Analysis of the 2007 WSOP Schedule
THE WEEKLY SHUFFLE, 2007-02-04, by OzoneFor most of the WSOP's history, the series of poker tournament has been held at a small casino in Downtown Las Vegas. In the 2000 series, just a few years before the online poker boom, only twenty-five events were played. The largest field that year drew a whopping 512 entrants. Today, about the only thing that can limit a WSOP event to less than 512 players is a H.O.R.S.E. tournament with a $50,000 buy-in. Such a tournament was added to the schedule last year mostly to appease top professionals complaining that poker's most famous series of tournaments was losing its prestige. You can't really blame the pros for thinking this way. The low-key series of tournaments that once featured small fields comprised of well-known pros has now been replaced by a corporate-run spectacle. This year, fifty-five tournaments will be played. Many of these events are expected to draw well over a thousand players.
Over the past couple of years, there has been an ongoing battle between top professional poker players and Harrah's Entertainment, operators of the WSOP. Some professionals, the most outspoken of which has been Daniel Negreanu, are arguing that there are too many small buy-in hold'em tournaments. Many of these pros now jokingly refer to the World Series of Poker as the World Series of Hold'em. It is understandable why Harrah's has added several affordable hold'em tournaments to the WSOP schedule. Many of these events are so popular that over 1,500 players have been participating.
The general consensus among top professionals in the poker world seems to agree with Daniel Negreanu's outcry for fewer small buy-in hold'em tournaments. It is peculiar that no group of major professionals is siding against Negreanu. Poker professionals concerned only with their yearly profit should be tickled pink to see loads of inexperienced players landing in their backyard to cough up a couple thousand on WSOP events. It seems intuitive that professionals would welcome these events as their yearly feast on inexperienced players. Instead, several of them seem to think affordable hold'em tournaments with massive fields dilute the prestige at the WSOP. Perhaps they fear that a day where their place among WSOP bracelet holders will be viewed as unimpressive company home to hundreds of nobodies.
Just recently Harrah's released the schedule for the 2007 WSOP. It seems that the pendulum in this ongoing debate has swung back into the favor of the professionals. There are nine more events scheduled for 2007 than were played in 2006. However, just three of these nine additional tournaments feature a buy-in of $2,000 or less. New to this year's schedule are a $5,000 H.O.R.S.E. tournament, a $5,000 mixed hold'em tournament, and a $5,000 heads-up no-limit hold'em championship. Judging by his uncharacteristic silence on the matter, one could assume that Negreanu is pleased with this year's upcoming schedule.
In another move aimed to please professionals, no small buy-in hold'em tournaments will be spread during the running of the Main Event. Each of the last two years, $1,000 and $1,500 buy-in tournaments have been played simultaneously alongside the $10,000 championship. This year, there are no bracelet events scheduled to run while the Main Event is in play.
The 2007 series of events kicks off at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on June 1st. This will be the third year in a row that the games are played at the Rio. Previously, the action was held in downtown Las Vegas at the less-than-exotic Binion's Horseshoe Casino.
Harrah's announced they will be able to run 300 tables at this year's WSOP, an improvement from the 220 or so during the previous two years. This change enables some major improvements to the WSOP schedule. Last year's Main Event was played over the course of 13 days with four day one flights and two day two flights. The additional tables will allow this year's event to be played in just eleven days. The extra tables will also be used to host multiple tournaments on the same day. Nearly every day between June 1st and July 13th has at least two tournaments scheduled to start. One downside to cramming events onto the same day is that now participating in just half of the tournaments at the WSOP is nearly impossible. Every tournament on the schedule is expected to take multiple days to complete.
This year will mark the first time a distinction is made between regular events and "world championship" events. Thirteen of the scheduled 55 tournaments have been tagged as world championships of their respective poker variant. The smallest buy-in of any open-field world championship event is $3,000, the price it would take to seek the title of seven card stud hi-lo champion. In previous years, the first day of the WSOP was occupied solely with the running of the $500 casino-employees tournament. In 2007, that event will have to share space with the $5,000 mixed hold'em world championship. Mixed hold'em is a rotation between limit and no-limit betting. This year will mark the first time the game will be played for a WSOP bracelet.
Two-time world champion Doyle Brunson is a legend in the poker world for his back to back wins in the WSOP Main Event. Those wins came in 1976 and 1977 when the tournament drew 22 and 34 players, respectively. Last year's champion Jamie Gold hired body guards to stand by him at the final table. Gold allegedly received threats to his life the night before his march to a $12,000,000 payday. Unlike Doyle before him, Jamie had to conquer a field of 8,773 players just to lay claim to world champion status. Needless to say, the WSOP could not be more removed from Benny Binion's smoke-filled cardroom of yesteryear where a player's goal to win a championship actually seemed rational.
This summer, Harrah's Entertainment is prepared for 9,000 entrants in the Main Event; some speculate the official number of entrants might ultimately exceed 10,000. This year, it is especially hard to pinpoint the number of players we can expect in the Main Event. It is unclear how Harrah's intends to handle players sent to them by US-facing online poker rooms. Since the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, it could be possible that Harrah's will refuse to accept registrations from third-party outfits (i.e. online poker rooms). How aggressively they enforce this policy will significantly affect on the number of WSOP entrants. Such a move from Harrah's could mean a drastic decline in participants at this year's WSOP. In recent years, online qualifiers have accounted for more than 50% of the entrants in the Main Event. If the amount of online qualifiers is significantly reduced, Harrah's would be lucky to fetch 3,500 participants.
The Weekly Shuffle is our Sunday column with our observations and commentary on the poker world. Have an idea for an article? Leave a suggestion on the feedback page.
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