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.