My advice to the WSOP: Shorten the preliminary events

Posted by Steve Ruddock on Jul 20, 2013 Posted in Poker News | No Comments »

wsop las vegasAfter the conclusion of a very successful 2013 World Series of Poker, the WSOP has been soliciting ideas from the poker community, asking for their thoughts and ideas on how to make the tournament series even better. One of those ideas –from’s Donnie Peters—was to play-down to a final table either on Day 2, or on Day 3 and then add a fourth day.

Peters’ thoughts on the matter were that this would allow poker media to hype the final table a bit, and put out better write-ups/lead-ins for the final table of each event –essentially a way to market the final table. One person who hated the idea was poker pro Shane Schleger, who not only wanted to keep the current structure but thought the idea of shortening the tournament to reach a final table on Day 2 absurd.

*I have no issue or hold anything against Shane or his opinion, which is valid from his side of the argument, he just happened to be the one commenting on Twitter, so his name landed in the column.*

Personally I like half of Peters’ idea (I’m totally against making the tournament last longer than it already does) and I think that having each event play-down to the final table on Day 2 would not only allow the poker media to market the tournament better, but it would also solve one of poker’s long-term problems, which I’ll explain below.

What made tournament poker so appealing in the early part of the poker boom was the reduced skill to luck level compared to cash games. But what has happened in recent years is a titling of the playing field further to the skill side, and along with other factors this has contributed to the declining interest in poker and the declining attendance at poker tournaments.

The poker world needs to stop giving in to the self-serving ideas of the current batch of poker pros and start looking at ways to advance the long-term interests of poker. Schleger’s notion that shortening the tournament (and by shortening we are talking about speeding up the structure ever so slightly by eliminating one or two blind levels) is terrible, and I’ll admit that it is in fact terrible; for him and other poker pros! He’s against it because it might slightly hurt his bottom line by tipping the scales the tiniest bit in terms of luck vs. skill.

On the other hand, I’m coming at this from a big picture point of view and what is good for poker (not poker pros) in the long-term, and the WSOP would be wise to do the same. And as Donnie Peters points out, shortening these tournaments ever so slightly would allow the poker media to do a better job covering the tournaments and hyping the final tables – which would add to poker pros bottom lines in terms of exposure in my opinion.

As much as I want a Kessler-approved structure (and when I play with lesser skilled people I hope the structure is as slow as possible), I also understand the need to keep a healthy amount of luck involved in the game. I’ve watched countless home games dry up because the structure was too in favor of skilled players and they dominated, and I’ve seen others thrive that give the amateurs a puncher’s chance. The same is true for major poker tournaments; amateurs simply don’t even enter anymore.

While I want the best of the best to make the final table of the WSOP Main Event and the WPT Championship, I also want amateurs to feel they have at least a chance in $1,500 events at the WSOP, not Moneymaker long-shot odds (like they should have to make the WSOP main Event final table) but a chance to compete for final tables in WSOP preliminary events. They need to feel that if they catch a card or two at different points they can make the final table, not that the structure is such that it would take 10 lucky cards to make the final table. I want the skill to luck factor to look more like it did back in 2003 and less like it does now, where we have Kessler approved $1,500 tournaments that last four days.

Here is the 2004 WSOP schedule, notice beneath each preliminary tournament the “2-Day Event” line. I don’t remember poker pros having trouble winning under these conditions, and I’m not asking to go back to that, I’m just asking that we shorten it to 3 Days. You might argue that there were less players back then, ok, how about the 2006 WSOP schedule then? You’ll still find plenty of tournaments scheduled for just two days, and this was one of the most heavily attended WSOP’s in history.


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