Why the WSOP should be contracting not expanding
One of my pet peeves for a number of years now has been the cheapening of poker’s most meaningful prize: A World Series of Poker bracelet. Before the poker boom a WSOP bracelet was worth little more than the gold it could be melted down to, but during the poker boom WSOP bracelets gained a secondary value far beyond the intrinsic value of its precious metal. During the heyday of the poker boom poker players were suddenly coveted for sponsorship deals and WSOP bracelets were the measuring stick being used. WSOP bracelets meant name recognition and TV time to sponsors, and players basically throwing money away in pursuit of a bracelet. The result was a massive expansion of the WSOP and the addition of bracelet events, not only at the WSOP series in Las Vegas, but through continued expansion in the US (via the WSOP Circuit Series, which awarded gold rings) and in Europe and now in Australia.
In the midst of the poker boom poker pros and aspiring poker pros would do anything to chase down a bracelet even if it meant travelling to the far reaches of the globe, because a bracelet was often worth far more than the prize-money offered in the tournament. Poker players are notorious for their never-ending quest for value, and a WSOP bracelet was the ultimate in value. A single bracelet could often lead to a sponsorship deal worth five-figures, and multiple bracelet winners were often given multi-year deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars when all was said and done.
But this is no longer the case. ESPN only televises a couple of events every year and sponsorship rules have been changed over the years, especially in the US. Sites can now spend their marketing dollars in far better ways than by slapping a patch on some poker player who won a bracelet last year. What this has done is drop the value of a WSOP bracelet to almost zero; even multi-bracelet winners like Jeff Lisandro (who won three bracelets at a single WSOP) aren’t worthy of a long-term sponsorship deal; basically, if you don’t win the Main Event or the $50k Poker Players Championship your bracelet is just that, a bracelet.
So with no intrinsic value players are no longer going to go bracelet-hunting at the WSOP Europe or at the WSOP APAC. This is why the circuit series has devolved from $10k events with multi-million dollar prize-pools to $1,500 events that occasionally top a total prize-pool of $1 million.
So what does the WSOP need to do? I’m of the opinion that the WSOP should contract; limit “true” WSOP bracelets to Championship Events that boast buy-ins of at least $5k. All other events should be demoted to Silver bracelets or even Rings like the WSOPC hands out.
If you want to host events around the globe make them non-bracelet events, since people haven’t been attending them anyway! WSOPE, WSOP APAC, WSOP Africa, and so on… sure use the WSOP brand, but these should not be bracelet events (maybe just the Main Event if they meet the criteria I outlined above). If players are not going to chase bracelets why keep offering them? People still will attend these events because there is money to be won.
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