Interview with Seth Palansky, Vice President of Corporate Communications, World Series of Poker (WSOP)

TAGs: Lee Davy, michael mizrachi, seth palansky, the grinder, world series of poker

interview-with-seth-palansky-wsopHow did the decision to extend to first Europe and then Asia first come about? 

Well as you know our venture into Europe through London was our first expansion and it occurred after 37 years of remaining in Las Vegas. With the growth of poker, we have always heard from players interested in playing in World Series of Poker events.  With “World” in our name, we felt it was important to spread this great game to other locals in a steady, slow manner.  WSOP Europe will be hosting its 7th annual event this year. We felt with that securely cemented on the poker calendar it was time to venture East and South, thus WSOP Asia-Pacific. What is clear is that poker is a massive global game, being played on all corners of the earth. We believe we are adding accredited tent pole events that can position us to hold a true WSOP Triple Crown on three separate continents annually.

What are the variables that go into choosing a location outside of Vegas i.e. why Melbourne? 

First and foremost, it requires a partnership. Getting two casino companies to work together takes a bit of work, but ultimately when two of us share the common goal of growing the game, and the market, we see the potential to host one. Crown has shown successful execution for a number of years with a seasoned staff and they deserve, and are capable of, putting on world-class event as they have shown with Aussie Millions, and we are confident this will be a positive addition for the poker community. This is a market we have been considering since Joe Hachem captured the WSOP Main Event in 2005.

What measures do the WSOP use to determine success?

We’re in this from a brand-building perspective. To us, it has already been a success in Melbourne. We are hosting hundreds of new players who have never touched the WSOP brand before and we’ve entered a market and the reach of two continents, which we have never been before. Entrant numbers are always a fickle measure that ebb and flow. But we’ve got big names Down Under and a ton of players from the Asia and Australia region excited and enjoying their first ever WSOP experience.

Do you incorporate player feedback into your WSOP events?

We will take feedback from anyone who offers it: players, dealers, tournament staff or media. It doesn’t matter. Poker players are customers and it is incumbent on us to serve the players as best we can. And anyone who has ideas, thoughts, complaints – we are all ears. It doesn’t mean we can always implement or execute the information, but if it can better the experience and benefits the greatest number of people, we’re happy to do so. We take our role in poker seriously and we recognize what is good for the player is likely good for poker and the WSOP too. Most of our staff has been with the WSOP for a long time; so people can reach out via phone, email, Twitter feed or whatever is convenient for them.

How do you decide the new formats such as ‘The Accumulator?”

Ty Stewart, the WSOP Executive Director is a very creative guy and does believe in trying to always bring something new, and interesting, to the poker tables for players.  We know the same old same old can get a little dry, and if there’s a new format that meets the test of gaming regulators in a particular market, we’re keen to give it a go as long as we believe the event is a true test of poker skill and not a gimmick. The Accumulator is the brainchild of Crown Director of Poker, Christian Vaughan, who came up with the idea and has run it successfully in the Melbourne venue before; another important fact, as we like to see these new events in action first, in a non-bracelet event setting, to ensure it meets our comfort level.

Pokerlistings are providing the coverage and not PokerNews. Why the change?

Pokerlistings has been a long and credible destination for poker players for years and we had an opportunity to put a deal together with them, Poker Asia-Pacific and us that made the most sense to bring the best coverage to this event.  It was important to us that we made sure the coverage included the local players, from this region, and had comprehensive information about them since this was where the majority of the players would come from. It’s no slight on Poker News. We have a great relationship with them and they will be our official provider for the WSOP in Las Vegas this summer.

There is a belief in some quarters than the additional volume of WSOP events has diluted the prestige of winning a bracelet, what do you say to this?

I couldn’t disagree more.  Anyone who says that doesn’t understand the supply-demand model. In 1982 at the WSOP we offered 15 bracelet events.  The average field size was 84 entrants. Thus you had a 1 in 84 shot in winning a bracelet. In 1992, there were 20 events offered and the average field size was 158 entrants; thus, a 1 in 158 chance. In 2012, last year at the WSOP, we offered 61 bracelet events and the average field size was 1,226 players; thus a 1 in 1,226 chance to win a bracelet.  Which year was the hardest to win one?  Thus, all we have done is increased supply to meet demand.  We strongly believe that competition today is tougher than ever before. We also recognize that it is unfair to all the players in other parts of the world to commit the time and cost to come to Las Vegas every year for seven weeks. We have simply brought our brand to new markets, like Coke, McDonald’s and every other successful business. Winning a WSOP gold bracelet today is harder than it has ever been and an incredible accomplishment for any poker player.

The Grinder won the WSOPC Main Event in South Africa, any plans for a WSOP bracelet event in South Africa and indeed South America?

It’s a no for South Africa at this point. Still a market that needs to mature and our annual event there is a way to help spur that growth. Ideally, four majors, like golf has, seems right to us. But we won’t look at the fourth until we are confident that WSOP APAC is in a good place. We waited 7 years after WSOP Europe, and 37 years after the WSOP to extend our brand. Thus, I wouldn’t expect anything to quickly, but it is possible on the long-term goals of ours.


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