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Matt Matros -- Stop The No-Limit Insanity

Matros Argues For More Non-Hold'em Events

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Matt MatrosTen short years ago, the World Series of Poker consisted of 33 open events, only six of which were no-limit hold’em tournaments. I don’t think it will shock anyone to learn that things have changed, but I doubt many realize just how drastic the difference is. In 2013, there will be 34 open no-limit hold’em events at the WSOP — more than all the 2003 open events combined. Sure, some of this year’s no-limit events are heads-up, or short-handed, or ante-only, but they’re still no-limit events, aimed squarely at players who already love the game. Here’s my idea. Why not spread more tournaments for games other than no-limit, and bring in as many new players as possible to the WSOP?

This year’s WSOP features one fewer seven-card-stud event than last year (a $1,500 buy-in and a $5,000 buy-in have been replaced by a single $2,500 event). Also taken off the board for 2013: $3,000 heads-up no-limit hold’em/pot-limit Omaha (PLO), $1,500 seven-card stud eight-or-better, $3,000 limit hold ’em, $2,500 mixed hold’em (a tournament I won in 2011), and $1,500 limit hold’em shootout. Those events haven’t been adjusted with different buy-ins — they are simply gone. Conversely, there are nine more no-limit hold’em tournaments than there were in 2012. And that’s too many.

No-limit players are maxed out as it is, and actually suffer from the problem of having too many choices. Let’s assume, for a second, that you want to play as many no-limit events as you can, but that you’re not willing to play more than one event at a time. That means when you make day 2s or 3s, you’ll have to miss events you would’ve wanted to play. (Either that or you could play all the tournaments and never make a day 2, but I don’t think anyone would consider that a better outcome.) A player could, in theory, pick his ideal 20 or so tournaments and just stick to that schedule, but in practice that’s not how poker players work. Poker players don’t want to risk missing value, so they buy into whatever the next tournament is, which inevitably leads to their missing good events. This disappointment is completely avoidable with a better schedule. The WSOP could cut down to 20 no-limit hold’em events with a day off in between each, and players would have the opportunity to enter — and win — every single no-limit hold’em event on the docket. In all likelihood, serious players would end up entering the same number of events with this abbreviated schedule as they would with the current one, because they’d never have to miss anything.

The WSOP is the only tournament series throughout the year to prominently feature events other than no-limit. But now even the WSOP is spreading no-limit Texas hold’em for 56 percent of its events, leaving the rest of the games to fight over the scraps. The easiest way for poker to continue its growth is for games other than hold’em to catch on in popularity. Imagine a world where a second game could draw 2,000 players for a $1,500 buy-in event. Attendance would skyrocket, which would be an obvious coup for the WSOP, and seasoned professionals would have more profitable events to play. This scenario isn’t as much of a pipe dream as it might sound. In 2003, the $2,000 limit hold’em event saw more entries than the $2,000 no-limit event (this is true — you could look it up.) While limit poker will probably never again be as popular as big bet poker, there is clearly room for some other game to stand alongside no-limit hold’em as a major draw, whether that game is pot-limit Omaha, no-limit ace-to-five, pot-limit Mississippi stud, or some game that hasn’t been invented yet. The best way forward for poker as a whole is growth and experimentation. The no-limit players will come regardless. Spreading more tournaments of the alternate games will eventually bring even more players into the WSOP. That’s a money maker for all of us.

There’s more to poker than hold’em, and there’s definitely more to poker than no-limit hold’em. Consider the beauty of all the other variants. We’ve got nut-bluff draws in pot-limit Omaha, raises to pick up half the pot in eight-or-better games, snowing in deuce-to-seven, and upcard tracking in the stud games. That’s just to name a few of the interesting strategies that don’t apply nearly as well (or at all) to hold’em, but are huge components of some other great games. These games are in danger of dying without the WSOP to help them along, and the WSOP risks stagnation if it doesn’t diversify. So please, World Series of Poker, bring back the events you cut this year for 2014, and maybe throw in a few other new games to generate buzz, attract new players, and keep things lively for those of us who patronize your tournaments six weeks out of every summer. In a few years, we’ll all be reaping the benefits. ♠

Matt Matros is the author of The Making of a Poker Player, and a three-time WSOP bracelet winner. He is also a featured coach for cardrunners.com.

 
 
 
 

Comments

sijimmiisi
over 7 years ago

Let see you master the no limit hold'em first before you try recommend things. Let players play what they like and when players feel like no limit is boring then it will automatic change. So post something that interest reader before this is your last article that anyone will read FROM YOU. THIS WILL BE MY LAST READ....

 
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shakhtar
over 7 years ago

"So post something that interest reader"?

You better take a few more English classes before you apply for your green card son.

 
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rossmarkman
over 7 years ago

Wow, calm down there, siji. Matt is simply expressing an opinion, which is the whole point of a blog. You don't have to agree. I'm not sure I do, either. And I'm predominantly a PLO player.

There's no reason to berate a guy -- especially a bracelet winner with legit credentials -- for sharing his thoughts.

 
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TheFly
over 7 years ago

"Why not spread more tournaments for games other than no-limit, and bring in as many new players as possible to the WSOP?"

I think you pretty much contradict yourself on that line of thinking. The "new players" who you are talking about, i.e. Mr. Joe Blo from some flyover state, want to come to the WSOP for a long weekend or so to play the poker games they watch on TV. Stud, Omaha, etc. aren't televised. ESPN tried it some years ago during the peak of the poker boom and ratings were dismal for non-holdem games. It's the growth of No-Limit Holdem tournaments that has attracted so many new entrants to the WSOP.

