WSOP Schedule Commentary
The schedule for the 2009 World Series of Poker was released recently by Harrah's Entertainment. At this year's series, 57 bracelet events will take place from May 27th through July 14th. This is a little bit of an earlier start than usual. The $500 buy-in casino-employees-only event has made it's way back to the first spot on the schedule after a couple years of being relegated elsewhere. For the most part, this year's schedule doesn't include too many outlandish changes. However, there are a few items that have generated some discussion in the poker world:
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$40,000 Buy-In No-Limit Hold'em Event
The first open-field event (meaning there are no restrictions on who can participate) is a $40,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em event on May 28th. This is a special event that was added to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the WSOP. It also meets demand that has mounted in recent years from top players for a huge buy-in no-limit hold'em tournament.
It wouldn't be too unreasonable to expect this event to remain permanent on the WSOP schedule in some fashion or another. One possibility is that the buy-in will be increased to $50,000 (to match the big H.O.R.S.E. event) and made a static fixture on the schedule. Whether or not this happens likely depends on the success of the $40k event. The field will likely be incredibly sharky and small. Casual players are probably having a hard enough time coming up with buy-ins for smaller events. This one is just completely out of the question for them.
Rebuy Events Eliminated
The most controversial change to the WSOP schedule is that all rebuy events have been removed. Daniel Negreanu has been a major proponent for this change. In his blog, he claims that rebuy events give pros too much of an advantage at the WSOP. Shane Schleger made a very poignant counterargument to this noting that, as long as "events like the $40K NL and $50K HORSE events count towards the POY results, his argument is worse than disingenuous."
Schleger also condemned Negreanu for making "empty statements" in his support for the removal of rebuy events such as, "it's the right thing to do for poker, and I am genuinely able to separate what is best for me, and what is best for poker, and choose poker."
Most of the arguments for the removal of rebuy events are pretty silly. The point of participating in the WSOP is to win money. Pros who take negative expectation gambles in the rebuy period are great for amateurs and "shot-takers" playing on limited funds. As Schleger noted, Michael Chu won a rebuy event for $585,000 in the 2007 series off of nothing more than a single $1,000 investment. The bulk of Negreanu's argument in favor of removing the rebuy events is that it skews things in favor of the pros for winning bracelets and the POY race. Schleger appropriately points out that those, "accolades [do] not represent the average poker player's priorities." This is true since most players only participate in a small handful of events and therefore assign little importance to arbitrary accomplishments like winning the POY award.
A $3k "triple chance" event has been added to the schedule where players will be able to simulate rebuys with lamers. They can put their whole bankroll on the line at once, or save the lamers to exchange for chips at a later point in the tournament. Again, Schleger is spot on by refuting that this comes nowhere close to being a substitute for rebuy events in saying: "Part of the risk, the vague sense of danger in a rebuy tournament, comes from having to manage your decisions in relation to your actual cash bankroll for the event. A fixed buyin with lamers that can be used at any time doesn't even come close to mimicking an actual rebuy event."
In the future, hopefully Harrah's Entertainment makes a more dedicated effort to listening to the opinion's of players whose last names are not "Negreanu".
November Nine Remains
For the second year, the final nine players in the Main Event will have to wait until November to conclude the tournament. The final table will take place November 7th through the 10th. Since it's inception, the "November Nine" concept has been pretty controversial. However, I think it's a good thing for the game. Fears of collusion or other unsavory table behavior turned out to be a non-issue in last year's event. Players who make the final table in this event are likely to be too prideful to attempt to marginally increase their value in the tournament by broaching the idea of making unethical arrangements with other players. The exposure given to the poker world through the November Nine is very valuable for a game that is otherwise tapering off in popularity.
Players who argue that delaying the final table isn't such a bad thing but that it needn't be delayed for a full four months may have a valid point. Unfortunately the catchy-nature of the phrase "November Nine" will likely prevent the final table from being bumped up to, say, September. But who knows? Never put it beyond Harrah's to do something stupid like change the final table to the "September Seven". If it had the slightest support from one quirky Canadian player in particular, it'd probably be implemented immediately.