Is the World Series in
need of a facelift?

Aug 14, 2006 2:25 AM

Now that the 37th World Series of Poker has come to a close, I think we can all collectively exhale a monumental sigh of relief!

I think anyone who participated in the World Series, either as a player, spectator, official or journalist, would have to agree that the six-week long event was one of the premiere poker events of our day.

The size and scope of the World Series has become so vast that staging it has become an effort of Herculean proportions.

And I think that Harrah’s did a superb job in carrying it off. Remember, they’ve only had the World Series for a couple of years, so their learning curve has been steep. And we definitely saw an improvement from last year’s event to this year’s.

Of course, there are always going to be critics and they surfaced in the wake of this year’s WSOP. Some of the criticisms I agree with, some of them I do not.

For instance, several observers felt the tournament has become too large and could be cut down to size by either increasing the buy-in or spreading the preliminary rounds to other Harrah’s casinos in Las Vegas.

I don’t think either of these suggestions would serve the tournament well.

Part of the charm of the event is its size — and the resulting mosaic of different players who converge from across the globe to participate.

Poker players like to rub elbows with other poker players, and they should be allowed to congregate in one location — even if it turns out to be the Thomas & Mack Center!

This year, not only did we have poker players from Finland, Sweden, Australia and everywhere in-between, we had celebrities such as actors like Tobey McGuire and athletes like Lennox Lewis, playing poker at a table nearby. We wouldn’t want to lose that aspect of having the tournament contested in one location.

Secondly, the $10,000 buy-in should remain, at least for a while. By keeping it "affordable," the tournament is open to the "Regular Joe," the common, everyday poker player who dreams of a shot of winning the world title.

One of the reasons the WSOP main event has grown so rapidly so quickly is the notion that any player in his living room can win a seat, even if it’s through an online poker site.

Keep in mind that when Chris Moneymaker won the title in 2003, there were only 800 players in the championship event. That number grew exponentially over the ensuing years, to nearly 9,000 in 2006.

I think we want to continue to grow the event. Look at all the younger players coming into the tournament, and younger women players taking up poker.

That’s a sign of success for any business — when you see younger customers entering the fold.

Besides, the WSOP already has a $50,000 HORSE event, geared to testing the all-around skills of a poker player.

Also suggested was introducing electronic poker tables, such as the ones displayed by PokerTek at this year’s Lifestyle Expo.

These computerized tables would probably speed up the game, save costs (there are no cards, chips or dealers!) and eliminate player mistakes.

But they would also take so much of the flavor of the game away. Poker wouldn’t be poker without the supporting accoutrements and a real live dealer.

Players like to hold and peak at their cards. They like to stack and play with their chips. There’s a magical quality to the green or blue felt table top, a quality that a glass TV screen can’t replicate.

And the dealer is a necessary part of the game. He answers questions, directs players and ensures the game moves along.

Over the past few years we’ve seen poker grow. There will be growing pains, of course, but for the most part the growth has been exciting. Let’s be careful we don’t temper or impede that excitement.