Does the WSOP Need an Ombudsman?

by Lou on July 25, 2006

I received this announcement today from the World Series of Poker.

“The planet’s richest and most prestigious gaming event is attractingthousands of customers from around the world,” said World Series of PokerTournament Director Bob Daily. “To accommodate them and provide the bestpossible customer service, we’ve set up a player services desk that will beopen 18 hours a day.”

Customer representatives will be on hand to respond to player questions, comments, concerns and suggestions about tournament operations, live game orsatellite play from 8 a.m. until 2 a.m. daily. In addition, Daily andmembers of his tournament staff will be available to answer player questionsabout what happens on the tournament floor.

Bad Decisions
While I think this is a terrific idea, and I applaud the World Series of Poker for setting up an advisory council of players to provide input and insights to Harrah’s management about how things should be structured at a tournament the size, scope, and importance of the WSOP, some of the day-to-day decisions that have been made by the management of the WSOP have been atrocious.

A proposed last-minute change of an event from a no-rebuy tournament to one featuring rebuys is horribly wrong. For some entrants, the initial cost might represent the top of their budget, and to announce that a no rebuy event will now have rebuys at the eleventh hour is unconscionable and smacks of the worst sort of bait-and-switch advertising. How anyone could make this decision is mind-boggling.

An equally bad decision was the one in which the shoot-out format tournament was changed from having 10 players per table to six. Yes, I realize that management retained the right to do that, but c’mon; all signs pointed to a 10 player per table event, and to reduce it to six players per table in order to pass more players on to the next round was a very poor choice, as was escorting Harry Demetriou from the room for bitching about it. Sure, his criticism was over-the-top, but it’s as much an indictment of the WSOP’s decision making process as it was an outburst that Harry could have handled in a better way.

Better Communications Needed on Both Sides
What’s missing here is not player input. Regardless of the work done by everyone involved in the planning of this event, these issues could not have been envisioned. So it’s not a problem with planning; it’s an issue of communications between management and players, between customer and vendor, between host and guest.

Why an Ombudsman is Needed
Issues such as these can only be resolved on the ground, when they occur, and not by advanced planning. I’d like to suggest that the World Series of Poker add an ombudsman, or a team of them, so that someone is around to ameliorate these kinds of issues whenever they arise during the tournament. If that requires a 24/7 presence, so be it.

And what’s needed is someone who is neither a player nor a representative of management, but it needs to be someone with good common sense, the ability to think on his or her feet, and a willingness to make tough decisions in the heat of battle. If Harrah’s agrees with my idea, I’d be glad to share with them my short list of people who could fill this role and do it justice during next year’s event.

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