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Poker Issues Part III: $500 buy in WSOP Bracelet Events

by Daniel Negreanu |  Published: Dec 31, '14

My stance on the $500 buy in colossal event at this WSOP isn't a popular one, but I wanted to shed some light on the reasons why it concerns me, and to do that I need to take you on my journey with the WSOP which started back in 1996.

In 96', there was just one tournament a day and the cheapest buy in for any WSOP event was $2000. Satellites flourished and that's where I spent my time since my entire bankroll was somewhere in the $2800 range! I couldn't afford to play in the prestigious main events, but I could cut my teeth in $200 buy in satellites and $20 tournaments at the Orleans. In 96' on my first trip to Vegas I played a satellite to to get into the WSOP main event. It was a $200 buy in with rebuys and I was in for $600- a decent chunk of my bankroll. They were awarding 11 seats and I was down to the final 13 when I picked up Aces under the gun. I didn't have enough chips to fold my way into a seat, so I raised. I ended up in a 3 way all in pot against JJ and AK. A jack on the flop crushed my dreams of playing in the big one. I was devastated, but man what a rush!

You see, at the time I was on the minor league circuit with the goal of just having the ability to participate in the big leagues. Just buying a ticket into a WSOP event was both a dream and a goal. I took the satellites as seriously as I would the main event. It was my training ground.

I wasn't able to get into a WSOP event that year, nor was I able to muster up enough cash to enter a bracelet event in 1997. I was down there daily, though, grinding it out in both the satellites and playing $20-$40 limit hold'em. It didn't lessen the experience for me at all. I felt like I was a part of the WSOP. Just because I didn't get to play for a bracelet didn't mean that I wasn't part of the WSOP experience.

In 1998 I finally got my shot and I didn't waste it. By that point I'd had some success already, winning Best All Around Player at Foxwoods in 97', and winning a tournament on three consecutive tournament stops to start my year in 98'. I was a kid back then and made lots of mistakes with my bankroll, so by the time the 98' WSOP rolled around I was back to where I started- with about $2800 to my name. I loaned money, staked the wrong guys, and played much higher stakes than my bankroll would allow. Just a few months prior my bankroll was the biggest it had ever been at $70,000.

I was back on the satellite grind when I got three handed with Todd Brunson and Mike Matusow for a seat in the 1998 $2000 Pot-Limit Hold'em event- a game I rarely played. Todd suggested we each save $500 and play for the rest. I couldn't pass that up! I ended up beating Todd heads up and he threw me a $500 chip and said, "I'll take a piece of you if you want?" I had no intention of using that money to play that event, but if Todd Brunson thought I was good enough to play, then why the hell not!

My first WSOP bracelet event was a dream come true. Then I cashed...then I was at the final table... then I WON THE WHOLE DAMN THING!!! $170,000 first prize, with 25% of that going to Mr. Brunson who showed faith in my ability.

I tell you this story so that you can see that I understand the grind. I have been there... and I loved every minute of it.


Times change, and the WSOP has grown immensely since those days. Back then, limit hold'em was king, while today it's a dying game much like 7 card stud cash games in Vegas appear to have mostly dried up. Today, $1000 buy in WSOP events cater to a wider reach of people who want to live the dream of playing the WSOP without having the scratch to pony up $10,000 for the main event.

Maybe I'm still stuck in the nostalgia of the old days. I'm crystal clear that this is what the masses want, and certainly in the short term it's good for the players, good for the WSOP, and good for the Rio. I just can't help but feel like it's just a little bit wrong. I think there should be a line somewhere in terms of what is the acceptable minimum buy in for a WSOP bracelet, and while $1000 seemed too small to me, I accepted that as the new norm.

Now we are going one step further. Where does the line stop exactly? If there was a $100 tournament at the WSOP, it would certainly draw huge numbers and we would celebrate it as a success, but is it in the best interest of the brand?

I'm friendly with the WSOP crew and I truly like them all. I also believe that they genuinely care about the players wants, the prestige of the WSOP, and of course, their bottom line. It's a fight between wanting to fill up that massive convention space area with bodies, while not turning it into a cheap circus. I think they do a remarkable job of that overall.

This $500 event doesn't affect me personally. I don't play in the large field $1000 or $1500 no limit hold'em events anyway. I know it's what the players want and I got that sense from seeing the feedback to the announcement on twitter. Players love it, the WSOP loves it. The fact that I don't like it takes a backseat to the greater good. If this is something the players want, I wouldn't stand in their way of having it. I do ponder the question, though, as to what number is going too far. I imagine we would all agree that a $1 WSOP event would be too far? Most think $500 is a good idea, but what about $20? Or even $100? I don't know what the right line is, but for me personally that line hasn't really changed much since my early days of grinding in the hopes of being part of the prestigious festival that the WSOP was, and still is.

If you would like to read parts I and II of this III part piece you can find the links here:
Part I: Multi-Entry Tournaments
Part II: $10 Million WSOP Guarantee
Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of
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