Wednesday, June 18, 2008

WSOP Final Table Delay

I was reading again the other day about Harrah's move this year to delay the WSOP Main Event final table a couple of months and then play it live from Las Vegas in early November. I've read a lot of people's opinions on that whole situation, which at first seemed to be somewhat negative, but quickly the majority I read turned generally positive about the change.

I'm here to tell you why it's ghey. Ghey ghey ghey.

It's actually really simple. Anyone who was won a significant poker tournament knows that winning out through any huge field involves a combination of a whole lot of different factors. It's overall skill stuff, like aggression, tightness and hand reading. And there is also a significant luck-based component, involving things like starting cards, hitting draws, avoiding setups, etc. But it's also at least an equal part of other more general things like stamina, concentration, handling of stress, and especially momentum.

The momentum involved with winning a large-field tournament is like the Matrix: it cannot be described, it has to be experienced for itself. Those of you who have been there know just what I mean, and if you've done it in a live tournament context then you doubly especially know exactly what I mean. The stamina and just all-around mental toughness it takes to win a big-field poker tournament is one of the key aspects of any deep run and ultimately plays a huge role in the flow of the tournament and the performance of the individual players. Managing to keep your cool through all the tension generated by a large-field tournament run, resisting tilting after those two suckouts you suffered at the final table to take away your chip lead, fighting off the awfukkkits for those first eight rounds when you had no cards whatsoever to speak of. All that shit is hard work, and it just gets harder as the tournament wears on, your mental acuity slips a bit and those blinds just keep escalating, always threatening you with near-desperation if you don't gamboool to stay ahead.

Breaking the biggest tournament in the world off once the final table is reached in mid-July, sending the players to their respective homes for nearly four months, and then bringing them back to Vegas to play out their remaining chip stacks, completely disrupts this natural order of all poker tournaments. And the primary motivation of course for this whole move is money. Moneymoneymoneymoneymoney. No one even tries to deny it. It is of course being done so that ESPN, and Harrah's who owns the WSOP, can hype the living shitcock out of that final table. There are going to be updates of the contestants on Sportscenter as the final table approaches. There will be promo after promo after promo as ESPN struggles to boost its sagging poker ratings, previously some of their most-watched telecasts. There will be at least one television special detailing the lives of the final tablists and what they've been doing between when the Main Event started in July and when the final table runs on November 9. There will also be ample time for each of the players at the final table to score a potentially very lucrative sponsorship deal (or deals) with major poker sites and other sponsors. Again it all comes down to money. Money money money. It's sick.

So, for the sake of various and sundry money-related issues, the WSOP is going to separate the final table from the entire rest of the Main Event by four months. These players will show up in Vegas on November 9 super well-rested. They won't have any stamina issues, they will be fully refreshed and ready to play some poker. They won't be feeling that crick in their neck, not that pain in their backs that comes from sitting in those chairs playing high-pressure poker for days on end. They won't have the tension headaches, and it will all just be a lot easier for them than if the WSOP kept it real.

What's more, these players will show up in Vegas on November 9 in many cases in entirely different situations than those they left in July upon reaching the pinnacle of nlh poker tournaments at the WSOP ME final table. For one thing, several pros have brought up the rather obvious outcome that many, if not all, of these players will have been significantly coached on how to play this final table as compared to where they were at in July when they reached the last ten people standing in the Main Event. Many of them will have played largely donkish but then received much training heading into the final table during the four-month hiatus. It is likely if not definite that at least some of the final tablists will receive coaching during their time away on how to play against each specific individual at the final table with them, again all knowledge that was not had by them when they actually played the actual WSOP tournament in July. And I haven't even mentioned the non-coaching issues yet. Like, for example, what if someone was on tilt as the final table begins? Then they get four months to cool off, and will show up in November fully refreshed and in the right poker mindset. What if someone had built up a strong tight image and had been set up to take advtange before the four-month layoff? What if one of the players had been poor generally speaking back in July, as is often the case at the WSOP ME final table, but by November they've already recently inked a $500,000 sponsorship deal with some poker site thanks to the time off? Isn't that going to change the way they play the final table and the way they deal with the possibility of winning all that money at stake? If you say no, you delude yourself.

I'm not trying to say that making all of these essential changes to the very nature of tournament poker is "right" or "wrong" per se, but the four-month layoff is undoubtedly significantly and substantively different from how things would have played out, in some very major and relevant ways, had the tournament just been allowed to continue to its conclusion in July like we have every other year since the WSOP first began. That significant changing, I would argue, does make it "wrong" from a poker tournament context in that it eliminates some of the very most important stuff about winning a poker tournament in the first place. The fact that the only motiviation for these changes is money is just all the sicker.

I just wanted to take a second to address my favorite counterargument that I hear all the time about this issue. Some donkeys love to point out that the same exact changes are being enforced on all ten of the final tablers in the Main Event this year, and so thus, since the same changes apply to all the contestants, it is automatically fair. That, my friends, is pure tomfoolery. Just because you make the same change to everyone, that doesn't make this a smart move, an appropriate move, or a "fair" move. Why not just tell everyone they have to play the final table with only one hole card then? That could be applied to everyone equally. Does that make that a fair proposal? Obviously not. And hey why not tie one arm of every contestant behind their back for the final table? That's equal for everyone too, right? But does that make it a smart change, or a fair change, for the WSOP final table? Obviously not.

