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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


over 7 years ago

Daniel, I disagree for a few reasons...
#1 -Do you think its harder to win an $500 event with 10,000 people or $100,000 event with 20 people? Anyone that can buy in a high roller will have a lot easier chance of winning a bracelet for sure. Yes poker is skill and a game of odds and percentages but luck plays a huge have to get the cards! That's why no names win the big field events almost everytime. I don't see how getting tons of people to go to Vegas for a chance to make a dream come true is a bad thing. If that's the case why have the Lottery?? People are dreamers so let them dream. Most these people go to school,have a 9-5 a family a wife etc they cant devote the time and money to take the route you did... that's not normal life.

#2- I Guarantee most the people that cash in the deep field events will at some point play again so how is that bad? Plus You guys sell pieces all the just said Todd Brunson bought a piece of you in your 1st bracelet event that you weren't even going to play so how is that fair? Most people don't have that option. How many people would be in the 1 million dollar One Drop if it was made illegal to sell any action??? (if there was a way to know obv. :)


over 7 years ago

I think that a bunch of the poker playing community is not looking at this from the view of the average joe. For tv rating the 10 million looks good. Some things that would help to make things better in my opinion is as follows.

1. Make the final table all quaranteed 1 million dollar winners. watching the Main Event Millionaires battle it out sounds good for TV and to the average joe'

2. Move the final table to an early start time. Instead of November make the table one month after the event.

3. Have the ESPN broadcast bring back the things that made it look like the Pro poker players were enjoying the game and life. like the side shows of ESPN NUTS and so on. Go back to the 2 hour package show with a potential to watch the live stream when the true hardcore fan likes.

4. Have the Main event champion be a true embassador outside the poker world. How many times have you seen anything on what the main event champ has done over the next year.

5. As much as i love watching the live stream of the show, when the average joe watches it for about ten minutes he is going to move on to watch something else.

6. The show needs to showcase the excitement and fun of the game so we can bring back the average joe which brings higher ratings on tv which in turn would bring bigger and better spomsers. This is winning for everyone. This will also bring more people back to the tables which in turn helps the poker economy.

I have many more ideas to help this wonderful game that i love. I could be wrong but would love to hear other opinions on my ideas

So what do you think Mr. Negreanu?

Thanks for being a great ambassador for the game


over 7 years ago

Let's see what happens. I applaud the WSOP peple for trying new events and continuing to experiment with old events - I was shocked that WSOP would go below a $1000 entry fee but it's an interesting experiment. The Monster Stack in 2014 exceeded all expectations and has been thankfully retained. I played the Senior Event last year and it was awesome to be part of a field of 4,400 plus playing poker under one roof. The weekly tournaments I play in California are lucky to get a hundred entries. There's something about the atmosphere of huge fields and massive payouts that makes the trek to Vegas worthwhile. You only have to look at the weekly entries in the PokerStars Sunday millions - usually over 7,000 to know that many poker players are eager to enter the lottery of a mammoth field in the hope of making the final table. I thought the 1,000,000 Big One For One Drop event was the unnecessary event in the 2014 WSOP series. A field of 42 players - and a first prize of $15 million? You could hold this event - anywhere and anytime and it would attract as much media coverage. Making the entry fee obscenely high isn't good for poker - it's a subtle reminder to many of us that the ultra-wealthy can amuse themselves by entering in a field of hardened pros because it doesn't reduce or increase their net worth by a tenth of one percent if they win or lose.


over 7 years ago

I agree with the premise that there has to be some kind of floor. There are plenty of tournaments out there with the entire range of buy-ins, and WSOP doesn't need to "give bracelets away", so to speak. There's a lot of prestige behind winning a WSOP bracelet, and their biggest focus should be on maintaining the integrity of the winning bracelet. Is a $500 tournament going to 'cheapen' winning a bracelet? Not necessarily - beating out 9k other players to win it still makes it pretty respectable - but I'd pay close attention to tournament quality at those levels. Anyone trying to get in on a bracelet with a lower bankroll can and probably should go through the satellites.


over 7 years ago

I view this issue as part of something else entirely, IUEGA and to a much lesser extend the behavior of some of the more infamous poker pros.

Recall the poker boom started when an Ordinary Joe named Chris Moneymaker beat the top names in poker. He won a series of tourneys starting with a $40 satellite. Everyone flocked to the internet to win their way in, many of the names of both WPT and WSOP winner cut their teeth online.

