- For the film director and television producer, see Jeff Pollack.
- For the music and media consultant, see Jeff Pollack.
Commissioner Pollack speaking at a press conference at the 2006 World Series of Poker
Fort Lee, NJ
|Education||Northwestern University, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Harvard University|
Jeffrey Pollack (born circa 1965) is the former Commissioner of the World Series of Poker. Pollack earned an undergraduate degree in journalism from Northwestern University. He then received two master's degrees. He earned his first master's from The Graduate School of Political Management and his second in sports management from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Pollack later completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University. His first job was a political consultant. He then served as Vice President of Winner & Associates. Prior to joining Harrah's Entertainment and serving as WSOP Commissioner, Pollack held prominent roles with NASCAR and the National Basketball Association (NBA).
Pollack has been named to Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal of "40 Under 40" and twice to The Sporting News 100. He has also won two Emmy Awards. Pollack is married, and resides in both Los Angeles and Las Vegas. His half-brother is Gary Bettman, the Commissioner of the National Hockey League.
In 2011, Pollack launched Federated Sports+Gaming (FS+G) and the Epic Poker League, where he served as Executive Chairman. Within a year, FS+G had filed bankruptcy, leaving behind a mountain of debt.
In 2014, Pollack assisted hedge fund manager Andrew Barroway in his attempted acquisition of the New York Islanders. When the deal fell through, Barroway sued the NHL and Pollack's half-brother, Gary Bettman.
In February 1994, at the age of 29, Pollack founded The Sports Business Daily. It was the first daily trade publication for the sports industry. Pollack modelled the concept for the Sports Business Daily on the political daily The Hotline. Doug Bailey, The Hotline's founder, was Jeffrey Pollack's partner in this venture. The Sports Business Daily originally occupied 3 rooms in the same building and initially hired The Hotline's Stephen Bilafer as the Editor-in-Chief. With Pollack as its president and publisher, The Sports Business Daily garnered a strong reputation among to decision-makers in the industry. By the time The Sports Business Daily was sold in 1996, it was a "recognized leader in sports industry news and is relied upon by top sports, entertainment, financial, and media executives worldwide." The Sports Business Daily provided the content for ESPN's SportsZone "Industry Insider."
Pollack's career with the NBA began when he was hired as a communications consultant for the NBA during its collective bargaining arrangement. Pollack consulted with NBA commissioner David Stern and helped design the relaunch strategy after the NBA lockout in the 1998–99 season. As a result of these activities, Pollack was hired as the Vice President of Marketing & Corporate Communications for the NBA.
Pollack was Managing Director of Broadcasting and New Media for NASCAR Digital Entertainment. While with NASCAR, he encouraged NASCAR to use advanced media and technologies. It was under his guidance that NASCAR grew into a major sporting event. Pollack was responsible for NASCAR adopting the use of in-car cameras. Pollack won two Emmy Awards: Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Interactive Television Programming and a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Innovative Technical Achievement. He helped develop NASCAR's television partnerships with Fox, FX, NBC and TNT.
World Series of Poker
The World Series of Poker is the number one poker event in terms of participants, prize money and history. Poker is now the most-played leisure game in America, with upwards of 65 million people who play. The number of poker players exceeds practitioners of golf, tennis, and billiards combined.
In 2005, Harrah's Casino hired Pollack as its Vice President of Marketing. When he was hired, some people speculated that Pollack "was passing through poker on his way from NASCAR to Bud Selig's seat in Major League Baseball". His first responsibility with Harrah's was the 2005 World Series of Poker. Poker players' first impression of him centered on the 2005 Tournament of Champions (ToC). The ToC was hyped as a $2.5 million freeroll for which players had to qualify. In 2005, the ToC was sponsored by Pepsi, who was about to start an advertising campaign involving Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Phil Hellmuth. Pepsi insisted that its three spokesmen take part in the ToC and the WSOP consented. The other players objected that three corporate exemptions were granted at the last moment. Pollack was heavily criticized, but addressed the criticism head on.
On January 13, 2006 he was promoted to Commissioner of the WSOP. One of his first actions as the commissioner was to work towards avoiding the criticism of the ToC. Pollack started meeting with a group of professional poker players in a monthly council. Daniel Negreanu was impressed with his first meeting with Pollack, noting that professional poker is "a unique situation, as with the NBA players are being paid, while the poker players actually put up their own money." However, by 2012, Negreanu had changed his opinion of Pollack, crediting WSOP Vice President Ty Stewart and others for the event's growth and popularity.
Pollack is known for his aggressive marketing. After becoming the Commissioner of the WSOP, he negotiated partnerships with ESPN, Sirius radio, Glu Mobile, Bluff Media, AOL, and Betfair. He also arranged sponsorships with Miller Brewing Company, Planters and Hershey’s. Once Pollack was asked if professional poker players would start wearing uniforms covered with ads, similar to NASCAR. He responded, "That is not out of the realm of possibility. As long as they stick to the guidelines, players will be allowed to seek endorsement deals and advertise as they wish."
Pollack believed that the strength in the WSOP lies in its tradition and legacy. He wanted to do more to honor the WSOP's past champions, "I want to bring our past, our history, and our DNA along for the ride." He wanted to "grow the popularity of the World Series of Poker." "It is already the No. 1 brand in poker, but we're going to make it even stronger through world-class media partnerships, strategic marketing alliances and superior customer service."
Pollack believed that the success of the WSOP was not determined based upon the number of participants every year, but rather upon the players' experiences.
For example, in 2007 the WSOP flattened its award structure. The cash awards were distributed more evenly so that people who went out earlier earned more money, while those who made it to the final table won less.
In an effort to reduce complaints about marked cards, the WSOP entered into a partnership with United States Playing Card Company (USPC). USPC introduced a new "Poker Peek" cards as the official card of the WSOP. New decks were introduced every day at every table. In 2006, Copag provided playing cards that became creased as the events endured, resulting in cards that were essentially marked.
The training of WSOP dealers was also heavily criticized in past tournaments. In an effort to forestall this criticism, the WSOP began intensive training for dealers as early as March 2007 for over 300 dealers. The training included staff and supervisory training. Part of the reason for this additional training was to prevent a repeat of the "extra chips" that materialized during 2006's main event. During the 2006 main event, the tournament finished with more chips than normal chip upgrading would have led to. Another effort to reduce that risk was the introduction of special chips exclusively for the main event. These new chips, however, caused another controversy as they were designed in such a manner that players could not easily differentiate between the values.
Epic Poker League
In January 2011, Pollack announced the launch of Federated Sports+Gaming (FS+G), the parent company for the Epic Poker League. From early on, industry insiders questioned the company's business model. By February 2012, after only holding three events, FS+G had filed bankruptcy, generating just over $38,000 in revenue and accumulating up to $7 million in debt.
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