It will either be called a brilliant move or the biggest mistake in poker history.
The goal is to air the WSOP prelims and the main event up to the final table. The 9 final table players would return to Vegas to play a live broadcast of the final table.
There has been a lot of discussion about it, notably negative on a popular online poker forum, PocketFives.com. In particular, there are concerns about what happens if something happens to one of the final 9? What would prevent the weaker players from seeking coaching from a pro? Are the lives of the final 9 at danger from each other, the mob, etc?
Obviously, these are all hypothetical situations, but things to be concerned with.
Poker has seen a slight decline over the last little bit (emphasis on slight). TV ratings are down slightly as well as players due to the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (not passed on its own merits but tacked on to a Homeland Security bill in late 2006). Poker is needing a shot in the arm, or so the thought is.
So, the goal is to get as much exposure for the final 9, crank the hype machine up, and drive up ratings for the live final table.
Along with increased TV ratings, the other hope is that sponsorship deals can be struck with the final 9, selling spots on their outfit as advertising. This will make the play more profitable for these players, and others playing the game will take note.
There is too many possibilities for something bad to happen, either for the individuals, or for the game. I’m all for gaining popularity, but not at the risk of damaging the integrity of the game, the players, etc.
- What would prevent a form of collusion at the final table? For instance, two of the players could work out a system to reveal (within reason) their hole cards?
- What if something happens to one of the players? Sure, this could happen on the planned day off between the final 18 and the final 9, but with 4 months separating when the final table is set and when they actually play it, well, that leaves for a lot of time for something to happen.
- Extreme scenario: What if a mob were to get to one of these players? Don’t think it could happen? With millions on the line, I would be willing to guess that it is definitely not beyond the realm of possibilities.
- Along with the previous line, what if a hit was placed on one of the known players? Money makes people do crazy things…
- If someone cannot show up due to natural causes (i.e. death), are they just blinded off, or can someone from their estate play it out for them?
- Deportation for foreign players?
First, realize that in tournament poker dealers are paid “extra” in either one of two ways: Part of the prize pool is held out specifically for them, or the big winners tip them a certain amount. This money is typically distributed at the end. Is Harrah’s going to take care of the dealers? These guys make a lot of their money based on tips from cash game play and NOT dealing a tournament. Remember, these are people too, with families to feed, rent to pay, etc.
Also…where is the player’s cut in all of this?
The main event players pony up $10,000 to play in what has been the largest live-play event in the world. Of the $10k, 6% is being withheld this year, with the largest portion of that going towards “entry fees.” This is only fair (I have no problem paying fees to play). But you know the will make millions more while the hype machine cranks up, either in new players to their casinos, ESPN coverage, companies paying for sponsorships, etc.
So in all of this extra revenue, are the players getting any cut of it? Probably not.
Pro players probably have a larger problem with this than the average Joe, and I definitely do not have a problem with it. After all, its business, and probably a good business move. But I can definitely see the complaints, as the 9 players will be inconvenienced by having to wait months before their possible payout.
One thing is for sure on this: This will be a heated debate until November. Only then will the verdict come out on whether this was a good move or a bad move for the WSOP.