I think it’s time for casinos that host big buy-in tournaments, such as WPT events, and the players in them to take a look at what’s happening out there today. Due to “player demand,” events have gotten longer since players are starting with deep stacks and friendlier structures. The result is that fields are getting tougher and smaller. And due to the large number of big buy-in tournaments these days, if something isn’t done about it, I see that trend continuing.
This will certainly be the case until online poker gets regulated – and when that happens, we’ll see another poker boom. Big buy-in live events will expand their numbers substantially because so many people will be able to qualify online for $50 or $100. But that’s “if and when,” and we need to worry about right now.
On a side note, one of the biggest myths in poker is about deep stack tournaments. It doesn’t matter how many chips you start with; what matters is the size of the blinds in proportion to the size of your chip stack. But this article is not about deep stack tournaments; it’s about why event attendance is declining in big buy-in events, what to do to about it, and why it will benefit both players and casinos to change the current trend.
You lose value when you shut out the players you want in the tournaments, such as the businessman who cannot take a week off work and amateurs who can’t be away from their families for a week. And cutting down the buy-ins at some events may actually increase the prize pool because of the larger number of entrants. Just look at the recent WPT events at Borgata and Foxwoods. Borgata had a $3,500 buy-in and was the largest field in WPT history with 1,042 players, creating a $3.5 million prize pool.
Foxwoods had a $10,000 buy-in with 240 players, creating a $2.4 million prize pool. Generally speaking, larger fields provide more value for players and, obviously, more people in the casino can only be better for the casino. An additional value of lesser buy-in tournaments is that you can run a lot more satellites, providing more people an opportunity to play and increasing value in the tournament.
How can we increase fields and create more value for the player? The first step that needs to be taken is to shorten the events. With the exception of the $25,000 buy-in WPT Championship, I’d suggest cutting every event on the WPT back to four days – and just as importantly, start them on a Saturday (with the final table on Tuesday).
In my opinion, this would be a win-win situation for everybody. Amateurs can play on the weekend and would only miss one day of work (two if they make the final table, but that would be an extremely beneficial day off for them). The casinos will get more players in their events, which would have much more value. And you don’t have to play ungodly hours the first three days. You do have to cut back starting chips from 30,000 to 20,000, cut levels back to 45 minutes, or eliminate five or six levels along the way. By doing this, pro players will actually earn more in the long-run, as value in the tournaments would increase substantially.
I’ve been to every event in the history of the WPT. At least 80% to 90% of the time, the top players get eliminated in a race or a bad beat – and it doesn’t matter if it’s a three-day tournament or a week-long tournament. As a player, if you knew you were going to race for your money near the end of a tournament, wouldn’t you rather have that race at the end of three days rather than at the end of six days? Wouldn’t you like to have an extra few days to enjoy life?
The argument some players will make is, “Because of the long structure, I was able to survive and put myself in a position to have a race at the end of six days.” That argument has some merit, but I don’t believe it outweighs the added value in tournaments of allowing more amateurs to play.
Players and casino management must recognize that shortening the days of play will benefit everyone. Decreasing buy-ins at some venues would be beneficial as well. For this plan to succeed, however, it’s going to take a strong recommendation by the WPT, the vision of casino management (which shouldn’t be hard since they’ll make more juice and get more people in their casino), and the support of top players with leadership that see the light, especially those in the youth brigade who will help lead the charge.
Where’s Nike when you need them? “Let’s Do It!”