Back then, online was a cheap place to learn the game. You could play a jillion micro dollar tournaments, to develop a skill set but mostly the confidence to walk down to the local club and put a $100 down and start cutting teeth on larger games. Lots of ordinary Joes, did this. The casino's prospered and so did the big name pros.

As is human nature though, greed all around choked off this minor league. The casinos thought the online companies were cutting into their action, the online companies started sponsoring young pros, and some of the big name pro's started got cozy with the online insiders. This all seemed like a natural evolution of the game from a casino game to a professional trade. The rising tide raised all the ships but that wasn't good enough. The brick and mortar casinos, caught with their pants down missing online poker profits, ran to Washington to end online cash games. The behavior of some young guns was less than role model ideal. There are a lot of top pros in hot water due to their behavior and relationships with online companies. With the perception changing that poker was a good clean game where nice people can make a lot of money playing a game, it went back to being gambling in places where you risk getting fleeced by cheats, liars and people of low character.

With no place to learn on the cheap and no trust in the people running the games, people left the game. As a result, fewer people now enter the game, play the majors, and walk down to the local clubs and start moving up the levels. I went to Tahoe to try to win my way into the main event. The numbers wouldn't impress that last weekend, the place was filled with part time pro's and lots of people I play with on a regular basis. Not a lot of new faces.

So the more trusted names that are still around are now trying to keep the last remnants of our beloved game intact. The lower level events will encourage some to move up and keep the WSOP numbers up. I play mostly $100-$200 events and play even mostly due to top heavy payouts. (A factor top pros had advocated is a side discussion) Winning a $1500 event even if I sucked it up and paid the money to enter has little value since in all probability, i'd be playing hours of poker to win my money back. This only works for me if I am playing for fun. Would I be more likely to go to Vegas to play a $500 bracelet tourney? Yes! My friends and I keep saying we are going to go on a lark and play a $1500 event but we never have but you might see my name there for a $500 donk fest. I'd do it just for the fun of it.

I am still waiting for micro level online cash games to come back. The bad apples have disappeared. The people now still in the game are the gambler sickos, pro's and serious amatures. Where is the place for newbies to enter the game in a safe environment without getting fleeced?

Answer - no where.

The game will continue to founder until this minor leagues returns. Good for WSOP expanding the entry base.


over 7 years ago

Also 3-6 limit used to be the lower brick and mortar game. It brought alot of new people to the game. It showed if you played good poker you could make a profit. It allowed players to move up in limits and create a vast number of players.

What greedy casinos did was lower the bottom game to 2-4 and raise the rake from 3 to 4 dollars which is now not a beatable game which make it seem like a hobby and not a possible profession for new players. They also got rid of the 5-10 limit games because they thought 4-8 games enticed people more because of the big pots. 5-10 limit was a good fast game where the dealer changed one or 2 reds to white to cove the rake and their tip and everybody made money.

The game is too slow today, to much hollywood, tv needs to stop showing the final tables and start showing the early rounds. Or specifically follow some ones journey all the way through the main event.

We just need new players into the game. A beatable game. One that is not just a winner for the rake!!!


over 7 years ago


You are concerned about "cheapening" the value of WSOP bracelets. Well, what about all the bracelets awarded when fields were less than 100. Heck, from 1970 to 1996, the Main Event field never even eclipsed 300 entrants. Today, if you make it to 300th place in the Main Event, that's considered a fairly deep run.

To me, the starting field size is much more important than the buyin amount when it comes to evaluating "Bracelet Prestige" across the years. I seriously don't consider bracelets won in years past when fields sizes were less than 100 to be comparable to bracelets won in the "modern" era with fields sizes in the or thousands.


over 7 years ago

Could not disagree with his viewpoint more I don't think.

Many players with an amazing run of cards would still not be able to survive that field. Amazing card runs typically speaking, even when hot do not span multiple days and fields of that sizes... many weaker players, or players who are not playing extremely good poker will not be able to survive the rest of the time or avoid making tournament ending mistakes by getting into the wrong pot etc.

Poker is a game of people played with cards is the old saying. Does it mean there needs to be an elitist viewpoint to having to grind to the level of 10k or other major buyin levels to showcase a good poker player? Is this game only for the rich? If you ask me, hell and no. This is a thinking, and skill game played by mankind, your race, creed, age, financial status, gender, or political viewpoint should not matter for deciding if you are worthy of the honor of a wsop bracelet.

Good Show WSOP.


over 7 years ago

In further detail to my previous post I wanted to add accuracy to balance the view point.

1) I fully support what KidPoker does for poker. As a general all around self appointed ambassador for the game he does the game a great service and in general I fully agree with his points of view. Except this one.

