A proposal to resolve an ongoing debate
There has been a lot of talk within the poker community about the future of the World Series of Poker. The central debate has focused on whether or not the main event is too big in terms of the number of entrants. Some people have argued that the buy-in should be increased in an effort to reduce the number of entrants, while others like the $10,000 buy-in. Let’s look at some of the arguments for both sides.
The buy-in should be increased
- The main event of the World Series back in 1971 started with a buy-in of $10,000, and remains the same today. In today’s money, that $10,000 is more like $50,000.
- With more than 5,000 entrants, winning the main event is more like winning the lottery than a poker tournament.
- The main-event champion in today’s environment can weave his way to the final table without having to battle the top players in the game.
- The final table lacks luster, as most of the players are amateurs or players with very little name recognition.
These arguments all boil down to increasing the buy-in in order to reduce the number of entrants. The thinking is that this will give every top player a better chance of winning the tournament and will result in a more prestigious final table.
Let’s keep the main event as it is
- Poker’s popularity is at an all-time high, so there is no need to change things.
- The $10,000 buy-in is small enough that amateurs can play along with the pros, making poker unique when compared to sports events.
- The public loves to see an underdog win the big money.
- Although the chances of winning decrease with more entrants, the pros get great positive value out of their buy-in with so many entrants in the field who are effectively dead money.
When looking at the two arguments, it is important to note the different parties that would be impacted by any change.
Harrah’s owns the WSOP, and its main focus is on generating more profits. ESPN currently owns the broadcasting rights, so its main interest is being able to broadcast interesting tournaments to the public in order to increase market share, which results in more ad revenues. Poker players, of course, have an interest in how their poker champion is crowned and what kind of value they receive from playing in the tournament.
The two arguments focus on things being either one way or the other — but how about both? How about starting off the entire WSOP with a $100,000 buy-in tournament? This tournament could be called something like the WSOP Professional Championship. The $10,000 main event would remain as is, to be played at the end of the Series. This tournament still would remain the dream for the everyday player.
The top players would be happy, as they now would have a prestigious tournament to play that would crown their champion. This tournament would match the best in the world against each other. Harrah’s would be happy, as this would require little additional resources but would add a lot of recognition to the WSOP brand. ESPN would be happy, as the final table of the $100,000 event surely would be a “Who’s Who” in the poker world. With 100-200 entrants, first-place prize money would be somewhere between $3 million and $6 million, making this a lucrative tournament for everyone involved. And the public certainly would be fascinated by watching this event unfold.
The main event still would be the biggest tournament in the world, attracting thousands and thousands of players who dream of competing against the best in the world. Rather than focus on either this or that, let’s do something that would be a win-win for everyone.
This article first appeared in Card Player magazine.
Matthew is the owner of Dimat Enterprises, “Publishing Today’s Best Poker Books”. The Math of Hold’em by Collin Moshman and Douglas Zare is available now at pokerbooks.InternetTexasHoldem.com.