On June 30, at 7 PM ET, FlopTurnRiver will host an AMA with Matt Savage, a popular tournament director, WPT executive, and the founder of The Poker Tournament Directors Association (PTDA). Mr. Savage has been involved with poker for all of his career, working his way up from a card dealer in Bay Area. He quickly progressed through the ranks to eventually take one of the most coveted jobs in the industry: World Series of Poker Tournament Director, which he held from 2002 to 2004. He more than quadrupled the turnouts and cash prizes at the Main Event during his tenure. Matt’s fervent passion for the game and the drive to improve it and make it more attractive led him to establishing the Poker Tournament Directors Association in 2001 with the mission to standardize the poker tournament rules worldwide. Up until that point, poker tournaments were played according to random rulebooks of varying degrees of quality, with no governing body over those rules. The situation has drastically improved since the founding of PTDA, whose rules have now become the universally accepted standard. PTDA will host its sixth biennial summit on June 26-27, which will be broadcast via live feed, where hundreds of tournament directors will debate and vote on proposed rule changes. On June 10, we interviewed Matt Savage over the phone; we are bringing you the excerpts from this interview below.
FTR: How would you suggest someone get involved with the backroom part of the poker world?
MS: I would say you need to have attachment for the game, knowledge of both sides of it, and passion, but passion is definitely the main ingredient. I have known a lot of people who came from the outside but did not stick around because they lacked passion.
FTR: How did you get involved with the World Poker Tour?
MS: After leaving WSOP in 2004 I was pursuing many projects, directing tournaments, and spending a lot of time with PTDA. Three years later, Steve Heller, the WPT Commissioner, invited me to become their CEO and to direct their televised tournaments.
FTR: Given the declining numbers in WPT events, what do you think can be done to improve their turnouts?
MS: Actually, some marquee events, such as Borgata, have been showing steady growth in numbers; but in general, limiting re-entries increases participation. I think if properties agree to lower the number of buy-ins or re-entries available, it would attract bigger fields.
FTR: In your time at the WSOP, what do you think your biggest impact on the series was?
MS: My biggest personal impact definitely was stopping the abuse of the dealers by players. Before 2002, little attention was paid to protecting dealers, who were abused rampantly by players. The rules I instituted helped improve the situation dramatically.
FTR: What part of your career are you the most proud of? Is there one thing that stands out as being your crowning achievement so far?
MS: TDA has been the part I am most proud of and will probably remain the biggest part of my legacy.
FTR: Where do you see the next step in your career?
MS: I would definitely like to keep WPT going forward. I would like to embrace the new opportunities offered by online technology, such as Twitter and Facebook. I also want to keep helping players as much as I can by improving the rules.
FTR: If you were to re-live your poker career, what would be one thing you would do differently?
MS: I’d try to spend more time with my family. My young son and wife Marianne have had to put up with a lot of travel; I would try to find a way to be with them more.
FTR: What does the PTDA do?
MS: It is responsible for standardizing poker tournament rules everywhere; we write tournament rulebooks, which are widely used because each rule is voted on by all of our members. This is beneficial to all poker players, because no matter where, they play by the same set of rules.
FTR: What do you think is the biggest thing the PTDA brings to the table of worldwide poker?
MS: Rule standardization was needed for a long time. In the past, different venues would have their own rules on everything: betting procedures, dealing cards, raising, etc. Unifying rules across the entire poker ecosystem was definitely a huge improvement.
FTR: What would be the one rule you would like to add to the rule book if you had total control?
MS: I would do something to make play faster. Stalling the play makes it a lot less enjoyable for players, and both live and TV audience. I hope it can be done in the near future. Another idea is to have a rule on full disclosure on what player can and cannot say during the hand.
FTR: Is there a rule you would like to remove?
MS: I am pretty happy with what we have so far, but some more work is needed. We currently have 52 rules, but the goal is to get somewhere around 65.
We thank Mr. Savage for his time and all the invaluable insights. If you have a question for Matt Savage you can ask him directly on our forum!