Thoughts on the WSOP Main Event
This year's WSOP Main Event drew 8,773 resulting in a prize pool of over $80 million, the largest prize pool in sporting history. Players from all around the world flocked to the Rio in Las Vegas to compete for the $12 million first place prize. The winner will surely become an instant celebrity, and Harrah's, the company that owns the WSOP, will surely make a boon off of the publicity and royalties the WSOP creates.
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From a professional poker player's perspective, the WSOP is a good value. The vast majority of players qualify for the WSOP through satellites. Many of these qualifiers are of decent skill, but are still a significantly lower caliber player than your typical entrant into a $10k tournament. The WSOP also draws many whales that want to play in the most publicized poker event of the year.
While the WSOP Main Event is amazing in terms of its size and solid in terms of its value, the way it is currently managed makes me speculative of the future of the WSOP. To its credit, Harrah's did a decent job in many respects with running the WSOP. It efficiently managed bathroom breaks and also provided a restaurant area near the Amazon Room (where the poker playing was taking place). However, after playing in the Main Event, I was overall disappointed in the manner the tournament was run.
First, Harrah's needs to shorten the WSOP. The whole tournament takes two weeks now. Heck, the first "two days" of the tournament really last one week. They need to end this practice. At most, there should be two "first days" of the tournament. Harrah's should have two sites to play poker if needbe, such as the Amazon Room and another convention center location. This would be an added undertaking for Harrah's, but if they want the WSOP to retain its popularity in the future, this needs to happen. Expecting people to take two weeks off of work for a poker tournament is ridiculous. Since more and more entrants are now coming from Europe, it is especially important that they keep the WSOP short and efficient.
Furthermore, Harrah's blatantly disrespected WSOP participants by holding a convention right next to the Amazon room. During the first day of the tournament, Harrah's didn't allow players to use the halls that directly connected to the Amazon room, only participants of that convention were allowed to use those halls. This meant poker players were forced to use an indirect path to the Amazon Room. This led to increased congestion, especially at the beginning of the tournament, and a general annoyance for the players. This is a flat-out insult to participants in supposedly the most prestigious poker tournament in the world.
Harrah's policy on advertising is also at best awkward and at worst, downright idiotic. To say the online poker rooms have a major presence at the WSOP is an understatement. In the Amazon Room, there is advertisement for Party Poker on every table, as well as Party Poker banners hanging from the ceiling. Outside the Amazon Room, there are booths for almost every possible online poker room in the planet.
Since Harrah's wants to distance itself from online gambling, it forces the poker rooms to advertise their ".net" free play sites or to just use the company name without the .com. For example, Full Tilt Poker or FullTiltPoker.net is okay but FullTiltPoker.com is not. This in of itself is a bit of a joke, since everyone and their dog at the WSOP knows about the real money games available at the ".com" sites.
The true lunacy of this policy kicked in when Harrah's ordered that players are not allowed to wear ".com" paraphernalia when playing in the Main Event. It's one thing to prevent players from wearing logos at the final table, so the final table doesn't seem like a big advertising circus. However, telling Joe Schmo that he can wear a PartyPoker.net shirt but not a PartyPoker.com shirt during the first day of the WSOP is ridiculous. Many players had to put tape over the ".com" part of the logos on their shirt, and others had to turn their shirts inside out. Luckily for me, I was wearing a PokerTips.org shirt. Since we're not a ".com," my t-shirt past muster.
It's hard to take Harrah's seriously when they have this sort of policy. The WSOP is an advertising circus for online poker rooms. That, in of itself, is not a big deal, since most of the players are interested in online poker (presumably the majority qualified through an online satellite). Harrah's policy on their not advertising their ".com" sites is somewhat understandable, since this seems to be the norm for mainstream media in the United States. However, telling players to tape over the ".com" on their t-shirts is just too much. Our jaws aren't exactly going to drop and the world isn't going to stop moving when we discover that real-money online poker exists. I think we all knew about it before seeing Joe Schmo wear his PartyPoker.com shirt.
The WSOP has turned from a tournament of the elite into a tournament of the masses. That is all well and good, since there is a lot of benefits of having many entrants into the WSOP Main Event. The line is crossed though when the tournament organizers treat the players like they are a bunch of disposable sheep. The feel of the WSOP is that it is organized to maximize the bottom line of Harrah's, no matter what the expense is to the player. Whether it is being subjected to idiotic paraphernalia guidelines or extended two week stays, the player does not walk away from the WSOP feeling appreciated.