For 50 years, the World Series of Poker has been the pinnacle, the Pantheon, that all poker players aspired to take part in. For 50 years, the WSOP Championship Event – now going under the moniker of the “Main Event” – has been the apex of the poker world. Winning that event has earned the player the unofficial title of “World Champion,” because of the arduous task in getting through the world-class players that attend the competition and the marathon-length time frame.
Now, however, the “powers that be” in the ivory tower at Caesars Entertainment and the WSOP offices have made another ludicrous decision that is tarnishing the once-impeccable legacy of the event. Caesars announced earlier this week that late registration for the Championship Event would be allowed up until the end of Level 6, or the end of the first level of either flight of Day 2 action. As long as your buy in is in the cage at the Rio and you’re seated at the table before Level 7 starts, you don’t have to go through the minefield of Day 1A, 1B or 1C! This is an absolutely ludicrous decision on many levels.
Roll With the Changes
The changes to the WSOP Championship Event (and I will continue to call it that – if it was good enough in 1971, it should be good enough now) have been gradual, as has the general degradation of tournament poker. First it was the multiple Day Ones for the Championship Event, but that was a necessity; with the onslaught of players taking part in the tournament since 2003, the only way to get them all in the same arena at the same time would be to put them in Sam Boyd Stadium.
Next came the multiplier on chips for the buy-in. In the beginning, you used to get a “dollar for dollar” on your chips – 10,000 chips for $10,000. It was originally thought that by giving two- or three times the stack would allow for deeper play, but tournament directors actually monkeyed with the structures so that there wasn’t a real increase in the deepness of the stack. In 2020, players will receive 60,000 for their $10K buy in…ridiculous, but people like to see big mountains of chips in front of players at the final table to make their tournaments look MORE important.
Now we’ve gotten to the disease that re-entries/rebuys and late registration have wrought.
Officials with the WSOP have, to this point, been able to rebuff any moves towards offering a re-entry for the Championship Event and they have asserted in the past that they would never consider that move. But just this year, they did allow for late registration through the first day of the crown jewel of the tournament series. There’s plenty of argument on the good or ill of this situation, but it does allow for players who might have travel issues to make it to the tables without penalty.
Don’t Want to Play Day 1? You Don’t Have To!
In 2020, the WSOP Championship Event will allow players to completely avoid playing in any of the three-Day Ones by extending late registration to the end of Level 6, the first level of Day 2. This is not because players complained that travel conflicts were keeping them from making the tournament, or a medical emergency was keeping them away. It is being done to completely avoid having to survive the early carnage, which is arguably the greatest challenge of the tournament itself.
None other than longtime WSOP color commentator Norman Chad, who has seen some poker in his lifetime, took to the virtual wall on Twitter to voice his displeasure with the changes. “Allowing Day 2 late registration for the World Series of Poker Main Event is an awful, awful, awful, awful, awful, awful, awful, awful, awful, awful, awful, awful, awful, awful, awful, awful decision by my friends at the WSOP,” ‘The Couch Slouch’ chirped across his feed. Debate was about 50/50 from Chad’s followers, reflective of the general poker population.
This changes the entire complexion of the event. Players who have the skill and experience to come in on Day 2 – and it is either of the two Day Twos that will be played – with what is roughly an average stack can, if played properly, spin that stack up without having had to work their way through any of the Day One issues. They also would be able to avoid having to compete against approximately a quarter of the field; in 2019, more than 2500 players were eliminated from the tournament by the time Day 2 began.
Play the WHOLE TOURNAMENT!
Call me a traditionalist, but a poker tournament – and especially the WSOP Championship Event – is supposed to be played in its entirety. While it is a convenience to allow players to register into the tournament after it has started, it is something that has been abused by many. Part of that abuse is, instead of having to play through the early stages of an event, these people earn basically a day off by not having to slog through the lower blinds with the “dirty heathens” who are there from the start.
Too many poker tournaments nowadays have gotten away from what tournament poker originally was, an equal battleground for players to prove their skills or their fates. With the advent of re-entry tournaments, late registration and other changes that have come about because of the casino’s ubiquitous greed, the poker field has become tilted towards professionals with either years of experience (it takes incredible skill to handle a middling stack and turn it into something) or massively deep pockets (when Daniel Negreanu is complaining about how the re-entry tournament is abused, you know there’s a problem). With these actions, the poker world is pushing away those who might take their shot and become the next poker superstar, simply because they don’t have the same advantages as those mentioned.
Normally when the WSOP announces these changes (and especially changes to the Championship Event), they don’t go back. But this is one of those times that they should rescind their change and, at the minimum, return to late registration only running through the Day Ones. The pinnacle event on the poker landscape doesn’t need manipulations and trickery to ensure that people will participate and/or watch the event – it just needs to present an equal playing field for those that are involved.