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Sunday, August 20, 2017
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Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has worked as a writer and editor more than 20 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee.

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WSOP tournament director delivers daily energy to the Rio
 

LAS VEGAS -- It's 5 p.m. at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. Instead of grabbing his car keys and heading home, Jack Effel is in line at the Starbucks just down the hall from the Pavilion Ballroom, where the World Series of Poker is cruising along for a 43rd consecutive day. It's time for the veteran tournament director to grab his regular afternoon venti iced caramel macchiato.

"Gotta do it," he says with a smile. "I diet on and off throughout the entire year, but not during the World Series of Poker. I need to be 'Happy Jack' this time of year. And caffeine and sugar make me happy."

WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel kicks off the proceedings every day at the Rio during the Main Event.

WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel kicks off the proceedings every day at the Rio during the Main Event.

Of course, the perpetual energy Effel brings to his job every day isn't entirely artificially enhanced. The 40-year-old Dallas native clearly loves his job, and the passion oozes out of him each day as he kicks off the festivities and manically works his way around the Rio, even though he and his staff have been at it every day since Memorial Day Weekend.

"It's my job to be passionate," explains Effel, whose first WSOP came in 2005, when he was an assistant before being promoted to co-director the next year and then solo director in 2007. "To a certain degree, we are in the entertainment business. We want to make the World Series of Poker fun. And if I look like I'm not having fun, the players aren't going to feel like having fun. That's how I have to look at it. We have to promote fun."

But trying to keep thousands and thousands of poker players happy on a daily basis as they grind away for a living is not, by any means, an easy task. The WSOP is constantly tweaking its format, adding new events and trying different things. Some work. Some don't. That's just the nature of the business.

"Poker players are very opinionated, but in their defense, they're playing for money and it's only human nature to get emotional when money is involved," said Effel, whose has held numerous titles in the poker business over the last 19 years, including dealer, supervisor, manager and director of poker operations. "It's never been perfect. And it's never going to be perfect. We just have to continue to do things to streamline the process, create a better service experience, and when there are breakdowns we need to deal with them on an individual basis, just like any other business would do."

A perfect example was this year's Colossus II. The inaugural event in 2015 was plagued by some much-publicized problems, including long registration and payout lines that frustrated both players and staff.

This year, thanks to more staffing and the option to pay the entry fee online and via credit card, Colossus II went off relatively smoothly, with 21,613 entrants. This was just under last year’s debut of 22,374 but set a record for the number of people paid out in a live tournament, with 3,245 players cashing in. Players got paid out on Day 1s and then the field was combined on Day 2. That way, players were able to make the money even if they didn’t make it to Day 2, and if they made it to the second day they were already guaranteed to cash.

The WSOP Main Event plays down to 800 people on Day 3 with Kenny Hallaert in the chip lead


"We're very happy to have been able to provide a much better experience this year," Effel said. "We didn't have another 2,300-player money bubble, and we didn't have 800 people in line at one time to get paid out. That really alleviated a lot of pressure. I really feel like we could now run an event with 50,000 or 100,000 players and have no issues. That is, of course, if we had the space for that many tables."

There have been other highlights, as well. The second edition of the WSOP.com Online No Limit Hold'em event drew almost 30% more entrants than last year, which made for an online record field of 1,247 players and a prize pool of $1,184,650.

Effel called the event a "smashing success" and didn’t rule out a day when there would be multiple WSOP online bracelet events.

"I think the hybrid concept of being able to play online initially to build a stack and then come in to the live environment for the final table and play for the big money and the bracelet is a pretty cool experience that the players really liked," he said. "Yes, I think we could see more and more of this kind of thing as the years progress. Everything evolves. And we try to analyze things and react to player likes and dislikes."

With just two bracelets yet to be decided — the $10,000 Main Event and the last of three $1,000 Little One for One Drop No Limit events — things are winding down at the Rio.

On Monday, the Main Event field will be played down to the final nine players. Then everything is paused until Oct. 30, when the final table will take place in the Penn & Teller Theater in the ninth rendition of the "November Nine" format.

"It was just a very collaborative, very good year for us all around," Effel said. "But even though we're just a few days away from putting everything away and getting a break, we also have to be cognizant that there is still a lot of money at stake out there.

"So, we'll be proceeding cautiously and paying attention to every little detail. Once it's over we can take a deep breath for a little while. And I'll get back to my diet."

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