By Wendeen H. Eolis
In the days leading up to the opening of the 2014 World Series of Poker, Ty Stewart, the Grand Pooh Bah of the World Series of Poker, was beaming. A five day trip had taken the WSOP Executive Director from Las Vegas to Macau where he eyeballed poker action in the stratosphere. He then traveled onward to Atlantic City for the WSOP National Championship, and back to Las Vegas to open the 45th Annual World Series of Poker--with a bang.
WSOP—Checking Out the Action in Macau
While in Macau, Stewart drooled over the possibilities for a future WSOP Macau-based event. He more than hints at his plan to nail down a deal that moves the WSOP APAP from Australia to Macau, in 2016.
WSOP—Checking into Atlantic City: On Miss America’s Boardwalk
By the time Stewart arrived in Atlantic City, the WSOP Championship was underway. It was his concept to “reboot the Circuit competitions into a year-long platform, culminating in a nationally televised bracelet championship.” And, Stewart took delight in seeing his idea—a final table competition on the legendary Atlantic City boardwalk—come to fruition.
German hotshot poker pro, 23-year old Dominik Nitsche, nabbed the bracelet along with $218,000. He also brought the Championship to a finish, hours earlier than expected. So, Stewart toyed with the idea of ditching his scheduled reservation for the next afternoon and taking a red-eye flight home to Las Vegas that night instead—to gain one extra day of preparation for the opening of the 2014 WSOP.
WSOP-Las Vegas is the Perennial Hub for the 45th Time
Mr. Stewart was holding close to the vest, plans to open the six-week WSOP summer festival with a blast of 10 cannons showering the tournament arena with thousands of dollar bills —like confetti. These hijinks were slated to take place as a prelude to the first "shuffle up and deal" command of the season by Howard Greenbaum, Regional VP Specialty Gaming at Caesars Entertainment Corporation.
Breaking Away from WSOP Duties
On the cusp of the WSOP action about to burst open, I figured it was pick'em as to whether Ty would be able to keep our dinner plans at the Borgata, last Saturday night, before heading home, but he did not disappoint.
A towering presence at nearly six feet five inches, Stewart’s arrival at the Borgata was a lock to get noticed. He showed up in red white and blue—that is red trousers, a natty blue and white checked shirt, and red shoes. His casual and colorful attire did more to highlight his playful personality than his formidable stature and position at Caesar’s Interactive Entertainment.
I suspected there might be added incentive beyond our our scheduled rendezvous that kept the WSOP Grand Pooh Bah in town for a few more hours. And I was right! Mori Eskandani, his good friend and WSOP television production partner was on the calendar for a golf date at dawn the next morning -- before Ty was scheduled to take off for Las Vegas. Ty looks upon Mori as a father figure. He he also relies on Mori for perspective on the history of poker and the progression from old school gambling to television fare for mainstream sports viewers. Their date would be business and pleasure. They got in seven holes of golf with a push, before Ty embarked on the last lap of the trip.
Stewart Makes Waves at the WSOP Opening
Stewart hit the tarmac in Las Vegas in plenty of time to fine tune his wardrobe decision for the opening blast at the WSOP. As the curtain rose on the festivities, he was in rare form; seersucker suit, orange shoes coordinated with an orange silk print tie from the House of Hermes.
The WSOP opening was a blast as planned. The theatrics of dollar bills raining down over the vast arena went off without a hitch to thunderous applause from the players. A few of Stewart’s more conservative colleagues sighed quietly, relieved that a gimmick malfunction was not the rain in the room, instead of Stewart’s planned downpour of dollar bills up for grabs.
2014 WSOP is Virtually Guaranteed to Produce Hair-Raising Stories
Thousands of poker players are making the pilgrimage to the WSOP in “Sin City” with dreams of making good this weekend, The "Millionaire Maker" beckons in a reprise of one of the most successful offerings from the Ty Stewart branding machine. The winner of this $1500 buy-in event is guaranteed a million dollar payday. Yours truly intends to be in the hunt.
The beat will go on non-stop for six weeks, with the Main Event taking a hiatus once the final nine players are determined. The finalists will reconvene November 10th and 11th to play down to the winner.
Stewart observes, “Dreams are dealt every day at the WSOP.” He notes that they provide the makings for stunning stories. He says, “We need more of these stories to be told – as they unfold.” Recognizing that there are moments of frenzy, shock, and awe as winning and losing hands are exposed, Stewart urges media to be on the lookout. We agree; it is the trials and triumphs of players, from all walks of life and the four corners of the world, that makes the WSOP one of the greatest shows on earth.
Ty Gives me the Big Story on Chase
Minutes into our three hour visit, however, Ty teased that he had a great story and a better show to share with me, explaining that poker would not be the centerpiece. I told him I was happy to take a break from poker patter. He backed up for a moment, saying "Don't get me wrong. I love poker and I love my job." Ty went on to wax poetic about the opportunity he has been given to put his imprint on the WSOP brand. Then came the revelation that "all of this pales in comparison” to the pride he takes in the life he has with his wife Sarah and his son Chase.
Sarah was his Ty's high school sweetheart. They married the day after their college finals at Penn State, and eighteen years later they still cherish the decision. Ty looks upon his son as his most important accomplishment. With iPhone in hand, he boasts exuberantly about Chase. He shows one video after another of the kindergartner playing basketball, football and more—brilliantly. “Quite the little athlete,” Ty says, smiling ear to ear.
Ty does not stint on planned carve-outs from a super-charged work schedule to assure plenty of quality parenting time. He ticks off 10 big sporting event trips he shared with Chase this past year, including the Kentucky Derby, the Super Bowl and a round of golf at Pebble Beach. He shoots pictures and videos galore of father–son experiences. And take a look at Sarah at the Derby, front and center with Ty and their pride and joy.
Today Ty is back in the saddle, cooking up a few more surprises for home court delivery during this year’s WSOP summer festivities. He says, “Do you like money—cause if you do the WSOP is the place to be!”
Editor’s Note: Wendeen Eolis is an entrepreneur, speaker, and journalist who values, highly, her commitments to public service and humanitarian affairs. She also was the first woman to cash in the main event at the WSOP and the first woman to do so twice. This article is her exclusive property.