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World Series of Poker VP basks in the glory of a record-breaking summer

WSOP VP Jack Effel

WSOP VP Jack Effel

LAS VEGAS – It’s been seven weeks since Jack Effel had a day off, but you wouldn’t know it from his energy level.

The always affable World Series of Poker vice president was as vivacious as ever on Sunday afternoon – his 48th straight day reporting to work – when he sat down with Casino City to discuss this year’s WSOP, which has been a smashing success.

“It's been a great summer,” said Effel moments after officially kicking off the Main Event final table festivities. “We've had record fields, record prize pools and overall a very smooth summer.

“This is literally like running Disneyland for poker. Everybody wants to come and compete. Everybody wants to play for bracelets, everybody wants to play for life-changing money and there's more money here over these seven weeks than any poker tournament, anywhere in the world at any other time of the year.”

During our 20-minute chat at a vacant poker table in the ballroom of the Horseshoe Las Vegas as the Main Event final table action was unfolding, Effel, who has overseen the prestigious poker event since 2005, covered an array of topics. He shared unique highlights and notable milestones from this year's series, discussed the successful second year of transition to a new venue on the Las Vegas Strip, and provided insights into the overall state of the game.

Undoubtedly, the standout moment of this year's WSOP was the $10,000 Main Event, which shattered the previous attendance records with 10,043 entrants, cementing it as the richest live poker event in history with the winner taking home $12.1 million. Steven Jones, Daniel Weinman and Adam Walton will play for the 2023 Main Event title Monday, 17 July at 1 p.m. PST at the Horseshoe Las Vegas.

“We planned for a really big summer,” said Effel, who turns 48 later this year. “We did some things that we thought would help, maybe help us break the Main Event record. And, sure enough, we've put more people through the doors than we ever have.

“There were times where we were over capacity and could have used another 200 tables. I had one day where I had every table full and there were like 1,500 people in the hallway. It's just crazy to think that many people want to come here to play cards. But they do.”

Effel enthusiastically recounted a range of favorite moments from the summer. These included Wayne Newton's appearance to kick off the Salute to Warriors tournament in June, Brian Rast's induction into the Poker Hall of Fame, and having 2006 Main Event champion Jamie Gold oversee the "Shuffle Up and Deal" ceremony on this year's Day 1 of the Main Event.

He marvelled at the continued success of renowned poker players at the WSOP, noting that four players secured their sixth-career bracelet this summer (Rast, Josh Arieh, Jeremy Ausmus, Shaun Deeb), while Phil Hellmuth extended his all-time bracelet record by reeling in his 17th WSOP title.

“It just goes to show that when you are a great player, year after year, you always have a chance to win a bracelet,” he said. “And I think that's the beauty and the allure of it all. Those guys know they can always improve and they can always come here and be successful.”

As for the WSOP’s second year in its new home on the Las Vegas Strip at the Horseshoe and Paris Las Vegas, Effel said the move after a 16-year run at Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino has been fairly seamless.

“I thought the Rio was a great facility for all the years that we had it and I thought that we would never leave there,” said Effel, who got his start in the gaming industry as a dealer back in 1997 at Sam's Town Hotel and Casino in Tunica. “But the rebrand and move to Horseshoe and Paris has been great. From a hospitality standpoint, it’s so nice to be on the Strip because there are just so many more options to eat and have a drink than what we had at the Rio. It was the best thing that we ever did and I wish we would have done it sooner.”

As Effel continued to speak about the WSOP, he sounded like a proud father talking about one of his children. He takes great pride in the fact that he’s been running the show here for 19 years and that the game of poker is as strong as it’s ever been, despite the fact that we were in a pandemic crisis just three years ago.

“The growth of the WSOP is probably the thing that I cherish the most because I remember how primitive it was back in 2005, our first year at the Rio,” said Effel, who is just the eighth WSOP tournament director in the 54-year history of the event. “It’s a cool feeling because not everybody gets to have a job that’s this exciting and to do it as long as I have. I have been fortunate enough to share in so many cool experiences with so many different players.”

With the 2023 WSOP almost in the books, Effel is already looking forward to next year when he wouldn’t be surprised if the Main Event surge continues.

“I don’t think it has seen its biggest day yet,” he said with a smile. “It’s still the one tournament that everyone wants to play. Every poker player still dreams about winning the Main Event. I think it’s going to continue to grow and grow.”

Birthday Boy Hellmuth falls short in bid for another WSOP bracelet
Hellmuth was at it again on Sunday at the World Series of Poker, hoping to land his 18th-career bracelet on what was his 59th birthday.

Heading into the evening hours at the Horseshoe Las Vegas and playing in the shadow of his 1989 Main Event banner, the Poker Brat was among 12 players left in the $10,000 6-Handed Championship in an attempt to extend his all-time bracelet record. Earlier this summer, Hellmuth took home his 17th bracelet in the $10,000 Super Turbo Bounty No-Limit Hold’em event.

But he ultimately failed to capture No. 18 when he was bounced in ninth place, but registered his 13th WSOP cash this summer and fifth Top 15 finish.

“He’s the greatest. I mean, anybody that basically says that they're the greatest and then delivers on it, you’ve got to give him props,” said Effel of Hellmuth. “I mean, the guy is unbelievable. He really is. I get it. People think he's a pain sometimes. But, man, the guy can play cards. He loves the World Series bracelet as much as anyone out there.”

One of the players Hellmuth helped bounce to the rail earlier in the day was Felipe "Mojave" Ramos, who has amassed over $2.6 million in lifetime earnings, but said playing next Hellmuth in the late stages of a bracelet event was the “thrill of a lifetime.”

“Every time I have a chance to play against Phil it’s a blessing,” said the 40-year-old Brazilian, who finished 13th. “He’s a great guy and he’s always willing to help other players and grow the game. And he’s also the biggest character in poker.”

Ramos added that Hellmuth is his father’s favorite player and that it would have been “dream come true” if he could have managed to face Hellmuth heads up for his first WSOP bracelet.

“I’m not sure who my father would root for,” he said with a laugh. “I’m his second-favorite player. Phil is his Number 1, not me.”

As for Hellmuth, soon after his exit from the event, the Birthday Boy posted a thank you for the well wishes and announced he was jumping into an online event.

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