Awful, awful, awful, awful… decision by WSOP

The World Series of Poker is allowing Day 2 late registration for next summer’s signature Main Event world championship poker tournament. The key sentence says “Registration for the Main Event remains open through Level 6, meaning all players participating must be in the field at the end of that first level on July 5” where Sunday, July 5 is clearly Day 2.

Let that sink in…

On Twitter yesterday, longtime ESPN commentator Norman Chad had a harsh reaction:

A lot of Twitter agreed. A lot disagreed. Welcome to Twitter.

Put me in the camp of those who agree. This is an awful decision.

The Main Event is THE global signature poker tournament of the year. Owing to the excess of participants over the number of tables and chairs, there are three starting flights. Players can choose to start on July 1, 2 or 3. Those who start on July 1 or 2 and survive the opening day return on July 4. And those who start on July 3 (typically the largest of the starting flights, by far) and survive will return July 5.

On July 6, all of the July 4 and 5 survivors are consolidated. While July 6 is the sixth day of the event, it is the 3rd day of actual play for each individual player.

For perspective, here are the 2019 figures:

Day 1A — 1,335 entries — 955 survivors

Day 1B — 1,915 entries — 1,408 survivors

Day 1C — 4,877 entries — 3,631 survivors

Start of Day 2 registrations — 442

My understanding is 2019 players could register up until the start of Day 2, whereas next year the late registration period will be extended until the completion of the first blind level on Day 2.

Why is this awful?

First, the Main Event is, in part, an endurance contest. Tremendous stamina and concentration over many days is required to win. Maybe it shouldn’t be an endurance contest… but that’s what it is in present form. Letting players choose their Day 1 shows how important this is, as most players wait until Day 1C to conserve energy prior to the long grind. If the WSOP wants to make the Main Event less of an endurance contest, one alternative would be to assign Day 1’s to all registrants in a random, balanced manner (much the same as initial table and seat assignments are made).

Another alternative would be to establish a qualifying process, sufficiently in advance of the Main Event for qualifiers to be properly rested when the tournament begins. The number of qualifiers should be limited by the capacity of the facilities to handle everyone in a single flight (and note that nearly 5,000 players started on Day 1C in 2019), which currently doesn’t happen until Day 3. The Global Casino Championship is an example of a tournament offering multiple paths to qualify. So is the US Open Golf Championship. These are open events, with a process for winnowing the field that ensures everyone in the final field starts on equal footing.

Second, part of the challenge of winning the Main Event should include the challenge of navigating one’s way through Day 1. Suppose the Yankees make it to baseball’s World Series next summer, but only after a brutally difficult seven game ALCS. Further suppose the first game of the World Series will be a road game. Should they be able to skip that game entirely, to give their entire pitching staff a full extra day of rest? Nope! They are required to compete in Game 1, even if they are likely to lose and likely to further wear out several of their best pitchers while losing. As we say in my part of the country, “that’s how the bear shits in the woods!”

Third, there’s plenty of notice as to when the Main Event starts. WSOP announced the dates yesterday, 203 days before the start of day 1A. That’s plenty of time to make travel arrangements, secure funds, sell or swap action, and register. The World Poker Tour’s Matt Savage asked, snarkily, if registration should be closed at the first call of “Shuffle Up and Deal!”

Well, why not? It’s not like the timing is some well kept secret? If you didn’t know when the 2020 Main Event starts… now you do! [NOT A SPOILER: WEDNESDAY, JULY 1, 2020] With another 8,000 or so subscribers to this blog, the entire problem would be solved.

Fourth, late registration may be a symptom of a deeper problem that hasn’t been subjected to a root cause analysis process. One Twitter user suggested the structure may be the real problem.

If the structure is problematic, fix the structure. I’m not sure that’s the real problem. A root cause analysis process keeps asking why? why? why? at deeper and deeper levels until the root cause is revealed. Why do players register late? Whatever the answer… why is that? Why again?

Fifth, lateness is disrespectful to those who show up on time. You don’t show up two hours late for a dinner party because you don’t like the menu, however Mrs. has a reputation for making great desserts. You don’t show up late for funerals because eulogies are boring. You shouldn’t begin a Presidential campaign shortly before the first primary because you don’t like campaigning and have enough money to purchase all the attention you think is needed. You don’t show up at the third tee box for a golf outing because the glare of the early morning sun makes the first two holes extra tough. You don’t regularly show up late for work because no one gets much done in the first hour anyway.

Showing up and registering late, a full day late, which is actually two or three days late, for the most significant, most talked about, most watched poker tournament of the year, just because you can or you want to or you think doing so gives you an edge is just plain rude. Being on time is a simple, basic courtesy.

–> Differing opinions welcome in the comments section.


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  1. At the very least every starting stack for the latecomers should be decreased by the blinds/antes they *would* have had to contribute to the pot had they started at the beginning.

  2. Agree that is awful!!! Subtracting blinds ect. FOR ALL late entries on All days would solve a lot of the issues that “tarty” creates. WSOP could just use the feature table as the stack size guide. Keeps it more fair…

  3. I have found that some players come late to a game because there’s to much testosterone flowing in the first half hour especially at tournaments. Or perhaps they don’t like playing small blinds. Small blind poker doesn’t scratch their itch. They may like to see who has the chips,it spreads the field.
    Off the top of my head I believe that late registration really helps the super aggressive players who can’t make it through a couple of days being so aggressive lose one hand they are hurt bad. This is about making money. With or without backers is this is big business to a lot of individuals. No re buys.

  4. Listen. If you don’t want to play for larger purses and feel YOU should control the tournament because you don’t like all the entries that means you have to play better….Then just don’t play and find a 100 person tournament you can play in. It should be fun.

  5. I guess all those late starters and rebuts must get two or three times the starting chips. Aslo, for the early starters playing against weaker players, you would think they would have a chip advantage. However, if you have a narrow personal view, you may not be able to see the forest for the trees.

  6. If you are not aware of late starters or “rebuts”, or typically correct spelling without typos “rebuys” getting more starting chips than anyone else and creating a larger payout pool, than why aren’t you clapping for joy when these players are adding money to better players pockets and stop complaining about them. Perhaps you may not remember when the prizes were small because there weren’t many buyins.

  7. I hate t say I told you so, but I told you so. Check out how Negreanu changed his mind after ” a further review”.

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