World Series of Poker would benefit from a few changes

Jul 14, 2009 5:05 PM
Road to the WSOP by Joe Awada |

Sometimes, as they say, it just wasn’t meant to be.

That’s how I felt when my tournament run in the World Series of Poker came to an end on Day 3.

Of course, it was disappointing, but there will be other World Series events, and other tournaments.

Here’s just a brief recap, before I offer some comments on the World Series in general, and specifically the logjam that turned hundreds of players away for the main event.

My first day in the main event was uneventful; it was rough sledding throughout with, by my count, about six or seven terrible beats that left me short-stacked (about 10,000 chips). Yet, I survived and advanced to Day 2.

The second day of action was much better, and I was able to build my stack to over 100,000 chips and advance to Day 3.

The third day was an eclectic blend of the good, the bad and the ugly. There were a few good moments, but they were overshadowed by the rough ones, which eventually put myself on the rail and out of the tournament.

Nonetheless, it was a pleasure, as always, to compete. I look forward to the next big tournament.

Now turning to the this year’s World Series, I played in about nine or 10 events and several satellites as well as a few side (cash) games, so I feel qualified to offer some observations and even some suggestions.

First, let me say I’ve always admired, respected and enjoyed working with Harrah’s Entertainment. Their business practice is top flight and they’ve done wonders with the World Series since acquiring it in 2004.

As a long time Las Vegas businessman and gaming entrepreneur, I’ve worked with commercial casinos and gaming operators for decades. And over this time span it’s become apparent that aspects of the casino industry require more than just sound business acumen.

Specialized areas such as table games, sports betting and poker require unique expertise, something that business executives from outside the gaming industry simply don’t possess.

With that in mind, let me offer a few suggestions that could enhance the World Series experience in the future.

Starting with the cash games, which are conducted on a few tables in the main poker hall, there needs to be more tables to accommodate big players. Probably, the biggest players in the world are here for the World Series, but when they’re not competing, many of them leave the hotel, the Rio, and go to another Strip casino to play cash games.

This should never happen. There could be better facilities for conducting cash games in or near the live tournament action. Perhaps there could event be a separate commissioner or director for just the cash games.

Also, there needs to be more consistency among the floor people and their rulings. Inconsistency was an issue I observed while playing.

Turning toward the tournament, there could be a few more low-entry events, like the $1,000 buy-in event. These draw record crowds and fulfill a big need: younger players are out there and they’re crying to get in.

I happen to believe that poker is a worldwide phenomenon and that is only going to get bigger. More events for smaller players will be necessary in the near future.

Now, the selling out of the main event, and the turning away of players was very unfortunate. There are players who come in from out of state as well as overseas and there needs to be mechanisms for getting them into the tournament.

First, the WSOP might have required the early registrants to take seats in the first two days of action. Thus, they wouldn’t accept reservations for Days 1C and 1D until Days 1A and 1B were filled, or at least reach a minimum level.

This year we had less than 900 players on Day 1A (capacity is around 2,900) with a sold out field on Day 1D.

Another option would be to run the tables with 10 or 11 seats, at least just for a short while, rather than 9-handed, which is the existing table format.

This would add an extra 300 to 500 players to the tournament. Of course, as players were eliminated, they could reduce the size of the tables back down to nine seats.

I don’t know if space is an issue, because there are cash games and satellites going on, which could be used for tournament action. The Rio’s convention center, which hosts the World Series, has a lot of connecting ballrooms and meeting space that can be used for poker tables.

I’m sure there are other measures that can be implemented, but perhaps these could be considered for future tournaments.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Joe Awada