WSOP Alternatives 2007-06-03
Each summer, thousands of poker players flock to the Rio in Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker. This year, more than ever, rival casinos are offering players alternatives to playing WSOP events.
There are two good reasons to avoid the ruckus at the Rio and compete in a non-WSOP tournament. First, practically all WSOP tournaments feature a buy-in of $1,500 or more. Few players have the bankroll to play several $1,500+ tournaments per week. In contrast, many of the tournaments held by other casinos feature buy-ins of under $1,000. The availability of these lower buy-in tournaments allows many poker players the opportunity to play several tournaments per week without potentially busting their bankrolls.
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Second, in relation to the tournament buy-in, most WSOP events have fairly poor structure. Since thousands of players will participate in this year's 55-event WSOP, it is necessary for the tournament structures to be conducive to busting players out. The offerings of other casinos do not have such pressure. Therefore they allow much more bang-for-your-buck when it comes to playing time.
Here are some various tournaments around Sin City, other than the WSOP, that might be worth checking out this summer:
Deep Stack Extravaganza at the Venetian
With one tournament running everyday from June 1st to July 1st, the Venetian's Deep Stack Extravaganza is a low-bankrolled tournament player's dream. The buy-ins of these tournaments range from $300+$30 to $1,000+$60. Most live tournaments of equivalent buy-in have mediocre structure. However, as the title might suggest, the Deep Stack Extravaganza offers players fantastic playing time for their money. The $500+$50 and the $1,000+$60 tournaments start players with 10,000 chips and increase blinds every 40 minutes after starting with a 25/50 level. Essentially, the structure mirrors that of the former WSOP Main Event structure, just with shorter levels.
Once a week, on Tuesdays, players can test their skills in a tournament other than no-limit hold'em, such as H.O.R.S.E., pot-limit Omaha, or limit hold'em. The tournament played on all other days is no-limit hold'em. Each Sunday's tournament has a $1000+$60 buy-in. This is the only time of the week where the buy-in exceeds $500+$50. For anyone planning on spending $1,500 or $2,000 on just one WSOP event, I would suggest saving your money and playing a few of the Venetian's tournaments instead.
The Bellagio Cup III
This year, the powers that be at Bellagio are making an aggressive move against the WSOP. They are hosting a 28-event series of no-limit hold'em tournaments, capped with a $10,000 buy-in WPT event, right in the middle of the WSOP schedule. This will mark the first time that the playing of a WPT event has coincided with the playing of the WSOP Main Event. Most of the preliminary events for Bellagio Cup III have buy-ins ranging from $2,500+$120 to $5,000+$180.
The clashing of the WSOP and Bellagio Cup III will result in two major no-limit hold'em tournaments taking place nearly every day during mid-late June and early July. I wonder if the Bellagio tournament organizers have watched Wayne's World too many times. They seem to rely on the mystical assumption that, "if you schedule it, they will come."
While the notion of a series of high buy-in tournaments running less than a mile away from the WSOP might seem like a dumb idea, I expect the Bellagio Cup III's Main Event to draw a large field. They scheduled the tournament to begin the day after the final WSOP Main Event "day one" is complete. Never has there been such a large second-chance tournament for unsatisfied WSOP day-one bustos.
Orleans Poker Open
The Orleans is a casino that mainly attracts Vegas-locals due to its poor proximity to the Strip. However, it's a nice property with a series of affordable tournaments. The Orleans series runs from July 14th through July 29th. Most of the tournaments have a $300+$30 buy-in. The Main Event has a $1,000+$50 buy-in. Perhaps the greatest appeal of the Orleans Poker Open is that many of its tournaments are games other than no-limit hold'em.
Caesars Palace Daily Tournaments
Just in case there aren't enough tournaments running in Vegas this summer, Caesars Palace has expanded its tournament schedule for the WSOP. They will run three tournaments per day from June 3rd through the end of the WSOP. Most of these tournaments have a small buy-in and should compete well with the Venetian's offerings. At 11 pm each night, a $120 buy-in tournament starts where players receive 2,500 chips and play 30 minute levels, starting at 25/50. You would be hard pressed to find a better $120 buy-in live tournament than this.
At 7 pm on Friday and Saturday, Caesars will hold a $500+$40 tournament. If there are more than 100 players, the winner will receive, in addition to the first place payout, a seat to the first annual Caesars Palace Classic, which will be held this October and have a guaranteed prize pool of $1 million.
Binion's Poker Classic
Binion's Horseshoe is getting back on its feet, dusting itself off, and offering a series of poker tournaments this summer. The former home of the WSOP won't have any ESPN cameras around for its first annual Binion's Poker Classic, but they should have plenty of small-stakes players enjoying a nice series of tournaments. For the most part, their schedule mirrors that of the WSOP at one-tenth the buy-in, one day in advance. For example, the WSOP $10,000 pot-limit Omaha championship is taking place July 1st. On June 30th, Binion's will hold a $1,000 pot-limit Omaha tournament.
The Binion's Poker Classic makes way for the WSOP Main Event and ceases its offerings on July 4th. Low bankrolled players should consider playing some of these tournaments. It is not often you see a schedule of tournaments with $100-$500 buy-ins that offer good structure and interesting spreads like six-handed no-limit hold'em, H.O.R.S.E., and mixed hold'em.