The Story Of World Poker Tour President Pliska, US President Look-Alike, Who Doesn’t Play Poker – Part 2

Posted: May 14, 2015

Updated: October 6, 2017

World Poker Tour President Pliska, the over-achiever, is awarded the Poker industry’s person of the year award 2015.

Adam Pliska, who has been the President of World Poker Tour (WPT), for the past 5 years, has always had an inclination to over-achieve. Already as a young boy of 13, he was rumored as being the youngest Eagle Scout in America to attain all his merit badges. He learned how to play piano and violin by himself. He was also a field announcer at Orange High School baseball and football games and was a varsity water polo team member.

According to US gambling news, Pliska convinced Al Burton to take him on as an intern when he was a student at Santa Ana College. Burton is a television producer who helped develop “The Jeffersons” and “Charles In Charge”. The internship led him to to become a producer himself. And as fate would have it the poker President also won an Emmy for his role in structuring “Win Ben Stein’s Money”, a quiz show televised by Comedy Central.

Pliska turned down a chance to have a political career

California Governor Pete Wilson

Pliska also worked with futurist Alvin Toffler, a famous futurist on a television project for Carlos Slim, a Mexican business magnate. But this was not enough for Pliska. He went on to study law at UC Berkeley
and then went on to work for the then-Governor Pete Wilson, as an intern. He was later offered a high-salary job in Washington, D.C., with the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

He chose to turn down that offer, maybe giving way to Barack Obama, his look-alike, who entered the White House for two four year tenures. Pliska chose to work instead as a legal counsel in 2003 for the fledgling World Poker Tour, which gave way to him becoming the President of WPT today. According to Steve Lipscomb, the poker tour’s founder, who is now retired, it was because of Pliska’s integrity that helped forge the way for online poker sites in the US to be made legal.

Tanking in WPT stocks

Lipscomb says “One of the hallmarks of Adam’s personality and executive acumen is to play a long game, not a short game”. For, while rivals sought to become rich even as Congress wanted to ban of online poker under US gambling laws, Pliska decided to play smart and took a considerable amount of time to decide on the fate of World Poker Tour.

He eventually negotiated for its sale, to the tune of USD 12 million, to Bwin party Digital Entertainment, an English poker site operator based in London in 2009. When Lipscomb up and left, Pliska took over as president. But his ambitions for WPT was thwarted in 2011, when the U.S. Justice Department clamped down on illegal internet gambling in US, forcing some online poker operators underground.

WPT hosts 70 tournaments today

Tony Dunst Winning WPT Caribbean

Under Pliska, the World Poker Tour has since expanded to 70 tournaments from a meager 14 tournaments it hosted when he took over. There are almost 100 staff members including Tony Dunst, a young, smooth-tongued TV analyst who represents part of Pliska’s strategy to give poker telecasting a ‘critical edge’.

Dunst says of Pliska’s management style, “He’s the boss, but you would never really know it because he has a very light touch. In my five years, I’m sure commands have come down that I should do this, or not do that, but I could never tell you that it came from Adam.”

Taking a step back

Pliska goes, every May, to a pilgrimage to the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, to hear the speech of a leader he most admires, Warren Buffett. Pliska understands the need to step back and reflect. He says “American culture teaches us to place far too much emphasis on winning. A lesson offered by poker is that most of the time you lose”.

Pliska also gives speeches. He tells college undergraduates that when they are comfortable with losing, it prepares oneself to win. He continued “When you lose, you need to be able to reflect, get your mind together. When you lose, be gracious. When it’s your time to win, go all the way”.

Warren Buffet interview

Winner of the industry’s person of the year award

In 2013 Pliska was able to negotiate a 7-year licensing deal with Fox Sports 1 to televise a series of “ultra-high-roller” tournaments featuring $100,000 buy-ins. “That is how you have a poker boom”, Pliska says.. Last Friday night, 200 people fit into the ball room of SLS Hotel in Los Angeles, where the over-achiever was one of 4 nominees for the poker industry’s person of the year.

Pliska who is all for his employees taking workday breaks too, nabbed the prize. Going back to the table full of World Poker Tour staff, Pliska quips to his team members “Any time I get to take credit for all the good work that all of you have done, I am happy”.

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