Here is my first monthly blog-type article for PokerNewsDaily. It’s about the 2008 World Series of Poker.
First of all, I was incredibly impressed with the organization and efficiency of this year’s WSOP. It takes a lot of preparation and cooperation to pull off an event of that magnitude and I salute the RIO and WSOP staff for doing such an outstanding job. As a player, I’d like to thank the tournament staff (and players advisory board if they were involved) for the tremendous structures that we used. I played in numerous big buy-in events and I didn’t hear anything but praise by the players for the structures. Nice going, there!
I will now comment on the two things I’m asked about the most regarding the 2008 WSOP. First and foremost: moving the final table of the main event four months down the road. I was interviewed by ESPN regarding this topic but I doubt you’ll ever see that interview on TV because I am not a fan of this move and said as much. Why? I truly believe the negatives far outweigh the positives.
Before I get into the negatives, please understand that I am a guy who is always for something that I feel will benefit the poker industry. I appreciate people coming up with new ideas and therefore, I salute those who were willing to try a “bold move” by putting the final table in November. I just don’t agree with the decision.
My biggest problem with moving the final table to November is that it changes the dynamics of the final table. Fatigue and stamina won’t be a factor as it’s been in the past and I believe making this move to November is a serious disadvantage for the better players. The weaker players will be much improved by the time the final takes place as they will obtain coaching from experts. I don’t feel good players should be penalized by such a delay.
Another problem I have: “What if someone dies before the final table is assembled?” Putting a little casket on the table and blinding a guy off would not only create a morbid setting, it would also change the strategy players might induce to move up in the money. And although a legend didn’t make that final table (such as Doyle Brunson), what if they did and then they died in October? What might have been perhaps the greatest final table ever would now be a very sad and tragic final table.
I also worry about collusion possibilities. Yes, this could happen even if the final table was the next day, but moving the final table back four months makes it, to me anyway, a greater possibility to occur. I’m not talking about players signaling one another as to what they have, but possibly just agreeing to soft-play each other, never bluff at each other, and only bet when you’ve got the goods. Any type of activity where players are not trying to break opponents whenever possible would certainly stain the event and harm poker. And ‘if’ that happened in the biggest event in poker, it could set the growth of poker back 20 years.
Suppose someone from Australia or Finland would have made the final table with only the size of the BB? Should they have to alter their schedule and travel around the world when they figure to be eliminated in five minutes? People plan to play the WSOP when the event is scheduled. The final event already takes quite a bit of time to play. Coming back months later to finish it just doesn’t make sense to me.
Finally, I believe players should be compensated by Harrah’s (a minimum $100k each) for this delay. Obviously, they are making this move to make more money and increase viewership (which it will). I know players will get to make ‘deals’ with online sites, etc., to supplement their income, but I feel that for the inconvenience of the delay, breaking the tournament rhythm they were in, holding their money, perhaps having to wait months to buy a new house, etc., they should be compensated by Harrah’s (more than the interest on their money) – and they’re not.
My other problem with the WSOP was the way the floor people handled certain situations. The worst occurred in the $50k buy-in HORSE event (televised on ESPN). Scotty Nguyen is a good friend of mine who is very good at signing autographs and taking pictures with the public. On this occasion at this final table, unfortunately, he was drunk and out of line on numerous occasions at that final table, criticizing his opponents, berating the cocktail girls with the “F” word and moaning to the tournament staff about it. Unquestionably, Scotty’s behavior deserved a penalty but none was given. I was disappointed with Scotty, but I was appalled the tournament staff allowed his behavior to take place. To me, this was a disgraceful dereliction of duty by the WSOP staff.
Perhaps that floorman was influenced by what happened to a big-name player earlier at the WSOP. In another event, Phil Hellmuth was given a penalty on the last hand of the night. He was supposed to sit out twenty minutes at the start of play the next day. He appealed his penalty to ‘higher-ups’ and his penalty was overturned. If top management doesn’t back up decisions by floor people, then naturally, they will be afraid to give ‘big name’ players penalties – and to me, this is pathetic.
For those of us who are hopeful that sponsorship will become a big part of poker’s future, the $50k HORSE event, an event many consider the premiere event of the WSOP, was a setback. Why would any legitimate company want to sponsor poker if they see that type of behavior by the players? And shame on the WSOP staff for allowing it to happen.