Changing the essential nature of a poker tournament, doing so all for money, but doing so in a way that screws every contestant equally, is not a good decision. It's a horrible decision. Is it catastrophic? Will it ruin the World Series of Poker brand forever? Obviously not. I'm sure they will change this back in a couple of years when they realize just how ghey the delayed final table is and how much it wrecks what tournament poker is supposed to be all about. This won't have any long-term effect on the WSOP or the world of poker in general, make no mistake. But that doesn't make it a good decision or one that should be made. When you let money corrupt the underlying nature of what you do, you tread on shaky ground. Not all, but I can't help but notice how most of the people who see this change as a good thing are not people who have made a practice of winning large-field poker tournaments. Seems to me that most of those people understand exactly where I am coming from on this, and see the final table delay for just the gimmick that it is.

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Blogger Poker Brian said...

Man Hoy, did you read the comments from Randolph and Minaya from yesterday? Heres a snippet:

“I actually asked him,” Randolph told the N.Y. Times, “I said: ‘Omar, do this now. If you’re going to do this, do this now. I know you’ve got a lot of pressure on you, but if I’m not the guy to lead this team, then don’t let me get on this plane.’ I did say that to him.”

Minaya said it would have been disrespectful to fire a manager while he was still in uniform. Instead, Minaya said he waited to talk to Randolph away from the ballpark.

“11 p.m. at night, after a game ... standard procedure in letting a manager go in this game,” he said.

Guess waiting for the first game of a 3 game series on the opposite coast is standard procedure also... what a dink.

If the Phillies did this, I'd be pissed.

12:44 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Yes but how could the Phillies fire their manager when they are the best team in the history of the major leagues this year?

1:19 AM  
Blogger Poker Brian said...

Well maybe Gillick won't thank goodness, but I'm sure you can recall the "Ed Wade" days. How that guy got another GM job I will never know.

Remember what team he went to? The 'Stros, first team I hears so far thats packing it in for 08 already.

1:43 AM  
Blogger Luckbox said...

Hmmm... so you are arguing that it's a bad thing that the final table will feature well-rested poker players who may very well be at the top of their game? That the game may not be adversly affected by the grind of two weeks of poker?

2:55 AM  
Blogger HighOnPoker said...

I thought the main argument FOR the delay was the opportunity for the individual players to cash in on their fame AND the opportunity to create a lot of excitement around poker (the build up and the televised back story about what happened in the 4 mos.), to bring in new players. Any response to those ideas?

3:50 AM  
Blogger emptyman said...

OMG. I couldn't agree more. Wrong wrong wrong. The delay is wrong on every level.

The ME becomes a GIANT satellite, where the final table gets entry into a 1-table SNG, except for the fact that they all start with their respective stacks.

4 months to review strategy. 4 months to learn about opponents. 4 months to forget how they got to the final table. I could go on.

It destroys the integrity of the game. With 5:00 left in the game, score 102-100, would the Celtics and Lakers come back and finish it tomorrow? Or next week?

I guess the Main Event was only a circus. Now it's a true Hollywood event. Worst. Idea. Ever.

7:21 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

LoL Empty, so true.

Can you imagine someone defending stopping Game 7 of the NBA Finals with 2 minutes left at 102-100 and delaying it by 4 months? You think anyone in that situation would question why someone doesn't like a change that brings back well-studied, well-rested players to finish out the biggest game of the year in the sport? Sure basketball is a more physical game, but as I said yesterday, to deny the physical, stamina- and momentum-related aspects of poker tournaments is simply not to understand winning poker tournaments at all.

8:24 PM  
Blogger GrayCalx said...

Oh noes! Poker is about money? WTF!?! Next up I'll read about how the Hollywood movie studios are releasing blockbuster movies during the summer when more people can see them! Or should this spiral continue we'll see car dealerships have sales on Memorial Day weekend!

Ricockulous says I.

Well now that poker has fallen to greed, I guess we have only the oil companies left to trust.

11:47 PM  
Blogger KajaPoker said...

Poker = Money

Very simple equation. You put up your own buy-in, you play to win money. It's so easy.

Players usually get a full day off anyway before the final table to rest and relax. To talk to their friends and figure out what to do at the final table.

So what if they get sponsored? They make more money? Good for them, I say! Good for the industry. Good for poker. Good for trying to abolish the UIGEA.

I don't see who this is bad for. The 7991 donks who didn't make the final table (9 players not 10 BTW)? Who cares about them? They're already gone?

Only people it's bad for are the members of the media. Who have to show up in 4 months for a couple of days to cover the final table. but wait a minute! They get 4 months of extra coverage they wouldn't have in the first place. Not too shabby.

I still don't see what's wrong with the delay.

10:59 PM  

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