Complacency could harm WSOP in Las Vegas

In 2000, I gave an interview to CardPlayer magazine. In it, I discussed how the World Series of Poker (WSOP) had not reached its full potential and was losing its tradition.
Now, 13 years later, I want to offer my recommendations on how Caesars Entertainment can make the WSOP more player-friendly and get its sister properties in Las Vegas involved.
Right now, players walk into the Rio Las Vegas, the home of the WSOP, and there are no greeters. They have to walk all the way to the back of the property just to register for events. By creating a welcome center at each Caesars property with dedicated executive hosts promoting the WSOP brand, customer service would be taken to a new level.
Each sister property could host individual bracelet events and satellites every day. For example, Caesar’s Palace could host a $5,000 buy-in event and play down to the final table and bring the final nine to the host property. By doing this, Caesars Entertainment would involve the whole corporation in the success of the WSOP.
Another marketing strategy would be to make the host property “Home of the Champions” and create an event around the final table to include a free room for two nights to all the players at the final table. This would keep the Champion and his friends and family on property for two days.
Caesars should also offer a flat rate at all of their properties for all of the players who enter the WSOP. And if they are sold out, Caesars should work with other hotels to offer special rates. In the old days, Jack Binion would reach out to all the hotels in downtown Las Vegas for rooms. Other hotel gift shops could also enter into licensing agreements with Caesars to offer WSOP merchandise. The goal should be to make all of Las Vegas feel part of the WSOP.
Each property could also reach out to the vendors of each hotel to create a successful event by offering gift bags provided by a corporate sponsor. For example, Gillette could put together gift bags for each of the players.
When I worked at the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles, I involved Macy’s Department store, which gave makeovers and gift bags for the ladies’ events. I also convinced Ford Motor Company to give away a car for the best all-around player for several years.
I was able to reach out to vendors like Kraft Foods and Pepsi, who were glad to provide money and product for poker tournaments. The WSOP has struggled with corporate sponsorship in years past, but it has the power to reach out to its vendors to sponsor individual events. That could potentially be 62 sponsors for 62 bracelet events.
When I was the casino marketing director for the Bicycle Casino, I created a mini-World Series of Poker, where every day we gave away a WSOP package that included airfare and a buy-in to each bracelet event. I did this for years until one day I received a letter from Harrah’s Entertainment, the new owner of the WSOP, to cease and desist.
This corporate decision showed Harrah’s did not understand I was trying to help them. I immediately called Nolan Dalla, who has worked at the WSOP for many years as media director, who said Harrah’s was very protective of the brand, and he would see what he could do.
The result was we stopped promoting the WSOP at the Bicycle Casino and created a tournament to run at the same time as the WSOP. Nolan was instrumental in helping me and Phyllis Caro, director of poker operations at Hollywood Park Casino, bring the WSOP satellites to Hollywood Park Casino in Los Angeles.
In 2010, Phyllis Caro and I contacted Gary Loveman’s office with the idea of bringing the WSOP Circuit event to Hollywood Park. Negotiations fell through, but I was able to resurrect the idea and bring the event to the Bicycle Casino, where it has run for two years.
The WSOP is beginning to price out regular players who are the bread-and-butter of the poker business. High-roller tournaments do not necessarily help the WSOP brand. The power is in the numbers. Right now, the entry fees are so high that unless they reach out for added money, they are very vulnerable because the players cannot continue to pay 25-33% entry fees and receive nothing in return.
With the advent of regulated online poker on the horizon, the WSOP could potentially double in size, and that is why it is imperative to get the whole city of Las Vegas involved.
Caesars did not create the WSOP brand, but it can take it to the next level. Caesars cannot become complacent and rest on its laurels. Right now, the tradition of the bracelet is what drives it. Even with all its efforts, the home of the WSOP cannot establish the best poker room in Las Vegas for the rest of the year.
The WSOP is the most prestigious poker tournament in the world. As a poker player who has played in the WSOP for 35 years, I would like it to stay that way.

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