Poker tournaments gone mental – will six-figure buy-in events kill or renew the game? [Friday Editorial]

Poker tournaments gone mental – will six-figure buy-in events kill or renew the game? [Friday Editorial]

Friday, 18 March 2011

This time last year, the $100,000 AUD High Roller event at the Aussie Millions was the biggest buy-in tournament on the circuit. With an entry fee bigger than the entire bankrolls of those who play $500 to $1,000 tournaments and according to conventional bankroll management requiring $10,000,000 to play regularly, the six-figure buy-in on this event was gargantuan.

When PokerStars announced a $100,000 Super High Roller at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, taking place days before the Full Tilt sponsored Aussie Millions tournament series in Melbourne, well... to quote Bad Boys II, shit got real. Full Tilt countered by announcing a last minute $250,000 Super High Roller of their own in Melbourne which led to that whole furore over re-doing the tournament money lists to filter for stupidly big buy-in or invitational events.

Now in the past week we’ve had Full Tilt launch the Onyx Cup and the World Poker Tour announcing a $100,000 event at the Bellagio for the WPT Championship. That makes ten tournaments in 2011 with buy-ins of $100,000 or more. TEN! That’s one every five weeks! What recession? I’m too busy spunking $100,000 to $300,000 a month in a variant of poker that’s almost entirely luck in the short term to worry about economic concerns.

Obviously this has caused some discussion both on the poker forums and in social media. It’s pretty drastic to go from a single annual $100,000 event to having ten tournaments in a year costing a total of more than two million dollars to enter. Some people are raving about the Onyx Cup and badmouthing the WPT High Roller; others are hating the Onyx Cup but loved the PCA hosting $100,000 Super High Roller tournaments. I’m not here to compare one to another – and my Onyx Cup thoughts will be summed up in a later Editorial – but simply to ask whether or not it’s a good idea to have so many huge buy-in events taking place throughout the year.

The obvious negative is that during a global recession, is it wise to see people gambling on television with six figures on the line and millions of dollars being awarded to first place on the turn of a card? As they like to say on these here Internets, haters gonna hate so anti-poker lobbyists in government and people who just don’t like the game won’t like it whether the buy-in is $100,000 or $10 or a squillion gadzillion dollars.

The casual viewer, i.e. the guy who likes to watch WPT final tables and will catch the World Series of Poker Main Event on ESPN and thinks Phil Hellmuth still gives sound strategy advice, probably won’t mind. Not to be condescending – not more so than usual anyway – but they won’t really grasp the significance of the event. To them I think the poker economy is like money your parents have when you’re a small child - £500 is just millions; an infinite amount, there’s no perspective. Let’s face it, there’s probably some people who think tournament chips represent real money and that players are betting tens of millions on each hand in the late stages of the WSOP.

For me, personally, the negative aspect of the increasing focus on big buy-in elite-field tournaments is that outside of the WSOP Main Event I never watch tournament poker. Though, that said, I might well make an effort for the Onyx Cup. Objectively I think that the move toward multiple six-figure events is a good one for the game overall for that very reason – if there’s one thing that attracts attention it’s an indescribably large pile of money. Well, that or boobs.

Short of giving out boobs as prizes in poker tournaments though I think this is a good way to get more attention drawn to the game so we can all have a few more fish in our seas. Winning millions of dollars tends to get you noticed. Furthermore, a series like the Onyx Cup that attempts to establish a definitive champion of tournament poker rather than the champion in the traditional sense who simply wins one huge tournament, can only be a good thing when it comes to getting online poker regulated in the US.

Tags: Poker News, Poker, tournaments, gone, mental, , will, six-figure, buy-in, events, kill, or, renew, the, game?, [Friday, Editorial]