An Open Letter to the Poker Tournament Directors Association

WSOP bracelet winner Chris Wallace hopes the Poker TDA listens to players.

WSOP bracelet winner Chris Wallace hopes the Poker TDA listens to players.

Dear Members of the Poker Tournament Directors Association,

While I understand that the goals of the Poker TDA may not exactly parallel the goals of poker players, I see a real disconnect between the actions of the TDA and what is best for players. The TDA has a chance to transform the game, to protect players, and to help tournament poker grow by leaps and bounds. If players believed in the organization, that widespread support would give the TDA a powerful bully pulpit that they could use to affect real change.

Unfortunately, many players don’t believe in the organization or see how much good it does for them. I know that the TDA did a lot more than make the “First Card Off the Deck Rule” during the summit at the Venetian in 2013, but I have heard many players assert that this was the only thing the TDA did, and that the TDA was not representing their interests. Changing this perception is the key to developing a huge base of support that would allow the group to standardize things in the world of tournament poker.

While I know there was more done than simply changing a rule here and there, I myself have to wonder how much the TDA cares about protecting the interests of players. When I have asked members of the TDA in the past why there is not a standard TDA-approved structure, I have never heard a good response. The same is true of standardized tournament fees, late registration rules, phone-use policies, fee disclosure, and a host of other rules that players are concerned about.

When players hear no mention of these things, the things that actually matter to them, they will question what it is that the TDA really does and whether you consider the interests of players in your decision making.

Let’s look at the issue of tournament structures as an example.

If the TDA were to release a structure sheet that tournaments must use if they are going to claim to play by TDA rules, players would have a way to judge one tournament against another. The house could simply publish the starting stacks and length of levels, and players would have the information they need to make an informed decision about playing an event. Creating a structure sheet would be a simple thing to do and would certainly increase player support for the TDA. This is something that could literally be done in an hour or two, and would mean a lot more to players than the first card rule.

If things like this were done, the first card rule wouldn’t have even been a big deal. A few people might have disliked the change, but an organization that was trusted and was clearly looking out for players would get the benefit of the doubt.

Players are more and more aware that some questionable things happen with their money once it goes into the prize pool of a tournament. An event that is advertised as a $230 buy-in with $30 in juice may actually be much worse than this with no disclosure from the house. A surprise $10 add-on at the table, three percent coming out of the prize pool for dealers (that often doesn’t all go to the dealers), and a piece of the prizepool coming out to pay for a trophy or other prizes, can add up to more than twice the original juice.

We know the house needs to make money. We know the dealers need to make money. We get it. But we don’t like to feel like we are being cheated. Expressing the juice in multiple different forms (tournament fee, add-on, percentage, etc.) makes things look shady, and the poker world doesn’t need more of that. Past perception makes it tough to present poker as above board and honest without the house making things worse.

A TDA rule that all tournaments must present their buy-ins on any marketing materials and structure sheets in a simple format, Buy-in + Juice, and that all money on the left side of the formula must go directly into the prize pool, would solve this problem immediately. Putting a TDA seal of approval on any event that follows these rules would allow players to identify venues that operate within the rules. That TDA seal would be something players talked about and looked for if it actually meant something.

Some of the other issues that matter to players would be even easier. Why isn’t there a rule on electronics in the TDA Rules? A few sentences would clarify rules about using your phone at the table throughout the country. Why doesn’t the TDA have a list of players who are banned so that the house can decide not to allow someone in a tournament? Aren’t these things more important than the first card rule?

These are not complicated issues. They would not require a great deal of work. If implemented, players would feel that the TDA represents their best interests and cares about them. So why aren’t they happening? Is there something we, the players, can do to help?

Attendance is open at the TDA summit this year, so players can show up and voice their opinions. Unfortunately, the summit is in the middle of the WSOP, so I may not be able to attend both days, but I will show up if I’m not playing an event that day.

I would love to see the TDA summit happen either right before the WSOP, or during Day 3 or 4 of the Main Event, when more players were able to attend. A better website wouldn’t hurt either, and it’s fairly simple to do. The TDA website is a bit of a mess and it should be very simple and easy to navigate since the information is fairly simple and all text.

I know the TDA does a lot of good. Without them we wouldn’t have a standardized rule set. I sincerely hope that some real changes come out of the summit this year so that we can all continue to support the organization and the game can continue to improve.

I’ll see you at the final table,


Chris Wallace

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Chris Wallace

Chris Wallace is a professional mixed game player and coach from Minnesota with 31 final tables to his record. He won the 2015 WSOP $10,000 HORSE Championship for his first bracelet and co-wrote “No Limits – The Fundamentals of No Limit Hold’em.”
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