$40K Hold’em Event Unlikely to Return to 2010 WSOP
World Series of Poker Fears Tourney Could Create a Second 'Main Event'
The $40,000 no-limit hold’em tournament won’t be back next year, said World Series of Poker Communications Director Seth Palansky.
“The $40K was a good event. It was a successful event. But it made sense, because it was the 40th-annual World Series of Poker,” Palansky told Card Player this week. “That buy-in amount or that event doesn’t really fit when you’re not in your 40th year.”
The new $40K event was one of the highlights of the 2009 WSOP schedule, attracting 201 of the best players in the world to compete for a first-place prize of nearly $1.9 million. The tournament was well-received and generally viewed as a success by both players and tournament organizers. Nevertheless, it likely won’t return for 2010.
“Next year, you’re not going to have a Champions Invitational. You’re not going to have a $40K for the 40th-annual event,” said Palansky. “Both events probably come back 10 years from now, when we’re celebrating 50 years. We announced them and intended them as one-off specials.”
When Harrah’s first announced the 2009 schedule, Palansky warned people that the tournament should not be viewed as an annual event, saying, “We had no intention of putting this on the schedule as a tester to see if it makes sense doing long-term.”
Despite the caveat, many players and people in the industry expected the tournament to return in future years — especially since many other tournament series around the world have regularly featured high-roller events with buy-ins of $25,000 or higher.
“It’s just different, because it’s much more out of the reach of the average person,” said Palansky. “We didn’t want it to be ‘the pros’ no-limit hold’em championship’ and ‘here’s the one for everyone else’ (referring to the main event).”
Asked if there was any chance that the WSOP would run any no-limit hold’em tournament with a buy-in above $10,000 in 2010, Palansky didn’t completely shut the door on the possibility, but he didn’t exactly leave it wide open, either.
“I don’t want to say that for sure,” said Palansky. “The schedule process is still unfolding, but I would say ‘unlikely’ — nothing that would mimic just a straight no-limit hold’em event.”
Reaction to the News
“I think Harrah’s is making a mistake not to do it,” said Isaac Haxton, who finished runner-up to Vitaly Lunkin in the event this year, while collecting nearly $1.2 million. “I’m actually surprised they wouldn’t run it again, given how many players it got and how much rake they were able to charge.”
Chris Ferguson, the 2000 main-event champ and a member of the WSOP Players Advisory Council, agrees with Haxton that the event should be included in the 2010 schedule.
“I think what this year proved is that the $40K is a great event, but no one is going to call the winner of the $40K the world champion of poker. It doesn’t have nearly the prize pool of the main event. I don’t think there’s any question as to who the real world champ is.”
However, some players won’t miss the $40K event.
“Some of the big players wanted to have it, but don’t you think it’s pretty damn big as it is?” said T.J. Cloutier, a six-time bracelet winner who did not play in the $40K event this year. “They have six or seven $10,000 tournaments, and a $50,000 (H.O.R.S.E.) tournament. I don’t think there is any need for it.”
Cloutier said he would rather the World Series up the main event buy-in “at least double,” referencing the fact that Bellagio holds its own $25,000 event. But he cautioned at making any event’s buy-in as high as the $40K.
“It’s supposed to be the World Series of Poker, so everyone should have a chance to play,” said Cloutier, who also sits on the Players Advisory Council. “You’re going to start to price them out if you keep going bigger and bigger.”
Another PAC member who agrees that there should be tournaments with a higher buy-in than $10,000, but who doesn’t necessarily see the need for a $40,000 event, is two-time bracelet winner Steve Zolotow.
“I think events like the $40K hold’em or the $50K H.O.R.S.E. are very pricey for a lot of people,” said Zolotow, who finished just out of the money in this year’s $40K event after losing a huge coin flip for the chip lead against eventual third-place finisher Greg Raymer. “But they could do a few $25,000 events for the high-rollers.”
Zolotow, who says he isn’t passionate one way or the other regarding the tournament in next year’s schedule, disagreed with the premise of Harrah’s argument, that it was trying to preserve the prestige of the main-event bracelet.
“I’m trying to think of a delicate way to say this … They talk about (things like): ‘We don’t want to have a turbo event because it would demean the prestige of a bracelet.’ To me, bracelets are nice, but they’re giving away more than 50 a year. They’re pretty much demeaned at this point. You can win a $1,000 crapshoot and get a bracelet.”
In the end, Zolotow believes that if players want the $40K event and Harrah’s can make a profit off of it, it should return.
Other Changes to the 2010 WSOP
While the likely removal of the $40K hold’em event is certainly the biggest storyline in terms of possible changes to the 2010 WSOP, it isn’t the only adjustment being kicked around. The WSOP told Card Player about a few changes players are likely to see next year.
No. 1: More $1,000 Events. In 2008, the Stimulus Special debuted. The $1,000 no-limit hold’em event was a rousing success, easily selling out its two starting days for a field of more than 6,000 players. WSOP tournament organizers took notice and are planning on adding several — in the neighborhood of six, according to Palansky — to the 2010 schedule.
No. 2: A Bigger ‘Physical Footprint.’ This year, the WSOP sold out 10.25 events — the 0.25, of course, a painful reminder to day 1D sellout at the main event. Palansky stressed that it isn’t the WSOP’s intent to sell out events, and it is looking for more space — potentially the room in which Poker Palooza was held this year — to alleviate that problem.
No. 3: A Solution to the Day 1D Problem. Knowing that poker players sometimes like to procrastinate and enter tournaments at the last possible moment, the WSOP is considering once again assigning starting days to players. However, that notion is far from finalized. Palanksy emphasized that the WSOP would like to keep that control in the players’ hands, if possible.
No. 4: An Earlier-Released Schedule. In 2008, the WSOP schedule wasn’t announced until late January. While Palansky hesitated on giving a firm date, he said that players could expect to see the new schedule “in the fall, for sure.”
Things that players shouldn’t expect to change are the triple starting stacks and the absence of rebuys in the 2010 schedule. Palansky said that both the starting stacks and the WSOP’s replacement of the rebuys, the triple-chance event, were both well received.
All in all, players shouldn’t expect too many different events in 2010.
“We feel like we can get the schedule out sooner, because there’s less of an overhaul to do,” said Palansky. “We can pretty much run with what we did last year, perhaps taking out some events that didn’t have such a good attendance and adjusting the buy-ins on some others.”
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