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WSOP Alternatives

THE WEEKLY SHUFFLE, 2010-05-30, by Ozone

With the 41st annual World Series of Poker (WSOP) underway in Las Vegas, many professional and amateur players alike have descended upon Sin City to play some poker tournaments for the next six weeks. These players are fortunate enough to have a nice array of alternative tournaments to choose from outside of the WSOP action at Rio. Since all WSOP buy-ins are $1,000 and up, there's a lot of demand for smaller buy-in tournaments. The following casinos have stepped in to fill this void:

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Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza

Location: Venetian
Dates: May 28 to July 16
Typical Buy-in: $300-$500
Championship Event Buy-in: $5,000

If the WSOP is the major leagues, the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza is Triple-A. On days when the only offering at the Rio is something sharky (like the $10,000 heads-up championship), you'll see hoards of top players spending their day at the Venetian. These events are known for their large starting stacks (10,000 and up with starting blinds of 25/50). Most events will draw several hundred players and the competition is generally very soft. The name of the game is to play patient and watch as other people implode in the face of a slow structure.

Bellagio Cup

Location: Bellagio
Dates: June 25 to July 16
Typical Buy-in: $1,000
Championship Event Buy-in: $10,000

Every year, the Bellagio holds a series of tournaments parallel to the WSOP called the Bellagio Cup. And although these tournaments are never very popular, organizers keep coming back with a similar schedule year after year. The nice thing about this schedule is a handful of $1,000 no-limit with rebuys event. Since the WSOP no longer gives players a chance to satisfy their rebuy tournament addiction, the Bellagio is a decent substitute. The championship event for the Bellagio Cup is part of the World Poker Tour schedule. It effectively serves as a second chance event for players who busted out early in the WSOP Main Event.

Caesars Mega Stack Series

Location: Caesars Palace
Dates: May 26 to July 15
Typical Buy-in: $200-$300
Championship Event Buy-in: $1,000

Over the past few summers, Caesars has tried but mostly failed in creating a tournament series that truly competes with the Venetian. In general, the buy-ins for Mega Stack tournaments tend to be a little lower than the Venetian. While the concept is the same, huge starting stacks and slow structures for "low" buy-in tournaments, for whatever reason, the Venetian seems to attract all of the action. Still, when you get sick of that soapy perfume they spray in the air at the Venetian and the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack playing in the casino all day every day, Caesars can be a nice respite.

Binion's Poker Classic

Location: Binion's Horseshoe
Dates: May 26 to July 11
Typical Buy-in: $150-$200
Championship Event Buy-in: $1,000

Tucked away in what was once the mecca of poker and is now just a dusty relic is actually a pretty good tournament series. Binion's Poker Classic attempts to mirror the WSOP at around 1/10th of the buy-in. So if there's a $1,500 no-limit event at the Rio, you can bet there's probably a $150 event being played at Binion's that day. These tournaments have good structures and truly miserable competition. If you're looking to play tournaments with buy-ins of around $200, I would strongly recommend Binion's Poker Classic over the Caesars Mega Stack. What you give up in modern amenities, you gain in expected value. Taxi-goers beware: the fare to downtown Vegas and back pretty much wipes out your EV for playing in these events. I would only recommend going if you can catch a lift for free.

The Grand Poker Series

Location: Golden Nugget
Dates: June 5 to July 4
Typical Buy-in: $200
Championship Event Buy-in: $1,000

The Golden Nugget has been pretty aggressive in trying to take downtown Vegas poker tournaments market share away from Binion's. Although their events do not draw as large of a field as Binion's, they offer a nicer atmosphere for poker tournament play. The Grand Poker Series is a good place for low stakes Omaha tournament players: they have quite a few Omaha events on their schedule whereas most other places have just a couple.

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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