The announcement this week that Caesars Entertainment would provide an 85-tournament slate of events under the “World Series of Poker” banner was met with a mixture of enthusiasm, regret and outrage. Because of some of the restrictions on the events – not by Caesars and the WSOP, mind you, but by current laws and regulations worldwide – it will be, in no manner, a representative occurrence that befits the 50 year history of poker’s preeminent event. Thus, this travesty that they are calling the “World Series of Poker” is a joke and a tarnishing of the history of the event.
Are You Serious? ONLINE?
In their announcement earlier this week, Caesars Entertainment and the WSOP decided to take an 85-event schedule online. These tournaments were primarily No Limit Texas Hold’em tournaments, with a smattering of non-Texas Hold’em events tossed it to provide a semblance of “variety” that the WSOP is known for, but in no way were they assembling the world of poker together to compete. In fact, the basic setup of the schedule seems to be a segmenting of the community rather than the usual gathering that the WSOP is supposed to be.
Beginning on July 1, the online “World Series of Poker” will feature 31 events that will be held on the online poker site of the organization, WSOP.com. These 31 events will require that players have to be on the grounds in either New Jersey or Nevada to play in the tournaments as WSOP.com is only available in those two states (players cannot play these tournaments from Delaware, despite being compacted with the other two states) and geolocation allows only people inside those states to play. So, while “anyone can play,” you’re going to have to figure out some arrangements for play and look to spend some time away from home (at least that is somewhat like the live WSOP).
The remainder of the schedule is nearly as ludicrous. The 54 events remaining on the schedule will be played out on GGPoker, the burgeoning online poker site that has been able to land Daniel Negreanu and Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier as sponsored pros in addition to this lucrative partnership with the WSOP. For these 54 events, you’re going to have to pick up and go to either Canada, Mexico or another foreign country, as GGPoker does not allow for people to play from the U. S. (in fact GGPoker, while welcoming the international community, does not allow several countries to play). This will play out from July 1 to September 6, when the final event is scheduled at GGPoker (at this time, no set schedule has been established for the GGPoker events).
Watering Down the Bracelets, Replacing the “Live” WSOP – Plenty to Dislike
There is plenty that demonstrates this move by Caesars and the WSOP is a horrendous idea. First, anyone who doesn’t see this as a blatant money grab by Caesars is fooling themselves. While the “No Limit Championship Event” held on WSOP.com on July 31 is a $1000 tournament and not the $10,000 gala that would normally be held, it still will allow Caesars to rake in some money (and, arguably, more than the live event since it is online) under the auspices of the “World Series of Poker.”
Not only is this a money grab, Caesars is arguably laying the groundwork for not holding a “live” WSOP this fall, as they said that they would. While Ty Stewart, the Executive Director of the World Series of Poker, can claim that the “online” version isn’t a replacement for the live version, there are far too many similarities to what would have been the live version to claim otherwise. Add in the factors that there hasn’t been clearance for travel to the U. S. from other countries, that they are currently playing five handed in three casinos in Las Vegas, and that they only have about half the hotels open and absolutely none of the amenities, it is going to be highly unlikely that they are going to allow thousands of people to mill about in a convention center in the next six months. Thus, what else is Caesars supposed to do? They’ve got to make some money out of the preeminent event in poker and “online” is the only way to do it.
But that pursuit of the Benjamins comes with a price. The “bracelets” awarded from the “online” WSOP will be considered OFFICIAL bracelet wins. Then you want to ALSO have a live event, in which you had scheduled over 100 bracelet events? That’s 185 bracelets…in the history of the WSOP, there have been roughly 1300 bracelets awarded. In one year, you’re going to hand out one-seventh the number of bracelets that has been awarded in the ENTIRE 50 YEAR HISTORY of the event? Nothing says “diluting the value of your most prominent award” like handing it out like Chiclets.
Then there is the online factor of these events. Look, I enjoy playing online poker as much as the next person. But the possibilities of five people being in a room grinding away, or having someone “ghost” a lesser player once they reach the final table and provide instruction (hi there, Jungleman!), or even the possibilities of collusion between players (see the “five people grinding” statement), make it a minefield of potential pitfalls. Sure, the WSOP has held online tournaments in the past (and awarded bracelets), but to do it on this level – and with so much prestige on the line – is just asking for trouble.
This in no manner is the way that the WSOP should be held. It is a LIVE event and should be held as such. 2020 is FUBARed anyway because of the COVID-19 outbreak and the cancelation of the WSOP for 2020 would only be another sign that this has been a year like no other (it would also put the WSOP in good company; the Open Championship and Wimbledon in England, the French Open in France and many other sporting competitions have canceled their events in 2020). I get that Caesars Entertainment needs to milk the cow as much as possible, but the “online World Series of Poker” is a joke, and not a funny one.