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Poker News | People in Poker | Poker Superstars

Where Are They Now: Jeffery Pollack

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Where are They Now is a series of an in depth look at all poker players - not just the pros - as they travel through one long game. Some of the players profiled are deceased but not forgotten.

How many of the millions and millions of people who play poker—and especially anyone who has participated in a World Series of Poker (WSOP) event since 2005—even know who Jeffery Pollack is? For years he has held top management positions for many of the major sporting event organizations—currently with the Professional Bull Riders (PBR).

Before the PBR though, Pollack spent four years as President and Commissioner of the WSOP. When Pollack was hired by Harrah’s Casino in 2005 as Vice President of Sports and Entertainment Marketing, he certainly wasn’t an authority on poker; in fact he had never even played in a poker tournament. Yet one of his first responsibilities was to manage and direct the many facets of the 2005 WSOP tournaments—making sure that all scheduled events went off as planned.
Although the WSOP ran its course with little incident, Pollack was heavily criticized in November of that year when the Tournament of Champions (TOC) was played. The tournament was highly publicized as a $2,500,000 free roll tournament and Harrah’s had advertised that to qualify for the event a player must have won a WSOP circuit event or have reached the final table at the 2005 WSOP $10,000 No Limit Holdem Main Event.

The controversy erupted when Pepsi—who was sponsoring the event and about to start an advertising campaign revolving around Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Phil Hellmuth—insisted that the three spokesmen be allowed to play in the TOC event. Despite much public protest, the three were allowed to participate. Hellmuth finished in third place while Brunson and Chan failed to make the final table—Mike Matusow won the event. Although it would seem that Pollack’s hands were tied by corporate policy, he stood and faced his opponents head on—as he has faced every confrontation in his life. This may not have been his choice of  an introduction to the poker world, but from that moment on players everywhere would know who Jeffery Pollack was—and they would grow to endear the new “Commish” of the WSOP.

Pollack, who was born in Fort Lee, NJ, may have known little actually about the sport of playing poker, but he certainly didn’t come to the table inexperienced. He graduated with a degree in journalism from Northwestern University before receiving two master’s degrees from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst—the first in Political Management and the second in Sports Management.  Prior to accepting his first job as a political consultant, Pollack also completed an Advanced Management Program at Harvard University.

In 1994, at the age of 29, Pollack—along with Doug Bailey—founded ‘The Sports Business Daily,’ the first daily trade publication for the sports industry. By the time the publication sold in 1996 it had become a recognized leader in the sports industry and was relied upon by top financial, entertainment, and media executives worldwide—it provided the content for ESPN’s Sports Zone “Industry Insider.”

Putting politics aside, Jeffery was hired by the National Basketball Association (NBA) to work with Commissioner David Stern as a communications consultant during the collective bargaining arrangement. He was instrumental in designing the re-launch strategy after the NBA lockout during the 1998-99 Season, resulting in his promotion to Vice President of Marketing & Corporate Communications for the NBA.

While basketball is considered a relatively fast sport, Jeffery sought something even faster—something like NASCAR. He always seemed to have the ability to increase the popularity of any sport he took an interest in. So while acting as Director of Broadcasting and News Media for NASCAR, Pollack developed a solid relationship with NBC, Fox, and TNT. He also introduced the use of the in-car cameras which helped turn stock car racing into a major sporting event, currently viewed by millions of fans around the world.
Among the many credits in Pollack’s life, he has also won two Emmy Awards: A Sports Emmy for Outstanding Innovative Technical Achievement and a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Interactive Television Programming—which brings us back to poker.

If they gave Emmy Awards for outstanding performances in the world of poker, the “Commish” would certainly have a handful. During his four year run at the helm of the WSOP, he instigated many changes; like arranging sponsorship agreements with Miller Brewing Company, Planters, and Hershey’s and securing a seven year broadcasting deal with ESPN.

In 2005 he witnessed moving the tournament from Binion’s in downtown Las Vegas, to the Harrah’s owned Rio, just off the Strip—the same year that Australian Joe Hachem won the $10,000 No Limit Holdem Main Event. Pollack was on hand to award the largest Main Event payout in poker history to Hollywood agent Jamie Gold for his 2006 victory, which was worth $12,000,000. In 2007 he would see Annette “Annette_15” Obrestad, become the youngest person to ever win a WSOPE bracelet and in 2009 he would crown Joe Cada the youngest WSOP Main Event winner in the history of poker. Pollack also introduced the $50K HORSE tournament, created the Players Advisory Committee, and presented Mike Sexton his award for being inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.

So on November 13, 2009, when Pollack announced that he was stepping down from the WSOP, it was easy to understand his parting words: “It’s bittersweet, but I’m leaving with just great memories and a really nice sense of it being a great run. I’ve achieved everything I set out to do and more,” he said.
On the 4th of June, 2010, with the WSOP tucked neatly away in his memoirs, Jeffery Pollack would refocus his ingenuity and management skills on the Professional Bull Riders Inc. His goal is to help the PBR build on its proven track record of success and further celebrate the world’s best bull riding competitions—constantly gathering new fans around the globe.

Although Jeffery has no previous experience with bull riding to support his appointment as the new Executive Chairman, both Ty Murray and Cody Lambert—who are two of the original twenty cowboys that founded the PBR—have total confidence in his abilities. After all, before he went to NASCAR he had never even been to a race, and he openly admits that he knew nothing about the poker industry before leading the WSOP to an all time high, even during a global economic depression.

Well Jeffery Pollack, here’s wishing you the best of luck in your new endeavor, but with your proven track record, we are pretty sure that you don’t need luck.

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