Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Welcome to my main event preview! I’m sure some of you are asking yourselves: what’s the big deal about this one? Isn’t it just another tournament for a little more money? NO! This event will have the largest prize pool and largest first prize of any poker tournament of any kind in the history of the world! Every year the winner of this tournament is crowned the world champion!

To put it into perspective let’s say you were the best golfer in the world and the best tennis player in the world and you won all four of golf’s major tournaments (The U.S Open, The Masters, The PGA championship and The British Open) and somehow found time to also win the four major tournaments on the tennis circuit (The U.S. Open, Wimbledon, The Australian Open and The French Open). You’d win just shy of 9 million dollars, but you’d still be a million dollars short of the $10,000,000 the WSOP main event champ will get this year for winning this one event.

Last year there were 5,619 entrants and this year they expect around 8,000. In order to handle this huge number of entrants (there isn’t a room big enough to hold that many poker tables and they certainly don’t want to hire 700 or 800 new dealers for one day’s work) the 8,000 players will be split into 4 groups of 2,000 (groups A, B, C, and D). On July 28th, the first day of the tournament, group A will play from 2000 players down to about 700. Group B will do the same on July 29th followed by group C on the 30th and finally group D on the 31st. On August 1st the 1400 players left from groups A and B will return and play down to about 600. The next day groups C and D will return and do the same. When August 3rd rolls around on the 7th day of the event everyone’s who is left (around 1200 players) will play together for the first time. After a rest day on the 4th play will continue 12-15 hours a day every day until only one player remains on August 10th.

The longer a tournament takes the more skill comes into play and clearly this is a long tournament. If you play 10 hands it’s mostly luck who wins and loses. If you play 100 there’s more skill involved but still a large luck factor. When you start to get into the range of 1000 hands skill is going to shine through most of the time. But no matter what you do bad luck can still sink you at any time. As long as someone at your table has more chips than you, you can be eliminated in 1 hand. You could play perfectly and get eliminated on the first hand of the tournament. But for the most part, avoiding situations where your entire tournament is at risk on 1 hand is part of the skill involved.

So how do they make this tournament take longer so skill can play a larger part? Three factors determine how quickly a tournament will progress: the number of chips you start with, level length (how frequently they increase the blinds and/or antes) and what amount the blinds start at. In the first tournament I played at this years WSOP we started with 1500 chips, 60 minute levels and blinds starting at 25/25. In the main event we start with 10,000 chips, 90 minute levels and the same blind structure. It’s easy to lose 1500 chips in one hand. In the first event if you lose 1500 chips you’re gone, while in the main event if you lose 1500 chips you still have 8500 left and plenty of time to make a comeback. In fact, you can have a couple bad hands and still have the chips you need to maneuver your way back into the action. Also, 90 minute levels means after 12 hours of play we’ll be finishing level 8 instead of level 12. If you play a $100 tournament at your local casino the whole tournament will be over in 4 hours. In the main event you could walk into the tournament 4 hours after the first hand is dealt (or fold every single hand you’re dealt for 4 hours) and still have 90% of your chips. But…lose your focus on one hand and you could find yourself busted and wondering what the hell happened.

Another interesting thing about the main event is despite the big buy-in the field will be loaded with weak players. About 75% of the field will win their way into the tournament by winning a satellite. A satellite is a tournament with a relatively small buy-in where instead of a normal prize structure the only prizes are entries to a larger event. For example, if you have 500 people all put up $200 you’ll have $100,000. Instead of paying 50 places with various prizes, everyone who finishes in the top 10 will win a $10,000 entry to the main event while everyone else will get nothing. Sometimes you’ll have situations where 10 players who put up $1,000 play for one entry and other times you’ll have 1,000 people put up $10 to play for an entry. I played in the largest satellite in history a week and a half ago where over 7,500 people all put up $370 and the top 234 players won an entry into the main event. The guys (and gals) who are willing to risk $1,000 to get in probably don’t suck, but thousands of amateurs will win their way in via small buy-in satellites. Many internet qualifiers will be playing their first in person tournament. Even if their poker skills are up to par it takes hundreds (if not thousands) of hours at the poker table to learn to control your movements, recognize what the movements of other players mean, and just feel comfortable sitting around the felt. Also let’s not forget that this is the World Series. If a pro like me can be nervous about it, players who’ve never played a tournament with a buy-in more than a few hundred dollars or who’ve never sat face to face with their opponents are going to be a total mess.

What does all this mean? It means that I’m going to have plenty of time to out play what will hopefully be a somewhat weak field. Don’t get me wrong, ALL of the best players in the world will be there, but they’ll be hiding mixed in with some total chumps, lot’s of semi-skilled amateurs, and plenty of mid level pros like myself. After all, with 8,000 players there’s only a 1 in 8 chance of having one of the top 100 players at your table.

Tell me more about the money! Like I said before last year there were 5,619 entrants and here are a few of the payouts:
1st $7,500,000
2nd $4,250,000
3rd $2,500,000
9th $1,000,000
10th $600,000
20th $304,680
30th $274,090
40th $235,390
50th $173,880
75th $107,950
100th $77,710
150th $46,245
200th $39,075
300th $24,365
400th $18,335
500th $14,135
560th $12,500

Obviously, I’m going to do my best and I’m confident I can compete, but I’m sort of looking at this year as my rookie year. You don’t expect rookies to win championships and I’m certainly not expecting to win, but I know I’ve got what it takes to make the money and there’s always the chance that something crazy could happen. I give myself a 1 in 5000 chance of winning, a 1 in 500 chance of winning $1,000,000, and a 15%-20% chance of making the money (which would still be one of the top three or four accomplishments in my poker career).

Jen and I leave for Vegas on Thursday and will be staying at the MGM for 3 days and the Paris for 4 days (hopefully I’ll have to extend my stay). I’ll do my best to update the blog from Vegas, but I’m not sure what kind of internet access I’ll have so it might be a little more sporadic and less detailed than past updates. Wish me luck.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

With 8,000 players there’s only a 1 in 8 chance of having one of the top 100 players at your table.

properly, theres a 1 - (1 - 100/8000)^9 chance of a top 100 player sitting with one at a table (w/ ten players) in the first round of the tourney, assuming even distribution. "^9" because nine players get picked to sit with you. this comes to p=0.107, or 1 in 9.35. the odds of a top 100 at an arbitrary table is a pick 10, which comes to p=0.118, or 1 in 8.46. naturally, if you consider yourself to be top 100, then the odds of you sitting at a table with a top 100 player are p=1. =)

why are the odds better than 1 in 8? because multiple top 100 players can end up at the same table, meaning there are less to distribute among the rest -- in other words, we dont assume that for every table a top 100 guy is at, he will be the only one there. but you probably knew that and were trying to keep things simple. (being marginally employed, i have plenty of time to make these kinds of calculations.)

My WSOP 2023 Plans and Missions

After four and a half years working for StubHub I wrapped up my time there in March. I've been at the poker tables 3-4 days a week since...