2) I believe Dnegs is really trying to point out that this game should be more like a sport rather then a game of gambling, and ultimately that will end up being one of the best things for poker, and allow it to be compared to games like Football, Baseball, Hockey, Soccer etc. I could not agree more. This is why the GPI needs to be re-invented, and a number of the industry concepts need to be taken and rolled into one all inclusive league( the current GPI), with playoffs and additional round robin (top say 50 players GPI based, doing something similar to what party poker currently does with the premier league... and have a finals that even once you qualify through the previous means you would still have to put up a substantial buy in to play for the "world cup" against the best in the world.

3) I believe that, a bracelet as it sits right now, all the different levels of them for different events etc, does not hold the same weight as it sits, and never will again. Yes its a status symbol, but so is being the card player, bluff, or GPI player of the year. Whats the major difference between these things? Varience. A braclet does not mean you are a great player, it means that you are "possibly" a great player and you also ran like god for a few days and won a title.

Heres the nuts to the whole argument; Daniel is right, to make this game progress to the next level it needs to be a sport; it needs to have more commitment; it needs to have the best in the world risking there own hard earned money. My issue with the argument is that changing how braclets work (when its already to late to change this anyway) is not the solution at all and in fact is the completely wrong direction, and the answer lies in using what we already know, and using poker league systems that are already there, re-inventing them in such a way that variance is reduced, and a best player through actual quality play is actually decided each year. Everyone has the right to play in at least a few events.

I think this is an important time in the development of poker. If the major brands (stars/ftp, party, major training sites, major tracking softwares, major ranking indexes), of this game, as well as the major figure heads were to actually organize together( currently just not happening) more so then they are, and consider the sport before there own pocket books, this game, and all of us who play it, and make money from it (businesses included) would be better off.


over 7 years ago

So refreshing to read all these good comments sans the comments that leave the topic and Daniel / celebrity bash, which is tedious.

The Collossus is GREAT and the winner will deserve a bracelet, after beating out 10,000 entrants in the 4 flights. I'm planning on being there and can hardly wait. I think it will be extremely good for the WSOP and turnout.

I am hoping for a Clock. Even at small tournaments some players tank repeatedly and it hurts the game flow and enjoyment as well as fewer hands, which rewards short-term variance / luck. Bring in the Clock for The Collossus, that would be GREAT.

I had 2 20-somethings at my table at The Bicycle who were tanking every decision and we only playe 18 hands one hour, as opposed to 35-42 with more courteous players. CLOCK!


over 7 years ago

There are obvious valid points to this article, but the door swings both ways.
It's not fair that Colman wins player of the year when most of his success came in events with tiny fields who could afford the buy-ins.
It's not fair that Moneymaker, along with many amateur and even novice players, have won huge field events because of the luck factor to build chips and survive flips for days (where luck proves to play a huge role verse skill).
Those are the arguments regarding fairness that I hear and read about.

But then, what exactly is fair? What is standard? There is none.
Not unless you create different levels of prestige - Platinum bracelet, Diamond bracelet, Gold bracelet.

And how do you do that? By basing it on the buy-in, where a buy-in of 50k to 1 million is platinum? Doesn't work if you think this means only the best players in the world compete. There are rich people who have no true skill who compete in these events too.
So there cannot be different levels, not in the overall scheme of things.

And it's meaningless to try to keep things extremely traditional because you can't compare today's field of 7000 players to the 10 players 40 years ago for the main event.

If the bracelet is going to exist as the same 'standard' today, then it simply adapts to today's boom of players and if that means throwing in a $500 event, so be it.

One day it might be a $100 event as a massive marketing campaign. You'd hate to read that, and I think it seems a little silly, BUT it's a new game with huge fields and to keep poker growing to eventually be as big as football, I think $100 bracelet events (yes, events... plural) may be the answer in the future poker world.

So what I'm really saying is poker is growing and CAN continue to grow to the entire public with good marketing campaigns... BUT, the tradition and standard of poker is an entire final table of pros to see who the BEST (of the best players) is. So, naturally, Daniel along with many other pros can get a little pretentious (for good reason!!). But many of them are a little contradictory too. For example, all pros today love it when they reach a final table with few other pros LOL. This cannot be denied.

So the tradition or standards are not really the concern here. The problem for the pros is that on the one hand they love the increase in fresh new blood to enter their poker arena, and on the other hand they hate having to own bracelets where first time players have won them too, which obviously waters down the concept of a pro having the bracelet in the first place (no pun intended) and the meaning behind it.

Poker grew in this millennium for the reason we all know - anyone can win, and the greater public learned that quickly!

