Shhh… listen… listen to the whispers on the wind. It’s coming… it’s coming… the biggest poker tournament series in the world… The World Series Of Poker…
Am I excited?
Oh come on, Kat, we all know you’re a miserable old bitch, but really? You’re going to moan about the World Series Of Poker now? Bloody hell, is nothing sacred?
Before I start getting carefully wrapped turd packets arriving at my place of residence, let me explain why, as a micro-stakes player in the 21stC, I’m not constantly excited about the World Series Of Poker.
First up, let’s talk about the humble beginnings of the WSOP. It was seven mates, in the Horseshoe, playing cash poker and then being judged on their skills and named the winner by a ballot. I could invite six of my pals round here, crack open the cider and call it The World Series Of Perry’s, it might take off, it might not. Realistically, me and six mates having a nice time, doesn’t constitute the World Series of anything.
Americans do this; anything that happens in America automatically gets called ‘The World Series’, irrespective of how many countries are actually involved, and it gets my back up. The closest Europeans come to that is calling the 1914 and 1939 wars, ‘World Wars’, and I don’t think we even did that until after the fact, when it became apparent that most of the world had actually been involved!
The initial uptake on the World Series Of Poker was very slow by modern poker standards, if a poker series took that long to garner interest today, it would unlikely see a third or fourth year. The WSOP brand was competing against nothing, for a very long time and it still couldn’t get its arse in gear, because there just weren’t enough $10k tournament players. The ‘tournament’ organisers were selling to a market that didn’t exist.
The first 10 years of the series were essentially a group of elite players, who all knew each other, pushing chips about for bragging rights. It wasn’t about life changing money for them, most of the players in the early days could easily have $10k+ cash swings on a night, it was about them saying they beat everyone else. It is my belief that is still the main attraction for every player who enters the WSOP main event, although nowadays, just playing in it comes with bragging rights.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s not my main goal in poker, I want to win money.
If at the end of every comp I was given a trophy, but no cash, I’d be more annoyed than if the reverse happened.
Maybe it’s because I’m a new-skool poker player, maybe it’s because I’m a woman, maybe it’s because I’m a retard, either way, I prefer money to bragging rights, and the WSOP ME has to be the hardest tournament in which to win money.
Satellites were introduced in the early/mid eighties for the main event, in theory opening the tournament up to anyone, although looking at the entry numbers, the impact was initially small. Thirty two years after the World Series Of Poker started, the Main Event had just 839 players. It was still the largest live field in the world at the time, and thanks to the internet, was now attracting players from all over the world. By 2004, every serious player in the world knew about the WSOP brand, because every player in the world had watched as MoneyMaker, an online, micro-stakes numpty, won $2.5mil from $8 in 2003.
This single incident, one entirely out of the control of the organisers, ballooned the WSOP brand into what marketeers call “Top of Mind Awareness” with poker players world-wide. Suddenly, the WSOP was the only poker brand players were talking about. It was the aspirational, designer brand of the industry, and everyone knew it. In 2004 the WSOP ME field was over 2500, going from an average increase of 10% annually to a massive 300% increase in one year. The brand was so strong, that although there was a dip in numbers after the ridiculous, illegal, gambling bill in America, it rallied the next year and stabilised at around 6500 players. Monster brand power.
That’s not enough for me, I’m not wowed by aspirational brand power. I’m as happy with Primark handbags as I am with Louis Vitton, I’d happily drive a Micra over a Mercedes, and I’m always to be found in Aldi over Waitrose. I’m a massive tightwad, and I like value, and I just don’t see the value in the WSOP for me, not yet.
I play $2-$10 online tournaments. I’d say about 50% of my felt hours are spent playing satellites, so I’m not suggesting that higher buyins are a waste of time, they are not. If I say my average buyin is $5, then by trying to qualify for the WSOP ME, I’m trying to win a package that is 3000x my average buyin; Queen of the Ballerz.
It would not be unreasonable, given the potential to win $10mil, for me to spend all my poker time and money trying to qualify for this event, but I just don’t feel I have to. I don’t need to go to America for some value when it’s right here, all over my doorstep!
There are $500 buyin events all over Europe under various brands, the UK poker scene has never been healthier for lower buyins with the Grosvenor 25/25 series and The GPS Mini both performing well in numbers at all events. The GOLIATH is coming up in August, and for £120 with a guaranteed prize pool of at least £250k (last year 3392 entrants made £339200, so it’s getting smashed this year) it’s the best chance microstakes players have to play a monster live field without going broke.
The WSOP brand is now becoming more aware of including smaller stakes players, and this year sees the introduction of $500 events for the first time. I applaud this move, and am holding my breath for the WSOP ‘Mini’. I feel very alienated from the WSOP brand, because I don’t feel like they are speaking to me. Why would I travel to play a $500 event in Vegas when I can play one here in the UK, or pop to Malta in November (my current satellite goal)?
With limited resources in terms of both time and money, I can’t see the value for me in the WSOP ME. Of course I’d love to play it, of course I’d love to win it, of course I’d love to show off my bracelet, I’d never take it off! However, this is the noise of someone making decisions with her heart, and not her head, and that is a sure-fire route to poker misery.
There has never been so much for available for a microstakes player, and I want to take advantage of that. I’m still at the stage in my poker career where I really do have to satellite into £200 events, because I’ll be eating beans for a month if I don’t. I know from experience that even when I have satellited into a larger event for peanuts, I’m still a bit sweaty nervous when I’m playing, conscious that a £500 event is 100x my average buyin!
I’m always aware of extra costs, such as travel, hotels, food etc and I know the longer and further you are away from home, the greater these extra costs. A pretty mean tip to a hot valet is another buyin down the shitter, the cost of live poker is high!
There seems to be some shame associated with being a low-stakes player, some stigma with not having ludicrous aspirations to win the biggest event in the world when I haven’t even final tabled a £200 live event. Just like at school, when I was mocked for having cheap trainers when everyone else had Adidas, I’m not intimidated by brand-power and I’m not ashamed to say “I can’t afford it”.
Until I am ready to give over some serious time, effort and money to winning a massive WSOP package, I’m going to try and get into smaller events, closer to home. I also need to get a better handle on my psychology; even if I assume I can win a $15k package, it’s not much use to me if I have to wear nappies at the table because I am, literally, shitting my pants.
When I next play a local £50 buyin event and someone asks me “If I’ve qualified for the WSOP Main Event yet”, like it’s a given that I should, I’m going to say “No. I haven’t even tried because I’m a microstakes player, and, at my level, I’ve got better options right now.”
The summer is a quiet time in most UK poker rooms, and a good chunk of local tournament schedules will have overlays. Sniff out some value there instead of traipsing thousands of miles to compete with players who can toss off $10k like they’re playing a $1 rebuy.
I do believe in aspiring to be better, but there’s aiming higher and there’s shooting arrows at the moon with a homemade bow. Honestly, I’d much rather have £7k in my pocket from winning a 175 runner 25/25 event than be sat, alone and broke in Vegas, waiting 5 days for my flight, having lost 3000x my average buyin on day1 because I was too scared to play well.
I don’t think this makes me ‘a misery’ or ‘a pussy’, I think it makes me a realist. Maybe in a few years, the WSOP ME will be something for me to think about, but for now, I’m going to stay within the realms of possibility and leave the dreams to the dreamers.