Hundreds Turned Away from the WSOP Main Event
Players Left Stunned, Angry
“Right now, I’m in shock. It’s way beyond disappointment.”
Those words come from Mickey Appleman, a longtime veteran of the World Series of Poker who doesn’t believe he has missed a main event since he first started playing the tournaments 30 years ago. That streak ended today when Harrah’s closed off additional entries to Day 1D of the 2009 main event after reaching the day’s capacity.
Although they won’t have an official estimate until later in the day, WSOP Communications Director Seth Palansky believes “at least 500 people” and probably more were turned away from the main event today. With Day 1D at capacity, that makes the unofficial count for total entrants of the 2009 main event “somewhere around the range of 6,400,” according to Palansky.
If that field size does become official, that would be less than the 2008 main event (6,844 players), but more than the 2007 main event field (6,358). With so many players turned away, it’s impossible to know exactly how large the field might have been if those people who were unable to register on Day 1D had registered for one of the first three Day 1s of the main event. Day 1A, Day 1B, and Day 1C featured fields of 1,116, 873, and 1,696, respectively — all well below capacity (approximately 2,700).
“We’re sympathetic because our goal is to accommodate everyone who wants to play. But once we run out of space, there’s gaming licenses at stake,” said Palanksy. “People could start registering on March 1, 2009. It’s hard to say we didn’t give them opportunity to register.”
Harrah’s ultimately decided not to offer alternate spots or allow play to run 10-handed in Day 1D.
As recently as 2006, alternate spots were offered for the main event. In past years, Day 1 of the main event had featured 10-handed tables and even 11-handed tables.
Palanksy said tournament organizers “never” considered offering alternate spots this year — a policy they scrapped a couple years ago — but briefly considered allowing 10-handed play before coming to the conclusion that it would ruin the integrity of the tournament. Day 1A, 1B, and 1C in 2009 were all played nine-handed.
“(The consideration) quickly went away because if we didn’t play all days 10-handed, we’re not going to play one day 10-handed,” said Palansky. “It would affect the integrity of the tournament because you’d have a different set of circumstances.”
The WSOP made the decision not to allow alternates a couple years ago, and stuck with that decision even as approximately 10 of their events sold out in 2009. Alternate spots had been offered in previous years to players who wanted to enter a tournament once seats became available after player eliminations.
“You can’t function a tournament properly with alternates,” said Palansky.
The decision left hundreds of players shocked, confused, and angry. Several well-known players were reportedly unable to register on Day 1D, including Patrik Antonius, T.J. Cloutier, Layne Flack, Ted Forrest, Brandon Adams, and Richard “chufty” Ashby.
Huck Seed, the 1996 world champ, almost didn’t get to play the main event. Despite winning the NBC National Heads-Up Championship this year — and thus automatically earning a seat in the 2009 main event — Seed was left on the rail early on in Day 1D. But Jack Effel, WSOP tournament director, said that Seed was eventually seated because “we had to honor that commitment,” mentioning that there was trouble with the wire transfer from Caesars.
Despite rumors floating around that Antonius eventually got a seat, Effel said at 4 p.m. that he “didn’t make it in.” An official entry list for Day 1D will not be available until tonight.
Despite being told that registration was officially closed, approximately a hundred people remained lined up at the registration cage an hour after day 1D began.
“They know registration is closed, but they just won’t leave,” said a security guard, who declined to give his name. “They’re just hoping and praying that they change their mind and open up registration again.”
WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack eventually addressed the crowd — which one low-level Harrah’s employee described as a “mob that keeps getting bigger and bigger” — and apologized on behalf of the World Series of Poker.
“We are sorry, and I am sorry,” said Pollack.
Palanksy said he wasn’t surprised that day 1D sold out. The WSOP sent out an announcement yesterday at 4 p.m. to various media outlets, saying, “(T)here is a good chance Main Event Day 1D tomorrow may reach capacity.” (Note: Emphasis added by the World Series, not by Card Player.)
However, many of the players who were left stranded — watching the tournament from the outside in — remain stunned.
“I’ve played day 1D for the last two years,” said Adrian Passfild, who flew in from Sussex, England. “I came here at 11:50 a.m. last year, registered, and was in my seat by 12:00 p.m. So I had no expectation that they were going to reach capacity (this year).”
Passfild says that he wishes the World Series would allow alternates.
“John Duthie allowed alternates for EPT London so that everyone could play,” said Passfild. “I don’t see why the World Series has to be any different.”
This is not the first year that players have been turned away from the main event, according to Palansky.
“We have closed it in the past. We had issues last year and in 2007 and in 2006,” said Palansky, who couldn’t provide an estimate on the number of players who were turned away in past years. “It’s a common thing, but for some reason players in the poker community don’t decide to use better judgment and show up earlier to register.”
Trevor McCarthy, who flew in from Australia to play in his first World Series, says he certainly would’ve played an earlier day 1 if he thought there was a chance day 1D might sell out.
“An official on the floor — I would’ve loved to have gotten his name — told me yesterday, ‘Harrah’s likes money. We will not cap it,’” said McCarthy. “I’ve been here for the four days, but I’ve been trying to satellite in. I’m spending a lot of money on a hotel.”
Needless to say, McCarthy isn’t pleased that he’s shut out from the biggest tournament in the world.
“I’ve never played in the World Series,” said McCarthy. “It’s my first time in Vegas, and you know what, I don’t think I’ll be back.”
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