No one spends more time at the Rio each summer during the World Series of Poker than media director Nolan Dalla. He stays with each and every final table until the end, and he has had the job with Harrah’s since 2002. Before that he was P.R. director at Binion’s Horseshoe starting in 2001.“I pretty much made up my job title on the spot,” said Dalla with a chuckle when asked about his job title at the Horseshoe. Before that he wrote for Card Player , and in 2005 he co-wrote the book One of a Kind: The Rise and Fall of Stuey “The Kid” Ungar .Card Player caught up with Dalla at the end of the 41st WSOP’s summer run for a retrospective interview about this year. Dalla talks about the growth of tournament attendance, the ladies event, and his favorite moments. He also looks ahead to the WSOP Circuit series and the exciting changes coming for the new season.Ryan Lucchesi: What story line stood out to you above all others this summer?Nolan Dalla: Clearly, the big story of the World Series is the fact that this tournament is recession proof, just the numbers. I don’t think anybody; even the most optimistic of those who work around poker could have foreseen that we were going to grow this much given the challenges of the economy and other issues.To increase not just the main event, but over the course of seven weeks the numbers were up in almost every event. Big buy-in events were up, small buy-in events were up, and the main event is up. I think poker historians and writers will debate what the reasons were behind this, but the bottom line is the sheer numbers and success of the World Series continues. Forty-one straight years and counting and I expect that will continue in the years to come.RL: What do you think the reasons were behind the growth this year?ND: If people think it is tied to the buy-ins that’s simply not true, because the overall dollar amounts were up. There is only so much money in the global poker economy. So we increased the amount of investment in this tournament by I believe about five percent. When everyone else in the world was down, our numbers are up participation-wise, but also in terms of pure dollars.I think some of it has to do with pure demographics. Every year in this country alone there are about 3 million people that turn 21, and unfortunately we lose people on the other end of that, by old age and seniors, but I don’t think many of them are playing in the World Series of Poker . There’s a few but by and large the 21-year olds are coming to the World Series . They see how exciting it is on television. Those demographics are really helping the World Series of Poker .RL: Was there one bracelet victory that stood out to you above the rest?ND: It’s very difficult for me to pick out one or two. I had some friends that won bracelets this year, I won’t say a name, that’s not important, but I feel good for them because I have known them 15-20 years. Well I’ll use one, Gavin Smith I have known for 20 years. I was thrilled to see him win one, he deserves to win one and I think most people would agree with that.That’s from a personal stand point. From a coverage stand point, what we do here at the World Series , every story is unique because people react to victories in different ways. The French woman who won the ladies event was in tears when she won, and the whole nation of France seemed to show up at the final table that night. They were cheering and high-fiving and things like that. We had another table that had a big group of British people waving flags and being demonstrative. Of course the Brazilians are here…I like to see people celebrating and joining in the spirit of the World Series .RL: How important do you feel it is to keep the ladies event on the World Series schedule? The growth of the women’s demographic is the great untapped resource for poker growth, how important is it to nurture that demographic?ND: Everything is better about having women in the game. Everything is positive about that. The very fact that we had three percent of the main event field as females…that is just, I don’t really have words to describe how disappointing I find that figure to be. That number should be much higher, that should be 30 percent. I don’t know exactly how high it should be, but it should be considerably higher than three percent.I don’t know what we in the poker community are doing wrong or what we can do right to increase those numbers, but I’m convinced of one thing, having a women’s poker tournament and a women’s championship helps a little bit. I don’t think it is the end-all solution but it helps a little bit and anything we can do…If it brings in 10 more ladies, 20 more ladies, if it introduces 100 more people to poker I think that is a positive thing. For anybody to tinker with a tradition that goes back 33 years this has been a tradition here at the World Series and the ladies love it, they enjoy it. Let them have their day.RL: Do you have a prediction about who might win looking to November?ND: I certainly will not make a prediction, but I will say one thing. No-limit hold’em is a young person’s game, and by that I mean people in their twenties. People in their twenties excel at this game, while the mixed games, split games, stud games, the finesse games are played better by people who have more experience. If you look at the main event, the average age is clearly less than 37, which was the average age for World Series participation. Yesterday that average age was 32, and now it is 30, and by the time the final table is reached it will probably be 27. That’s telling you everything you need to know about how this game has changed.RL: The WSOP Circuit schedule has been bulked up substantially for the new season moving forward. What are some things you’re excited to see with the addition of the $10,000 events and more tour stops?ND: I’m excited about everything. The World Series in Las Vegas is every poker players dream, but imagine taking this concept and going on the road to a dozen places around the United States and eventually overseas. Now people hopefully live close to a World Series Circuit event and they will come out to play for the first time and join that excitement. I think that is a very positive thing.I think we have done a good job the last six seasons of the World Series Circuit , clearly now this is jump-starting it on a new stage. Television, a national points system, a gold bracelet at the end of it, regional championships, I believe there is going to be a certain horse-race aspect to the national points system, who’s leading. People follow Card Player’s Player of the Year race, which I started, and I love what you guys have done with it. We’re trying to take that system with a subset of tournaments and hopefully get people dedicated to playing in them, and frankly enjoy them.The main thing is for people to enjoy the experience of playing poker, and I think this encourages more people to play. We’ll see what happens but I’m very excited about this year like I’ve never been before.
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