stakes poker player for more than 31 years on an international level. His career, however, is of a different nature, as he moved from the world of investment banking to now working as the co-founder and senior vice president of the finance department of GateKeeper USA, an organization with America’s Homeland Security realm. The Lebanese native brings connections to finance and the international poker scene to the WPA table.

Upon Leontakianakos’ acceptance of the position on the WPA’s Board of Directors, he said, “It is sincerely an honor to have been selected by Jesse Jones, the founder of the WPA, to contribute in this effort. There is a great deal of work to be done in this arena. Ranging from standardized rules; improving player conditions; assisting in the legalization of poker worldwide; and representing player interests to insure proper compensation as professionals.”

The WPA Board, with Franklin and Leontakianakos taking on the challenge presented by Jones, continues to seek other members to fill the empty seats. As an organization that hopes to represent poker players on a worldwide basis, Jones looks to bring more of those pros to the board and keep his WPA dream alive.

More information about the WPA and its 1,400-member base can be found at

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