Is the World Series of Poker overrated?
Anyone who knows me is well aware that I’m a bit of a contrarian and I’m always ready for a brisk debate, and by the end of this column I’m expecting there will be a long line of people ready to debate, berate, or ridicule me. But here’s the thing; the World Series of Poker is overrated.
I sometimes feel like Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction in the diner scene, “I’m trying Ringo, I’m really trying…” but I just can’t get into the World Series of Poker anymore. Now I’m not talking about the WSOP Main Event, or even specific tournaments, what I mean is that as a whole, the 60+ event WSOP tournament series is overrated.
Don’t get me wrong, the WSOP Main Event is still the king of all poker tournaments, and will always garner mainstream media coverage. And then there are events like the Poker Players Championship and One Drop, which grab some attention and publicity. But for the most part the WSOP is a series of $1,500 buy-in events where the poker media is hoping (dare I say praying) that a superstar or a woman wins, or an interesting storyline develops –otherwise it falls on us to find 500 words to describe an event that has happened hundreds of times since 2003 –some 20-something winning $300,000 by defeating five other 20-somethings with the occasional poker celebrity or amateur sprinkled in.
Back in 2006, when every tournament was televised and every tournament was handing out seven-figure first-place payouts the WSOP was everything it was billed to be, everything that took place was life-altering: From amateurs winning more money than they could hope to make in 20 years working 9-5, to poker pros cementing their legacies and gaining sponsorship deals. During the peak years of the Poker Boom any WSOP event was a potential king-maker and capable of launching or capping off a career.
But in today’s poker world, where only a handful of tournaments ever see an ESPN cameras hovering in the background, the hype and the infamy associated with winning WSOP tournaments is gone. Factor in UIGEA and Black Friday and you have diminished attendances (and prize-pools) which pushes these preliminary events to the backburner and off the radar of the press. Then there is the new poker world, where the skill gap is minuscule and virtually every player has sold off massive percentages of their action.
Sure, poker news outlets still cover the WSOP like its 2006, but realistically the buzz that surrounded these events in the mid-2000’s is no longer there, no matter how much we pretend it is. No offense to Trevor Pope or Cliff Josephy, or even Mike Matusow, but does anyone care that they won a non-televised tournament for a few hundred thousand dollars over the past couple of weeks? Will anyone care if Antonio Esfandiari or John Juanda win a bracelet next week (other than making the article easier to write)?
The way the WSOP is now overhyped reminds me of the way the poker world desperately wants the World Series of Poker Europe Main Event to be an upper echelon tournament. The entire WSOPE is little more than a collection of pros bracelet hunting in WSOP events where the field size is a third of what it is in Las Vegas. The Main Event of the WSOPE is the biggest offender; barely managing 500 entrants we are somehow supposed to buy the hype that this event is just a rung or two below the World Series of Poker Main Event. Well it’s not, and neither are 59 or 60 of the 62 tournaments at the WSOP every summer.
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