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Pollack, 45, said Thursday he plans to "explore new business challenges" after completing a four-year run as the World Series of Poker's driving force. Today will be his last day on the job.
"My future is a blank canvas," Pollack told the Review-Journal. He founded the Sports Business Daily and once worked as political consultant before branching off into sports marketing.
The World Series of Poker, which is owned by Harrah's Entertainment, is now a national and international event. Circuit tournaments are held at Harrah's casinos around the country. The 2-year-old World Series of Poker Europe is played in London.
The recently concluded World Series of Poker drew a record 60,875 entrants from 115 different nations and territories who competed for more than $174 million in prize money over the 57-event, 50-day extravaganza. The 2008 tournament awarded $180.7 million in prize money.
Harrah's earns between 4 percent and 10 percent of the tournament's entry fees, depending upon the buy-in amount for a particular event. Harrah's collected 6 percent of the entry fees in the $10,000 buy-in Main Event, which drew 6,494 players this year.
During Pollack's four years, the World Series of Poker prize pool was a combined $675 million, nearly double the $367 million total prize pool of the first 36 tournaments combined.
Pollack, who worked in marketing with NASCAR and the National Basketball Association, joined the World Series of Poker in 2006 and created the position of commissioner to help the tournament gain st atus with professional sports leagues. Last year, the World Series of Poker was named the seventh most admired sports brand by a North American sports survey firm.
He also paved the road for the tournament to pick up sponsorships from American companies, such as Miller Brewing Co., Corum Watches, Kraft Foods and Jack Link's Beef Jerky.
"It's been a very good run and I'm proud of the growth that the tournament, and poker for that matter, have experienced," Pollack said. "I came into this role with a certain set of objectives and now, there's a sense of accomplishment of how the World Series of Poker has expanded."
The move comes six months after Harrah's created Harrah's Interactive Entertainment, a subsidiary that is overseeing the company's efforts to expand the tournament overseas and online. The World Series of Poker was moved into the division.
Former online gaming executive Mitch Garber is the division's chief executive officer and Pollack was appointed president.
In an e-mailed statement, a spokesman for the tournament said Pollack's contributions were appreciated.
"The World Series of Poker remains the market leader with this year's tournament exceeding all expectations, and we are well-positioned for the future. There is no intention at this time to replace the Commissioner role," according to the statement.
Pollack came aboard in time for the 2006 tournament. During his tenure, he sought to increase both player and fan experience and increased the emphasis on the gold championship bracelet, which is awarded to individual event winners.
Pollack said the tournament made moves to increase the participation of women, such as creating a women's only championship-bracelet event.
"We've done a lot to honor the game's history and tradition, such as adding a players advisory council," Pollack said. The tournament also brought gaming pioneer Jack Binion back into the fold as an adviser.
On the business side, Pollack forged a relationship between cable television giant ESPN, the World Series of Poker and Harrah's, that has contributed to the tournament's popularity. ESPN has a 12-year agreement with Harrah's to televise the World Series of Poker.
In the last two years, the World Series of Poker broke with tradition and delayed the final table of nine by four months, holding the competition in November rather than July. The move allowed ESPN to televise the results on same-day, taped-delay basis and increased the live-audience participation.
"We changed the paradigm for live and televised poker," Pollack said. "As a result, injected the World Series of Poker deeper into pop culture."
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