World Series of Poker Europe 2011 preview [Editorial]
Monday, 12 September 2011
The WSOPE is one of my favourite times of year. For the past four years I have either been reporting/blogging or simply railing the action in London, from Annette Obrestad’s breakout victory in 2007 to Daniel Negreanu’s tragic comeback-but-not-quite-win and James Bord’s rail chanting him to victory last year.
I always love going to Leicester Square on the tube and railing all the biggest names in the poker world, and this year I – what’s that? I can’t get to the WSOPE on the tube anymore? I need a passport?! Madness!
This year the WSOPE has undergone a move and expansion with eight events – including the non-bracelet Ladies’ Event – taking place over the course of two weeks, not in Leicester Square’s Empire Casino but in Cannes, France. Yeah, that Cannes – the beautiful beachside resort and film festival Cannes.
I’m as patriotic as they come outside the US but I can’t help but feel this is definitely a good thing. No, I’m not saying France is better than England, don’t be ridiculous. It’s France! However, for the purposes of the WSOPE 2011, I’m willing to begrudge our cross-Channel brothers this.
Obviously London as a city is pretty much the ideal place to host the series as its effectively the capital of Europe and one of the largest and most famous cities in the world. The Empire is a great casino and they did a great job, but there was always a lack of space. And it just looks bloody weird to have Doyle Brunson playing pots with Phil Ivey while two yards to the right, a Chinese businessman does his number on a roulette table.
Now, though – Cannes is certainly a more idyllic location in general, especially in October. The Barriere Cannes Hotel and Casino has almost twice the capacity of The Empire, with 75 tables meaning a Day 1a field of the Main Event capped at 675 players – more than 300 over the total field sizes in previous WSOPE Main Events. That, plus the burgeoning popularity of poker in France (largely due to legalisation, regulation and taxation – take note, America!) means that this WSOPE should be the biggest we’ve ever seen.
In the first four WSOPE series, there have been 4,389 players competing with over £21.3m awarded since Annette Obrestad first won the inaugural Main Event for £1,000,000 way back when in 2007. Even post-Black Friday, I could see this incarnation of the WSOPE smashing the hell out of the past four years – if we got over 4,389 players and £21m in this year alone I wouldn’t be too surprised. After all, that’s an average of just over 600 players and £3m per event.
The “standard” events return this year with a €2,500 + €180 6-max NL event, a large-field €1,000 + €90 NL full ring event, a €5,000 + €300 PLO event and, of course, the €10,000 + €400 Main Event. New to the schedule this year are a 6-max PLO event (€1,500 + €120), a €3,000 + €200 NL Shootout Event and a newly-created Split NL €10,000 + €400 High Roller event, with Day 1 playing out as a full ring tournament, Day 2 reducing to 6-max and the third day seeing survivors play through the field heads-up.
Notably absent from the schedule this year are any mixed games – HORSE is a classic and 8-Game is fast becoming the standard. However, the schedule for the WSOPE 2011 is entirely dominated by NL and PLO events. Is this a smart move? I think so – and not just because I hate fixed limit games.
NL and PLO are the most popular variants of poker by far, despite all the high stakes regulars choosing mixed game or dealers’ choice action.
Especially in France, with a booming poker market brought about by recent legislation (and showcased by the country’s sterling WSOP), these events are likely to draw huge fields. Where you find huge fields, you find fish. Where you find fish, you find the pros. Event after Black Friday there should be tonnes of value here for the tournament giants.
Next year, if the Cannes venue proves successful – which I believe it will – we might see more events added including a mixture and not just flop games. For now, though, this seems the wisest course of action. Personally, I can’t wait to see what the WSOPE 2011 brings.