Online Tournament Circuits
It's no secret that the poker boom should be largely attributed to the World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour, and other various tournament poker circuits. With that knowledge in mind, some major online poker rooms have adopted their own prestigious tournament circuits. Let's take a look at three of the biggest online tournament circuits to see how close they come to emulating the real deal:
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World Championships of Online Poker (WCOOP)
The WCOOP is the largest poker tournament series held online. This is as close as anything gets to the WSOP on the internet. Already approaching its 5th annual series of tournaments, the WCOOP lures poker's best players to their computers every fall to battle it out for more than $10,000,000 in tournament winnings. This season's schedule features 18 events. New to the schedule, and in line with the WSOP, is a large buy-in H.O.R.S.E. event. This event will cost players a hefty $5,200 to participate and will be hosted by poker pro Barry Greenstein.
The Main Event of the WCOOP is a $2,500+$100 no-limit hold'em tournament. The first year's champion won a mere $65,000 five years ago. Last year, three players made a deal and all walked away with roughly $550,000. This year it is anticipated that the announced payout for first place will flirt with the one million mark. Anyone hoping to get their hands on that money better start practicing quickly; this year's Main Event is Sunday October 1st.
Virtually every major variant of poker is represented on the WCOOP schedule. Buy-in prices range from $215 up to $5,200, though most of the buy-ins are $530 or lower. Thus, the buy-ins are significantly lower than the WSOP, but are still quite pricy. Another parallel between the WCOOP and the WSOP is that all WCOOP event winners are awarded a gold bracelet.
Full Tilt Online Poker Series (FTOPS)
(Full Tilt Poker)
New to the online tournament world, the first annual FTOPS kicked off with roaring popularity this August. Eight events were played in the span of eight days capped with a $500+$35 no-limit hold'em championship. Do not be fooled though; FTOPS is nowhere near the heights of the WCOOP. With the way that Full Tilt is marketing FTOPS, it appears they are trying to compete with PokerStars for direct ownership of largest online series of tournaments. However, Full Tilt's player base is much smaller than that of PokerStars. It's going to be really difficult for Full Tilt if they want to try to compete with PokerStars in the arena of largest online poker circuit. The only poker room that could really accomplish this at this time is Party Poker, and they currently do not have a mock WSOP tournament circuit.
Full Tilt could start taking steps in the right direction to have FTOPS compete with the WCOOP if they made a few changes. First, they need to diversify the buy-ins. Seven of the eight events featured the exact same buy-in, $200+$16. Secondly, they need to add more events and diversify the game selection. If there is one area where Full Tilt has always shined above the rest of the online poker world, it has been in their ability to offer a wide array of different poker games on their network. For example, Full Tilt was the first network to start spreading H.O.R.S.E. games. One of the strengths of the WCOOP is its similarity to the WSOP in that it covers all bases for having each popular poker variant represented in at least one tournament. FTOPS should add some 7-card stud tournaments to their schedule to lure in serious poker players.
Winners of FTOPS events receive a unique gold-colored poker jersey as well as their own custom avatar to use on the network. It will be interesting to monitor the future of FTOPS to see how close they can come to rivaling the WCOOP at the top of the online tournament series world.
This past April, Paradise Poker expanded their "Masters" promotion into a series of major online tournaments. Nine events were played over the course of nine days. The final championship event was a $1,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em tournament. One major criticism of the Masters Series is that six of the nine events were no-limit hold'em tournaments. However, one of these events was a shorthanded (six to a table) tournament,which is something the WCOOP and FTOPS fail to feature.
Another area in which the Masters Series shines above the competition is its featuring of an overall points race. Players who finish in the money in any Masters event are awarded points based on how well they finished. This is similar to the World Series of Poker player of the year award. At the end of the series, the player with the highest points total is awarded a prize package worth $15,000. The top 250 point earners participate in a freeroll tournament with a prize pool worth $25,000; a value of $100 per player.
Yet another unique aspect of the Masters Series is that the Main Event final table is played in the Bahamas. All travel accommodations are paid for in full by Paradise Poker, a value of about $7,500 per player fortunate enough to find themselves at the final table.