The news broke in the wee hours of the morning on Friday, November 13, 2009. And it took most of the poker world by complete surprise that World Series of Poker Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack was resigning from his position, effective immediately.
After the Las Vegas Review-Journal broke the news and poker blog sites like Pokerati and Wicked Chops Poker broadcast it to the poker industry, Pollack simply used his Twitter account to say, “Thank you for allowing me to be part of the #WSOP these last few years. I will always be a fan and friend to the poker community…” And with that, the WSOP seems a bit deflated, and the media and players, most of whom had come to know Pollack as an ally, supporter, and friend, were left to wonder where he would land next.
Pollack joined the Harrah’s family as the first-ever WSOP Commissioner in 2006 after leaving NASCAR. Previous positions held included marketing for the National Basketball Association (NBA) and founding the Sports Business Daily publication, though he also dabbled in politics as a consultant before his years in sports.
Upon coming to Harrah’s, he almost immediately began implementing changes that included the launch of the World Series of Poker Europe, the introduction of the $50,000 HORSE World Championship at the WSOP, the Ante Up for Africa charity event at the WSOP as well as sponsorships with companies like the Nevada Cancer Institute, advertising deals with non-poker companies like Jack Link’s and Planters, the Players Advisory Council at the WSOP, the concept of the November Nine via a delayed final table for ESPN, and a public process to make the Hall of Fame inductions more of an event. He ushered in the 40th annual WSOP with much fanfare and helped promote the game as a sport and in the mainstream media.
In Pollack’s first year with the WSOP, attendance at the Series increased each year, despite a global economic recession and the addition of more events at the WSOP and across the poker tournament circuit as a whole. He also nearly doubled the collective prize pools from the first 36 years to the last four years under his commissionership.
He commented on his accomplishments to the Review-Journal: “It’s been a very good run and I’m proud of the growth that the tournament, and poker for that matter, have experienced. I came into this role with a certain set of objectives and now, there’s a sense of accomplishment of how the World Series of Poker has expanded... I’ve achieved everything I set out to do and more.”
But only days after the wrap of the 2009 WSOP Main Event, Pollack announced his plans to leave Harrah’s and the WSOP with the intention of exploring “new business challenges.” He added, “My future is a blank canvas.”
Harrah’s seems to have no plans to replace Pollack in the role of Commissioner. A Harrah’s spokesperson stated, “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.”