Changes To The WSOP & More On The State of Poker Today

Well, my last post got quite reaction (see here).  All credit to Dominick for his time and his thoughts.  His take on what’s wrong with poker these days is getting plenty of positive and some negative feedback, and I’m just thrilled with the response.  It would be an exaggeration to say the post has gone “viral” but it I did set a record for pageviews on Friday (by over 50%) and I want to thank everyone who linked to it or tweeted about it. 

In the post, I basically gave Dominick the floor and didn’t inject my own opinion (with one notable exception, which I’ll get to in a moment).  This was not a debate or even two guys just spitballing.  The floor belonged to Dom and I didn’t want to get in the way.  You folks see my idiot opinions all the time, this was devoted to an insider’s eyeview.   I do have a few thoughts of my own to add to the discussion this time.

For more reaction than just in my own comments section, you can go to Dom’s FB page (which I believe is open to the public) here.   Also Poker Grumplinked to it and basically said he agreed with everything Dominick said.  Then, just was I was starting to write this, I see that Grange has done a longer post commenting on what Dom said, and you should all check it out here.

Grange makes a couple of really good points.  One (also mentioned by Dom) is that it is absurd that poker players are sitting at the tables watching movies and paying scant attention to poker.  Now, to be fair, in the past I’ve actually seen players read books at the table, also not paying attention to the game.  We need to get rid of that.  It doesn’t help the game, and frankly, it’s damn rude.  However, here’s something I don’t get.  A lot of the players doing this are the locals who are presumably making money playing poker.  How?  Isn’t paying attention to the game one of the key things we’re all taught when we open our first poker book?  Learn how the how players play, to the best of your ability.  Who are the nits, who are the calling stations, who are the maniacs.  Who will only bet when they have the nuts?  Who will bluff at every opportunity?  Who c-bets every flop if they raise pre and who only bets the flop if it hits them or has a big pocket pair?  That information is crucial to being a successful poker player and I don’t see how you can learn that watching 50 Shades of Grey on your iPad. 

But that leads into the other point.  I guess the people who are watching movies and/or listening to music with noise-cancelling headphones aren’t making money from winning poker, they are playing the promotions game.  And that was a point that both Dominick and Grange made—promotions that encourage people to just sit in a poker room, buy into a game, and hardly ever play a hand just so they can accumulate hours to get some compensation for playing a lot of hours in a room are not helping. Maybe they’ll wake up with Aces and Kings and make a raise once in a while.  Otherwise, they just fold.  But they’re accumulating hours.

One of the things Dominick mentioned briefly in our talk but didn’t make it into my post was that TI had a promotion sometime back where people would get money for playing X number of hours in a room for Y period of time.  Just flat out got cash for playing.  Promos like that, or freerolls where entry is earned for a certain number of hours played encourage locals to come into a room and play like nits (maybe they are nits anyway, whatever). In the short run, it may increase traffic into a poker room.  In the long run, I think it’s not good for the room and bad for poker in general. 

The biggest, busiest rooms in Vegas can get away with not having promos because of their stature and also their client base—the people who stay in their hotels.  But smaller rooms are probably always going to have promos and promo drops.  Nothing wrong with that.  I think though that the kind of promos matters, as alluded to above.  The promos should encourage players to play poker.  High hand bonuses do just that.  You need to put money into the pot and play to hit quads or a straight flush.  The cash drawings I talk about at MGM also encourage play.  People play more suited cards than they might otherwise play to try to make a flush (I’m guilty of that as well).  And they chase flushes more because of that promo.  And they call rivers with weak flushes (or flushes where a full house is very likely) because of the promo.  Good for the game—although if you get your set or your straight run down by a flush that was only made because someone wanted a drawing ticket, you might not agree that one time. 

Another point of debate is whether or ESPN is good or bad for the game.  I can’t really comment on that….by the time I got into poker, ESPN was already heavily concentrating on NLH and that is the game that got me interested in poker.  I personally am not into the non-hold’em games.  But who knows, if I was watching when they heavily covered Stud or HORSE (or whatever), maybe I’d be dying to play in those mixed games that spring up in Vegas on occasion and that I almost always avoid.

But I love that the discussion has started and maybe this discussion will lead to some useful insight and helpful changes.

Dom mentioned the big change in this year’s WSOP, so let’s talk about the biggest deal in poker every year.  I like the change to pay more players in each of the bracelet events (15% instead of 10%).  More players getting paid I think will encourage more players playing—this year and the future.  I already did a post suggested that the min cash be higher than it is (here), but honestly, I don’t see how you can do that and add 50% more players to the payouts.  I’m ok with that for the WSOP.  I think with the price of the buy-ins and the aura of the Series, paying more people is probably better than giving the min cashers more money.  I’d still like to see what I suggested for smaller regular tournaments ($100 or more buy in).

The other big news for the WSOP this year is “The Colossus.”  You’ve probably all heard of this by now.  Four starting flights, $5MM guarantee, $565 buy-in.  It’s kind of irresistible and I expect I’ll be playing it.  A much better value than the Casino Employees Event I played in last year (see here).  Will probably have the most entrants in the history of live poker.  The starting stack if only $5K and the levels on the first day are only 40 minutes (60 on Day 2 and beyond) but still, it seems like a reasonable value and should be fun.

As I am in the processing of entering the details of the WSOP for PokerAtlas, I did notice something else a little different from the last year.  The starting stacks for each event are generally bigger.  In the past, the starting stack was usually 3X the buy-in.  A $1K event had a $3K starting stack.  Now it is usually five times.  So those $1K events start you with $5K in chips.  However, I did discover something important that I want to make everyone aware of that I don’t believe has been pointed out (or perhaps I just missed it).

In the past, the starting blinds were usually 25/25.  Now those same events start the blinds at  25/50.  So they are not increasing the starting stacks by 80 big blinds as you might think.  They are actually reducing the starting stacks by 20 big blinds!  You know how it is…when they give you something on side, they take away something on the other side.  Anyway, instead of starting with 120 big blinds, you now only start with 100.  This is on most “normal” events—obviously for some events it’s completely different.  But I think everyone needs to realize that up front.

OK, that’s all for now.  I actually interrupted the post I’m working on now because I realized I couldn’t finish it before I wanted to get a new post up.  So I figured this would be a good follow up to my previous post.  Hopefully I can get that other post completed in time for Tuesday evening.

In the meantime, I’m probably gonna watch some of the Academy Award show tonight, because Neil Patrick Harris is hosting.  And let’s face it, although he has a solid show biz career and getting to host his first Oscars is quite an honor, his biggest claim to fame will always be that he starred in one of my blog posts (see here).  That’s bigger than the Oscars, right?  So I want to see if, even if he is the world’s cheapest tipper, he can do a good job handing out awards.  Hmm…maybe he will only give the winners half an Oscar?
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Changes To The WSOP & More On The State of Poker Today
Changes To The WSOP & More On The State of Poker Today
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