Making changes for the better
Ten million dollars.
That’s what the winner of the 2014 WSOP Main Event is guaranteed to take home. For the first time since 2006, the buzz following the release of the 2014 WSOP schedule wasn’t limited to the poker community, and the news quickly spread to mainstream media. It’s a number too big, too sexy to ignore. And that’s exactly why it’s being offered.
Ten miiiiiiiiiiiiillion dollars. It sounds even more impressive if you say it in your best Dr. Evil.
It’s what made this announcement different. Palpably so. Fringe poker fans, whom I haven’t spoken with about poker in years, called me to ask about it. Friends who haven’t played since the UIGEA did the same. Heck, my dad knew without me telling him. Where did they all hear about it? From a variety of traditional and social media outlets far removed from the poker sector that typically drives this content. Now that is called a successful press release and Seth Palansky and the entire WSOP staff should be thrilled with the result.
Now about that guarantee …
The good thing is that, until November, everyone will boast about that number with ease. Unless the WSOP hits some radical and unexpected number of entries, the first-place prize will be $10 million and nobody will need to look it up again. It will be placed in headline after headline and after a champion is crowned, “Where will you spend your $10 million?” will be the question that I hope every member of the final table can answer. The prize is a huge win for marketing and promotional efforts, too, and you can bet that ESPN will be promoting the telecast by trumpeting those stakes. Can you already hear Lon and Norm talking about it?
WSOP.com and other online poker sites and casinos will offer satellites for the Main Event with an emphasis on a dollar and a $10M dream, and if you think I’m speaking in hyperbole about how much this means on a global and social scale, I’m not. Like Ron Burgundy, this is kind of a big deal.
What’s the downside of putting this much up top?
Honestly, not much. Paying out $10 million for first will reduce the rest of the payout schedule, but you won’t find anyone out there who is playing the main event for a min-cash. Utilizing a prize schedule with 2013’s entries, if you finish in second you’ll still be a multi-millionaire and if you make the November Nine, you’re still looking at $695,261, plus endorsements, slightly down from the $733,224 in 2013. The top seven players will still earn seven figures.
Outside of the final table, the players that would “suffer” most compared to 2013 are those finishing between 10th and 18th who will find themselves with $26K-$33K less as a result of this change. The player that finishes 648th will still be happy to collect his or her $18,864 (down from $19,107) and you can expect that everyone who makes the money will continue to bring it back into the poker economy. Making the money in the main event is still a great accomplishment, with the understanding that some finishing positions are more substantial than others.
For what the WSOP is trying to do on a much broader scale, it’s minimalized the damage to the rest of the payout table and there really isn’t much of a reason to complain. The best potential outcome, beyond all the free press it is generating, is for the prize to be enough of a teaser to bring some people back to the game and turn around the downward trend we’ve witnessed in Main Event participation over the past five years.
Beyond the Main Event, the rest of the 2014 schedule offers a chance for the game to get back to its roots. Back are the $10,000 championship events which will display elite fields time after time. The idea of winning a bracelet in these events carries more weight and should appease the pros that believe the honor has been somewhat watered down. The WSOP understands that it’s going to run into a decrease in overall entries compared to the higher-end events ($5,000) offered last year, but this change is a significant one that, while making the fields tougher, probably makes the old-school pros happy. The $25,000 Mixed-Max and $50,000 Players Championship falls into this category as well. Win any of these and the world will know your name.
The WSOP also refocused its efforts on the lower buy-ins as a way to bring new players into the fold. It kept the Millionaire Maker, another perfect marketing vehicle, and there’s no reason to think that it won’t eclipse last year’s entry number. The emphasis on the low buy-in weekend events remains and the Daily Deepstacks is going to appeal to the low-stakes player who just wants to say they played at the WSOP.
On the innovative front, the $1,500 Dealer’s Choice event is poised to be one of the most popular low-buy-in events of the summer that will probably feature the best atmosphere out of the entire schedule. An event of this sort must be a social one, with players choosing from the 16 available games, and that is a welcomed change from what is typically seen at the Rio. The biggest challenge for the WSOP, and all major events, is keeping the game fun for the outsider who is taking a shot. This event is a great way for the WSOP to rededicate itself to that initiative.
Since Moneymaker, the WSOP has proven that the biggest poker festival in the world is recession-proof. It’s proven that, year after year, there are thousands of dreamers who yearn for the day they can hoist a piece of poker history, and it’s proven that it knows the appetite of the most dedicated competitors in the game. Offering a 2014 schedule that’s equipped with mass appeal, the WSOP is poised to set revenue records and conclude in November with a mind-boggling eight-figure prize that will spark headlines around the word. With these scheduled 65 events, the 2014 WSOP is already a success. And now the wait begins to see who takes home the cash.