Table Talk: Opinions Vary on Super HR Tournaments

Opinion - Business Concept

Last week, I wrote about the poor turnout for the WPT Alpha8 Super High Roller tournament in Johannesburg, South Africa. It seems that a lot of high-stakes poker players have opinions on the subject as well.

Dan Shak weighed in with a Twitter op-ed last week that was discussed here, and Daniel Negreanu had a few things to say that were relayed here.

Shak and I had a bit of a Twitter exchange on the subject as well, as he feels that Alpha8 can be saved with “better timing of events and change of structure“. He went on to suggest that limited reentries would attract more players and slowing the structure to three days of play instead of the existing two, as well as attaching the Alph8 event to a regular WPT Main Event – before it or on Day 3 or 4.

I agree wholeheartedly with his sentiments. Though I am not a structure expert, I truly feel that hosting the Alpha8 tournaments alongside other WPT stops will attract more players. They will have other tournament options, and the cost for Alpha8 filming will be significantly less if paired with another event.

This does present a problem for the World Poker Tour, though. Part of the draw of Alpha8, so it seems, is to attract players to luxurious resorts and interesting locations. The St. Kitts and Johannesburg locations were off the beaten path and offered filming opportunities at the beach in the Caribbean and a safari in South Africa. The TV audience will appreciate those segments, but I can’t believe it’s financially viable to continue doing that when only a dozen – or less – players arrive for the action.

While Shak asserted that the viewers do want those big names like Ivey on their television screens, we both agreed that the same could be done by hosting a show similar to the old “High Stakes Poker” in Las Vegas. One set-up, no travel expenses, and an easy destination for most pros…. It’s not original, but it was a fan-favorite.

Negreanu wrote on his Full Contact Poker blog about the event, saying that Super High Roller events draw wealthy businessmen, as happened at the Aussie Millions, and others who want a fast structure. He then got into the fact that the higher buy-in tournaments play into ranking systems like the Global Poker Index.

That was where Shak and others like Doyle Brunson chimed in on Twitter. Negreanu claimed that the rules for qualifying tournaments in ranking systems are “equally applicable to all participants“. He added, “Everyone has a choice“. Brunson then replied, “It’s like people can literally buy their way into contention. However, you certainly deserve the honor this year!“.

As it doesn’t happen often, I must say that I agree with Brunson here, as well as Shak. The inclusion of these $100K buy-in and even $250K buy-in reentry events severely stack the deck of rankings against players who simply don’t have the bankroll for those tournaments. The vast majority of players do not have that type of money. And, dare I say, some of the players who do play probably shouldn’t do so, either.

The rankings systems in poker are not my specialty by any means, but I do agree that there should be a ceiling on what events are included. Since there is a minimum buy-in requirement to qualify for all rankings, there should be a maximum as well. My opinion is that $50K should be the maximum.

Without an organization or regulatory body for live poker, there is little that anyone can do about this situation, with the exception of mass amounts of complaints tossed toward the rankings creators. And as far as tournaments like Alpha8 and Aussie Millions Challenge events, nothing will change until the organizers find that it is not feasible or profitable, or until the high-stakes players themselves weigh in strongly one way or another.

Most tournament organizers do acknowledge that the bottom line is reasonable buy-ins with one €5K or $5K – even the occasional €10K or $10K – are the best way to attract the most action, players, and fans to their destinations. Most EPT and WPT stops are based on that model, as is the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, which usually finds a way to offer such a wide mix of tournaments that offers options for everyone.