BY RUSS SCOTT
MAY 5, 2009
NO RECESSION PLAN FOR ‘09 WSOP; IT’S ‘FULL STEAM AHEAD’
The message during last week’s 2009 World Series of Poker media preview conference call was bigger, better, and full steam ahead.
“Whether you are a first-timer or a seasoned pro, this is the best year ever to come to the World Series of Poker,” WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack said in his opening remarks.
Against the ongoing swirl of bad economic news, World Series officials laid out an ambitious and diverse 57-event schedule that kicks off May 28 with a special four-day, $40,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em tournament celebrating the WSOP’s 40th anniversary.
That’s quadruple what it costs to enter the main event — poker’s most-coveted and biggest tournament. Nevertheless, more than 200 of poker’s elite players with deep bankrolls figure to compete in what essentially will be a best-of-the-best battle.
The event should produce “a final table for the ages,” Pollack said.
In addition, 6,000-7,000 players are likely to compete in the $10,000 main event which begins July 3 and, like last year, will feature a suspended final table that plays out in November with quickly produced television coverage on ESPN.
The question is: In a troubled economy, can the WSOP equal or top last year’s record-breaking $180,774,427 in overall prize money and 58,720 entrants for 55 events?
“We could have planned for a recession WSOP some months ago and cut back,” Pollack said. “We decided that was not the right thing to do, so it’s full steam ahead.”
“Our view is that we have an obligation to stage the best possible event that we can,” he said, calling the series an “annual festival for poker players from around the world.”
Pollack acknowledged, however, that 2009’s numbers might decline.
“This could be a year where attendance isn’t what it was,” he said. “We’re not planning for that, however. On the contrary, we’re planning for the best World Series of Poker ever.”
The commissioner said “attendance will come and go, and (television) ratings will come and go over the long haul. That’s just part of life when you’re a global sports property like we are.”
Indeed, the tournament lineup’s lone concession to the financial crunch is the four-day “Stimulus Special” event, scheduled with two starting days on May 30-31 to accommodate an anticipated monster field.
The tournament features the smallest buy-in ($1,000) for a bracelet event this year and could attract more than 5,000 players. Nearly 1,000 seats already have been sold.
“This is going to be one event that no poker player in the world should miss,” said tournament director Jack Effel. “It’s going to have the largest prize pool ever in a live tournament at this buy-in level, and we’re expecting a huge turnout.”
In the past year or two, some tournaments around the country have experienced declines in attendance. But others have grown or been stable, thanks in part to lower entry fees, added prize money from the house, cheaper hotel room rates and more playability due to larger starting chip stacks and slower betting structures.
The 2009 WSOP is no different. For example, starting chip stacks for each event this year will be triple the buy-in amount, coupled with added betting levels to tournament structures, Effel said.
“Players will feel the effects early on in a tournament, have a better chance to make decisions, and hopefully (the changes) will help the better players make it through the event,” Effel said. Added chips and slower-rising betting levels “will always reward best play,” he said.
Pollack added: “We are obviously very aware of what’s happening in the global economy. We’re sensitive to it…in our continuing quest to create an improved value proposition for players and spectators.”
We’ll know by early July how the numbers shake out. Don’t bet against more records being set.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2009 RUSS SCOTT
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