Tuesday, July 07, 2009

How to turn down $5 Million

Yesterday, World Series of Poker Commisioner Jeffery Pollack and the rest of the WSOP powers that be managed to turn down five million dollars. An estimated 500 poker players were turned away from the World Series of Poker Main Event yesterday as the tournament reached its capacity. About 500 amateurs and pros alike (Patrick Antonius and Ted Forrest to name a couple) weren't allowed to pay $10,000 to be a part of the largest poker tournament in the world.

To be fair, most of those 500 players had an opportunity to sign up early and chose not to. 2,500 players got seats yesterday compared to only 873 players on Saturday. Still, that's not the point. To turn away 500 potential players is another black mark on a game (sport?) that has had enough black marks over a past few years.

Maybe it's the nature of the beast but poker is disorganized. No other sport or game would allow this to happen. At the very minimum you could set up an entry deadline for players who don't satellite into the tournament. Even most local marathons have an entry deadline.

Make no mistake, the World Series of Poker Main Event is a marathon in it's own right. It's a tournament that lasts 2 weeks - then breaks - then 9 players return 4 months later. It's a tournament that requires a lot of coordination and I commend those who work to pull it off. With that being said, any tournament that pays out $8.5M to its winner should care more about organization than pleasing its players.

The bottom line is that by allowing players to choose what day they play the tournament prize pool is now short about $5 million dollars. I can think of about 10 solutions to this problem off the top of my head. No doubt, some of these solutions would cause more problems than they solve and its always easy to play Monday Morning Quarterback but it doesn't take a genius to have foreseen a rush of players on Day 1D. Turning away 500 poker players has to be the absolute last option.

Without going through what Jeffery Pollack and company could have done months in advance I want to talk about what they could have done in the last few days. For starters, why not call up another casino? Logistically this would have been a disaster but I can't see it being any worse than turning away $5 million. The Rio, Harrah's, and Ceasar's are all owned and operated by Harrah's Entertainment. I would think that by Sunday tournament officials could have predicted an overflow of participants and could have made some calls.

A second solution would be to add a fifth day to the Main Event. Are there some problems with putting players at a competitive disadvantage? Absolutely. But by letting players pick their playing day the WSOP Main Event obvioulsy has pushed aside those concerns anyways. I would think the backlash from a Day 1E would be a lot more palatable than the backlash from turning away T.J. Cloutier, Brandon Adams, Mickey Appleman (who had played in 30 main events), and about 497 other poker players.

Poker needs leadership. In my opinion poker needs a pro tour. I know the PPT failed but without a professional tour I think the game will stagnate. There needs to be official rules, official tournaments, official cards, official start times, official tour dealers, etc. To be honest, I'm surprised something like this hasn't happened before. Poker grew exponentially in the mid-2000s and the game has been slow to react. Perhaps this snafu is just what the game needs to right the ship.


Aggie Doug said...

Hey Matt,

I used to follow you on the Chron.com blog. I did a quick search for you when I heard your name mentioned on ESPN.

Good to see your still into poker...

Are you playing in this years WSOP? What have you been up to poker wise in the past year or so?

Matt Dean said...

Aggie Doug,

No I didn't sign up for the WSOP ME this year - first time since '04. I have a poker-themed radio show on Monday nights from 7:00-9:00 CST on ESPN 97.5 FM in Houston. You can stream it as 975theticket.com

Aggie Doug said...


I live in Houston so I can just tune in on the regular radio. I'll definately be listening.

I just got back from Vegas & was able to play one small event. A $550 Venetian Deep Stack... fortunately I was able to come in 8th out of about 400 for a $5600 payout.


It was so frustrating not to get in the top 2 though. With 1st & 2nd place money I could have started playing in a lot more tournaments...

Aggie Doug said...

Sorry... meant to post this link for the results of that $550 Venetian Deep Stack *8th place*:


Matt Dean said...

Well done Mr. Applegate! I've played with Greenspan (who won the tourney) and read his book 'Hunting Fish'

Aggie Doug said...

Jay sat on my left at the final table and played at my table most of the time once their was 40-50 left.

I knew he was good, but I didn't know he was a "pro". He made some good money that day for sure...

I'll have to read his book. It looks very interesting.