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TDA Announces Summit at Venetian, Chaos Ensues

The poker Tournament Directors Association (TDA) set off a firestorm of controversy late last week when famed tournament director and member of the TDA Board of Directors Matt Savage announced on Twitter that the Association’s biennial summit will be held June 16th and 17th at the Venetian in Las Vegas. In what should came as absolutely zero surprise, the news of the venue was not received well by the poker community.

The Venetian

The Venetian

The Venetian, as the vast majority of visitors to this website are aware, is owned by the Las Vegas Sands Corp., the CEO of which is gazillionaire Sheldon Adelson. Adelson, in no uncertain terms, hates online poker, as he sees it as a threat to his business (even though he claims to be against it for the safety of children and problem gamblers). He has stated that he will do “whatever it takes” to eliminate online poker from the United States and, as such, has recruited Congressmen to do his bidding with his checkbook serving as the carrot at the end of a stick. He and his cronies have penned the inappropriately titled Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), an effort to make online gambling illegal in the United States.

Simply put, Sheldon Adelson is public enemy number one to the poker community. Accordingly, poker players are not happy one bit that the TDA is holding its summit at one of Adelson’s properties. Poker people immediate jumped all over Matt Savage’s tweet:

Ko Zarim: worst place to host anything poker related?

2013 World Series of Poker Main Event Champ Ryan Reiss: Host it at my house instead.

Global Poker Index Founder Alexandre Dreyfus: I don’t understand why TDA board host this event at Venetian, now that Kathy is away. Make[s] no sense.

Remko Rinkema: I can understand players playing there because they want to make a living, but the TDA summit there? Unbelievable.

Daniel Pinney: This has to be a joke, right? Have it literally anywhere else. Like a goddamn Denny’s would be preferable.

Daniel Negreanu: This is the most EPIC and elaborate April Fools Joke of all-time! You got everyone riled up with this one. Am I right?

Savage replied in the Twitter discussion that the Venetian had offered ballroom space, wireless internet, and audio/visual equipment, all for free, making the decision for an organization that receives no dues from its members relatively easy.

The esteemed Linda Johnson, another board member and founder of the TDA, backed up Savage’s report on Two Plus Two, explaining that it is not cheap to host the summit.  Wrote Johnson:

The 2011 Summit was held at the Rio but the costs were too prohibitive for us to have it there in 2013. We asked multiple properties and price quotes came back at $20,000 or more. The Venetian offered to donate the conference space for two days, provide all A/V equipment (this alone is more than $5K), provide beverages and snacks, set-up crew, etc.

The TDA has never charged anything for attendees or for any services. We keep it free so that any tournament director can attend. For the first 10 years, the Board of Directors paid all expenses of the TDA. We accepted the Venetian’s sponsorship in 2013 and they treated everyone like royalty. They offered to donate the services again this year.

She added, “Many people think that the TDA is supporting the Venetian. It is actually the other way around.”

Daniel Negreanu, in addition to posting on Twitter, also relayed his thoughts on Two Plus Two, writing:

Is it better to hold the TDA summit at Venetian, or not have a TDA summit at all? You could argue that the TDA summit can be done online via Skype or a conference call type format for free, but if you weigh the value of having the event, against pissing off the vast majority of poker players who don’t want to support the devil in any way, shape, or form, is it worth it?

I say no. Just because the Venetian offers a free room, doesn’t mean the right thing to do is to take it. The poker world as a whole is pretty united on one thing: a deteste for Sheldon Adelson. Even though the TDA isn’t directly supporting Sheldon’s efforts, the TDA holding their event there is a big win for Sheldon. He can argue, “I have no problem with poker, in fact I love poker, and offer free conference rooms, food, and beverages to poker tournament directors around the world. The poker world supports my efforts because they know that the internet is dangerous. I hosted all the top tournament directors in the world just this year, they ate my food, drank for free. It was great. Click a mouse, lose a house!”

At the very least, holding the TDA Summit at Venetian gives him credibility, especially if he is paying for it all. Don’t lay with the devil just because it is free. If no other solution is feasible, then cancelling the event is a much better idea than having it at Venetian.

It appears, though, that an alternative solution may be in the offing. Alexandre Dreyfus, fresh off  the success of the first annual American Poker Awards and the 14th European Poker Awards, has offered to pay for the conference if it is moved, writing, “GPI is keen to support full cost of ConferenceRoom+AV+board members rooms if not hosted at Venetian.”

It is unknown right now if Dreyfus’ offer has been accepted, but Linda Johnson make an announcement on Two Plus Two that makes it look like a venue change is imminent. “It does take time to get a contract but I think that there will be some news within a week or two,” she wrote.


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