Although $500 does seem too low for a bracelet event, it's ONLY for one bracelet event.
It creates the opportunity for new players into a game that has grown very little in recent years and even leveled off or dropped in certain venues.

So overall this is a large (and smart) marketing campaign aimed at the general public to help produce more players, and at the very least to get many of the novice players more involved in poker.
If your a novice player and cash in the event for ANY amount outplaying 90% of a 10,000+ field event you are a new player into the poker world... period!
Plus, when the final table has more amateurs than weathered pros, You can be sure that people witnessing, reading or hearing about that will immerse themselves into the future poker fields.

If the $500 event were to happen more than once this year, then I'd agree 100% with Daniel's article.
However, if it increases more in frequency in future years, this will be a good thing for poker (more on that further below).

As much as I agree with Daniel that 1k is even too small, (say for traditional purposes, and there are so many 1k events), I have to also disagree because it is these events which helped keep poker alive and strong in massive numbers at the series.
Think of how many players cash in those events and then use even a small win cash to enter the 1,500 HORSE or 2,500 MIX. Let alone the hundreds who cash deep over a seven week period of all the 1k's combined, to help increase numbers for the higher stake events, including the Main of course.

By the way Daniel, I replied to your rant about the '10 million first place for the Main' a few weeks ago, and every point of change that I recommended has been implemented! I feel like I played a huge role in the changes that were made today!! 1 million for final table, 15k for min cash, 1000 players paid, and 500k for 10-12, were all exactly the things I wrote!!!


over 7 years ago

Daniel, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this and so many other poker topics. I know that every time you do so, you open yourself up to criticism by people who disagree with you. Yet by doing so, you make the game so much more interesting and entertaining for poker-loving amateurs such as myself. Thank you for doing so.

I am very much looking forward to playing in the $565 WSOP event, but Daniel’s point is well-taken. The WSOP began as the World Series for the best-of-the-best poker players. The buy-in was sufficiently high that only the very best poker players, or amateurs who were willing to risk a very substantial amount of money, participated. There were also only a very few bracelets awarded each year. As a result, the WSOP was truly the world championship of poker. There were no watered down bracelets and every single bracelet commanded mountainous respect among even the very best poker players in the world.

The poker boom was a fantastic development for poker pros and amateurs alike. Poker pros found themselves with thousands of new, relatively unskilled amateurs more than willing to put their money in the pot with expert poker players at cash games and various tournaments throughout the year. At the same time, the WSOP began offering more and more lower-money buy-in tournaments to take advantage of this new market. Poker pros had more opportunities to make serious money at the expense of amateurs and many poker pros gained fame and celebrity.

The number of WSOP events grew so much, and the buy-ins shrank so much (especially in inflation-adjusted dollars compared to the 1970s, 80s, and 90s), that the WSOP became something much different than was the case when Daniel and others worked their tails off to reach the top of their profession. It became the everyman’s World Series rather than the Mt. Everest of accomplishment attainable only by the very best poker pros.

Daniel and others have understood the pros and cons of this, and I am surprised that so few poker pros have bemoaned this development. To a certain extent, the dozen or so $10,000-entry WSOP events each year have become the new measuring stick among serious poker pros. But the Main Event was always the crème de la crème, yet it is no longer likely to be won by one of the world’s very best poker players.

Daniel acknowledges that he has come to grips with all the $1,000 buy-in events. This is the case even though $1,000 today is not what $10,000 – or even $1,000 – was 20, 30, or 40 years ago. It has enabled people like me to experience the dream of playing one or two WSOP events each year without really risking too much money if I can find the time each summer to do so. If an amateur such as me can run deep in one of these tourneys, then she or he can live the dream of investing those winnings into playing the Main Event. But it also means more people of marginal poker skills will enter these events and some will even become bracelet winners. Every time a marginally skilled poker player wins a bracelet or makes a final table, it waters down the prestige of the bracelet.

I personally would have kept the lowest buy-in at $1,000. At the same time, I plan on entering the $565 event and the $777 event if my work schedule allows me to participate. Heck, now I can play two WSOP events for the price of one. Daniel, thank you and so many other poker pros for being as accommodating as you are when amateurs like me go to Las Vegas each summer and play a WSOP event or two.

Also, thank you for all the time you give of yourself during the WSOP events. Every year I see you signing autographs, standing for pictures, etc., with railbirds not just during the scheduled breaks, but even sometimes during the action after you have dropped out of a hand. You have made countless people very happy by doing so. I wish you the highest level of success at this year’s WSOP.

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