Small fields reported at big poker events in Vegas

Apr 14, 2009 5:09 PM
The Inside Straight by Joe Awada |

Here in Las Vegas, there are some top-notch poker tournaments currently underway, with the "big one" – the World Series of Poker – just a few weeks away.

But for now, poker players at any level have quite a menu from which to choose. The Bellagio is hosting the World Poker Tour’s Five Star World Poker Classic, with the $25,000 WPT World Championship scheduled to shuffle up this weekend (April 18-19).

Across the street, Caesars Palace last Saturday kicked off its WSOP Circuit Event, which continues through the end of the month.

And The Venetian is in the midst of its very popular, month-long Deep Stack Extravaganza II tournament, which features 24 events, leading up to the $2,000 finale on April 23.

With such a wide variety of events on their poker plate, players often have some daunting choices to make. Additionally, so many tournaments at once has had the effect of watering down the fields in some spots.

Players have to weigh their options carefully. For instance, should a player opt for a seat in a higher-priced tourney and face a smaller field of mostly professional players, such as the WPT at Bellagio, or enter a less-costly event at, say, The Venetian, and compete against a larger field, which might have a larger percentage of amateurs and newcomers?

That seems to be the choice, right now, as the three Vegas casinos vie for tournament players.

The answer depends on the goals of the player. From the standpoint of "value," the better return might come from playing against a large field of players in The Venetian’s Deep Stack event.

But if you want to compete against poker’s elite, including numerous professional and celebrity-level players, then your best bet is the WPT event at Bellagio or the WSOP Circuit event at Caesars Palace.

When making a choice, here are a couple of observations: Even though the tournaments with smaller fields often include top-level professionals, it should be easier to make the final table, simply because you have fewer obstacles to overcome.

Conversely, while the events with larger fields often include a high percentage of less experienced players, they can be a mine field because of the volatile nature of No Limit Hold’em.

The ideal situation would allow players to enter any and all events freely, but since the tournaments are up against each other, they don’t have that choice.

From an operator standpoint, the poker rooms might also be better served if the events weren’t butting heads. Perhaps in the future, they could collaborate on scheduling so there would be less duplication. I’m sure they’d all like to see larger fields in their events.