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PLAYER PROFILE: WENDEEN H. EOLIS

By Phil Hevener

Poker Player Newspaper

May 26, 2008

More than 20 years of getting to know poker have not eroded Wendeen Eolis’ enthusiasm for it as she prepares for this year’s World Series of Poker, when she’ll be “playing” one of her biggest hands ever as the chair of the World Poker Association, and its efforts to polish poker’s image and shape its future.

She was still very new to poker in 1986 when she heeded her interests and the urging of New York friends, traveled west to her first World Series and grabbed one of those records that will never be broken, becoming the first woman to cash in the main event at the World Series of Poker.

She’s back this year with other leaders of the WPA who are collectively enthusiastic about making the poker world a better place for beginners and veterans alike.

Eolis is a relative late comer to the world of big time poker. Didn’t start playing until she was 40. She has been a regular at the World Series of Poker for a number of years, twice finishing in the money in the WSOP’s main event, and has traveled to other big tournaments as business schedules permit. She’s the only woman to ever win the European nolimit hold’em tournament and has been seen on television in invitation-only poker action.

Poker has come a long way since her first World Series. So has Eolis. Nearly 1,400 WPA members from 28 countries have some business before them as they arrive in Las Vegas. The group will be holding its inaugural membership meeting and voting on a proposed code of ethics for poker events that already has the support of World Series officials.

Eolis, who heads an international consulting firm from her New York office that deals with the needs of lawyers, business leaders, and elected officials, became the WPA’s chairman when the board of directors was created earlier this year. The membership will be asked to approve them for the next year.

As the WPA’s website quotes Eolis, “We have moved down the path of unifying and standardizing tournament poker.”

The group’s presence at the 2008 edition of poker’s biggest annual will also include its role as a partner in the presentation of a mega-satellite that will qualify winners for a seat at the $10,000 buy-in no limit hold’em main event.

Since the formation of the board, the Association has completed its mission statement and set up operating rules that build on the work of the Tournament Directors Association.

The mission statement: “To promote poker as a sport by advocating professionalism and uniform rules and standards of conduct, and by helping to create increased economic opportunities for players.”

The rules proposals have been submitted to World Series officials for consideration and possible use at the time of the May 29 megasatellite. The rules address restrictions about the use of unacceptable language or other behavior that detracts from the game.

The World Series has already agreed with the Association proposal that says tournament action will use nine-handed tables. It’s a rule that will be in effect during the mega-satellite. “Nine at a table makes for a more comfortable environment than playing 10-handed,” Eolis said.

Another of the Association’s proposals will prohibit players from “splashing” the pot, an action that makes it difficult for players to calculate what has been bet on any given hand.

She continued, “While splashing the pot has been generally recognized as a no-no, it has never been in the rules. We have put it into our rules … No more splashing the pot.”

It’s just another of the approaches to tournament management that should benefit all players. “The World Series of Poker agreed that they will enforce this provision for us. That is important because it does take professionalism up a notch.”

Eolis also said the World Series accepted the essence of the Association’s thinking that while the WSOP has its own approach to the issues of unacceptable behavior, an approach that permits a certain amount of latitude in enforcing rules against unsportsmanlike conduct and abuse, its officials understand that the Association wants to see a conservative approach to such matters. In other words, according to Eolis, there should be no more than minimal latitude before punishment of one kind or another is handed out.

“Again,” Eolis stressed, “the idea is to encourage professionalism at the tables … All of these things are critically important to promote poker as a mainstream spectator sport.”

The results of the Association’s work, she believes, should make it apparent to the membership that “we want to promote poker as a sport with the highest ethical standards.”

Eolis said she has seen enough to convince her that what the membership expects is that the Association will be the “public voice representing poker around the world … listening to the players and representing them on significant issues.”

She’s eager to play a role, as she puts it, to “improve the listening ability” of those whose professional responsibilities give them control of the moneymaking opportunities available to players everywhere, particularly in tournament poker.

Eolis notes that the Association took issue with the World Series, or rather, the lifestyle show presented at the Rio at the same time as the World Series.

She contends some of the stripper-related or adult exhibits presented at the show detracted from efforts to present poker in the most professional of lights.

Eolis complimented World Series Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack for responding as promptly as he did.

Pollack explained that he had conferred with various World Series team members within Harrah’s and at the Rio.

Bottom line: Exhibits that detract from efforts to present poker in the best of lights will not be returning. “Tournament organizers,” she said, “are beginning to sit up and take notice” of the Association’s viewpoints.

One thing the Association does not do as an organization, she said, is get involved in political issues such as the arguments fueled by Internet poker.

But she quickly concedes, “I can’t imagine there is a poker enthusiast anywhere who wants to make it difficult to play the game.”

She has spent a lot of personal time trying to “talk some sense” into the heads of those who oppose Internet poker, but say this has nothing to do with the work of the Association.