New Players aren't going to come to the WSOP because a few more stud events are added. All you have to do is look at the cash game section of the RIO and see how many 1-3 no limit holdem tables are running, compared to stud or other games, to realize what game is bringing the casual amateur "new players" to the WSOP.

 
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pokercrucible
over 7 years ago

So should Ford bring back the Edsel? Should Pepsi bring back Clear? Should Coke bring back New Coke?

The WSOP is catering to the masses therefore more NL Holdem events. I'm sorry but this comes across as a person who wants smaller events. There is no insanity here, there is just bringing to the people what the people want.

Should we play the main event and then have folks vote on a champion?

I hear pro after pro wanting to play the "smaller" events as they feel it is easier to win a bracelet. Sorry, but in my book a bracelet should not be easy.

You don't want many NL Holdem events? Then don't play them, show the WSOP with your bankroll that you want other styles of poker by boycotting the NL Holdem events. Something tells me that you will be showing up in the chip counts of many holdem events just as many other pros will be.

 
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crsseyed
over 7 years ago

You hit the nail right on the head here. They're catering to the masses, giving people what they want. These are the events that have the most attendence so they offer them-simple.

 
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jayjami
over 7 years ago

I have always found it amazing that new players gravitate towards no-limit hold'em. As far as cash games, it is by far the most difficult to master. I've been playing limit hold'em for 20 years. I became a really good after about 3 years of play and can consistently beat the 20/40 games in California. I have been playing no-limit cash games for about 8 years. I am an average player and can beat a lot of the games because most players make so many fundamental mistakes, but I am still far away from being a great player. It takes a lifetime to learn. You players who think differently are just kidding yourselves.

I have played in many limit tournaments over the years and have had a lot of success. I'm not going to brag it, because one of the keys to my success had been to "fly under the radar". In my opinion, and the no-limit players are going to disagree with me, limit tournaments are much better for the skilled player for several reasons.

First, the fields (especially at the WSOP) are incredibly weak. In the 5K event last year, the first player out at my table was a "world champion" no-limit player. He donked all of his chips off by continually trying to bluff a calling station on his left!

Second, in a limit tournament, someone is going to have to out-play me over the course of time to bust me out. In no-limit, so many poor players (and some really good ones) get lucky and amass chip early on, that they can withstand their poor play and wipe you out with a bad beat. It is hard to amass those chips early on in limit, and as the blinds increase that early lead becomes insignificant.

Third, there are some definite strategies in limit hold'em that really work and are fairly easy to master with a little study and practice. I can usually spot a "player" at my table within the first half hour. In no-limit, there are many strategies that you can employ to be successful, and early on in a tournament it is more difficult to get a line on your opponents' play.

I think what attracts new players to no-limit is that they see on TV and think that is it the best game to learn. It is also more exciting to play. Also, you can have some success getting deep into a tournament by getting really lucky and getting into the money. Occasionally, their luck holds up and they make it to a final table. This can happen in limit, but it is much more unlikely.

It is a little sad that limit events are not spread that often any more, but when Harrah's bought the WSOP from Binion's, their goal has been to maximize profits. I am not saying they do a bad running the tournament (I've always had a terrific experience), but they are going to offer events that attract the biggest fields. So, although I agree with you Matt, I think your pleas will fall on deaf ears.

 
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sp3Orbital
over 7 years ago

Limit hold'em is of the devil.

 
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sijimmiisi
over 7 years ago

Really shaktar? Hahah u got mad? Thank you bro....you r my life saver I've won a 1k bet challenge.....that I can proof there r still idiot out there. I owe u a drink.

 
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kickyourace
over 7 years ago

Matt is certainly one of the more respected players in the game. I've always been drawn away from the games at the WSOP except for the main event. The reason? Better values at the Wynn and the Venetian for their series. You get more chips and it cost less to play. As much as I like NL, I'd also prefer to play the other events. I'm pretty sure Matt also wants the other events that he'll have more of a skill level in and less of a luck factor. Spreading out the games is a great suggestion by the way and gives people a day of rest when it comes to NL.

 
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pokertruth
over 7 years ago

EVERY FRIDAY NIGHT IN JERSEY WE PLAY A $50 BUY-IN NO-LIMIT HOLDEM TOURNAMENT WITH ABOUT 24 PLAYERS.

AS PLAYERS ARE ELIMINATED FROM THE HOLDEM TOURNAMENT THEY THEN JOIN A DEALER'S CHOICE NO LIMIT CASH GAME. THE MOST POPULAR CHOICE IS NO LIMIT OMAHA HIGH LOW SPLIT. THE OMAHA POTS ON AVERAGE ARE MUCH LARGER THAN THE HOLDEM POTS AND MORE OFTEN THAN NOT THERE ARE THREE OR FOUR PLAYERS ALL-IN IN THE HANDS. THE GAMES ARE MORE DRAMATIC AND MORE EXCITNG THAN THE HOLDEM GAMES.

ON THE OTHER HAND, POT LIMIT OMAHA IS BORING AND WASTES TOO MUCH TIME COUNTING THE POT. IS THAT WHY POT LIMIT HOLDEM IS NOT SO POPULAR EITHER?

THE WSOP COULD SCHEDULE NO LIMIT OMAHA GAMES STARTING AT ABOUT 5 PM EACH EVENING FOR THE PLAYERS THAT ARE ELIMINATED FROM THE 12 NOON TOURNAMENTS. AS TIME GOES BY YOU WILL SEE SUCH NO LIMIT OMAHA GAMES BECOME VERY POPULAR.

 
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TheFly
over 7 years ago

No Limit Omaha = Variance on Steroids lol.

 
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