Rebuy events at the World Series of Poker might be on their way out.
WSOP Communications Director Seth Palanksy has confirmed that organizers of the World Series are considering the possibility of getting rid of rebuy events in 2009 based on some concerns voiced by players.
“There is a movement to not have any rebuy events,” said Palansky. “There is the growing concern that a pro can buy a bracelet in a rebuy event.”
Palansky said that player feedback is one of the major factors in creating the WSOP schedule. Every year, Harrah’s Entertainment and tournament organizers evaluate the merits and downsides of the previous year’s events before coming up with a new schedule. The 2009 schedule will not be released until at least January or February.
Palansky stressed that a final decision regarding rebuy events has not yet been made and that the potential change is merely under consideration.
“There’s as good a chance that there won’t be rebuys as there is that there will be,” said Palansky.
In 2006, WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack created the Player Advisory Council to incorporate the player’s point of view into the World Series.
Daniel Negreanu, four-time bracelet winner and a member of the Player Advisory Council, is an advocate of the proposed change.
“I am 100 percent against rebuy tournaments at the WSOP,” said Negreanu. “They are fine for other venues, but not for a bracelet.”
The popular Canadian player said that the rebuy events are not fair to the average player who doesn’t have an endless amount of money to pour into the event.
“Frankly, it gives players like me an unfair advantage in terms of winning the Player of the Year award,” said Negreanu.
The sentiment is not new. Mike Sexton even wrote an article in Card Player magazine in 2002 asking for the ban of rebuys at the WSOP. But many pros are hesitant to see them go.
Poker pro Layne Flack, who won the $1,500 pot-limit Omaha rebuy event this year, dismissed the notion that a bracelet could be bought.
“That’s bullsh--,” said Flack. “It’s not like there is no play. The field is huge.”
Flack pointed out that a player can only rebuy when he has as many chips as when he started the tournament (or less), so it isn’t as if someone could just buy a dominant stack.
“You want to talk about buying a bracelet? Let’s talk about Doyle’s bracelet when there were eight people in the tournament,” said Flack. “The critics should look back in history and see where a bracelet has been bought.”
There have been some tiny fields and some unique formats in past decades. One of Doyle Brunson’s 10 bracelets came in a $600 mixed doubles event with Starla Brodie in 1979, when the two players beat out 14 other entries to win a modest $4,500.
The first four main events of the WSOP in 1971-1974 attracted six, eight, 13, and 16 players, respectively.
Of course, that was well before the poker boom. Today, the $1,500 no-limit hold’em events attract nearly 3,000 players in every tournament.
However, the rebuy events are not nearly as popular. While the hold’em events still do very well — the two $1,000 rebuy events attracted 879 and 766 entrants this year — the three other rebuy events did not garner massive fields.
Flack’s pot-limit Omaha rebuy win was still over an impressive field of 320 players, but the $5,000 pot-limit Omaha rebuy, which was won by Phil Galfond, only attracted 152 players. Mike Matusow won a bracelet this year in the $5,000 deuce-to-seven lowball rebuy with just 85 players in the field.
The smallest non-rebuy field in 2008 was 148 players in the $50,000 World Championship H.O.R.S.E. event. There are no plans to scrap the televised tournament.
The only other tournament that attracted fewer than 200 players was the $10,000 World Championship mixed event. Anthony Rivera beat out 191 other players to take the bracelet.
Many pros are hesitant to see rebuys go, including Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi.
When first told that there might not be any rebuys in 2009, Mizrachi quipped, “That’s good. It’ll probably save me a lot of money.”
The Grinder acknowledges that they are a little unfair to players with less cash, but said he still hopes the tournaments remain.
The World Series has seen a number of notable changes in the past few years. This year, the poker community was rocked when Harrah’s announced that it would delay the playing of the final table for more than four months. In 2007, World Series of Poker Europe launched in London with three bracelet events. In 2006, the $50,000-to-enter H.O.R.S.E. tournament debuted and has remained ever since.
Palansky said that the tournament organizers are also discussing implementing brand-new tournaments in 2009, including a winner-take-all tourney. As for the highly debated final table delay for the main event, he said it was “likely” to stay.