According to the World Poker Association (WPA) website, their mission is to, “promote professionalism in poker worldwide and support the highest standards of ethical conduct in tournament poker activities”. Founded by Jesse Jones in 2004, the association adds an important aspect to the fight for poker acceptance in the world.
Jones explains in an interview for pocketfives.com that his goal is not only to legalize poker in the United States but have poker recognized as a sport and treated as such. Jones would like the WPA to serve a similar purpose to the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) by setting a standard for poker tournaments around the world. He reports difficulties players experience going from tournament to tournament: “You can go from one WPT [World Poker Tour] event to another and end up playing by different rules in different venues. Speaking as a player, when you have to go in and identify the differences in tournament rules, you have to change what strategy you’re going to follow. It’s not a level playing field when players have to keep making adjustments from venue to venue. At events like the World Series, an infraction will happen that’s considered a penalty by one person and, a couple of hours later, the same thing occurs and it’s not an infraction. You never know what the rulings are going to be. Imagine a PGA golfer going from golf course to golf course and tournament to tournament having to play by different rules. They would never put up with it.”
The WPA serves a different purpose than other non-profit poker organizations like the Poker Players Alliance, but still supports legalizing online poker. Jones explains, “We certainly support legalizing poker in the U.S. and everywhere in the world. The key difference is that our mission is broader than the mission of organizations like the Poker Players Alliance. Our aim is to have poker recognized as a sport with standards and ethics. As a non-profit, we have certain limitations on our lobbying efforts that restrain us, but we support what the PPA is doing. We expect that poker will eventually be legal again in the U.S. and, when it is, online companies doing business in the U.S. will support us. Until the UIGEA [Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act] wall gets repealed or replaced, it’s difficult for the WPA to get too active.”
With the major rise in higher level poker tournaments in recent years, Jones wants to have a set of regulations for all major tournaments to go by instead of the current model which Jones believes favors the venue. “We have a lot of competing, profit-making venues looking out for what’s best for them and not necessarily what’s best for the players.”
The WPA recently promoted Wendeen H. Eolis to Chairman of the Board. She has served as an advisor to former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani and former New York State Govenor George Pataki. She is also a member of the World Series of Poker Advisory Council. She leads a board that includes Paul Wasicka and Joe Hachem. This new leadership, combined with the organizations 1400+ members, is expected to make the WPA a presence in the poker world.