3 Bad Habits Poker Tournaments Have Picked Up

World-Series-of-Poker-July-2010-dealer-tables-300x200This is combination of a rant about things that somewhat perturb me as well as a couple of serious solutions to my deeper beliefs that tournament poker is going in the wrong direction. So take it for what it is, a somewhat tongue in cheek, but also somewhat serious rant about tournament poker.

#1 Putting the money on the table and photographing the winner with stacks of money

First question: Does any other sport or contest do this? Sure some activities still use the oversized check thing for the winner, but what’s with the cash at the poker table, and more so, why do we have to cart it out before we even have a winner? Why does it have to be bundles of cash like am old wild west bank heist movie; why not just put it in those bags with the dollar signs on them, it’s pretty much the same thing?

Ok, the real reason this irritates me is that it makes the competition seem like it’s solely about the money for the final competitors and not about the competition. As soon as the cash appears the tournament goes from winning the “such and such Title” to winning x amount of money.

Don’t get me wrong, the money is a driving force in every sport and contest (from golf to basketball to darts) but as soon as the money shows up the event itself is no longer important, the shine comes off so to speak. More to my point, I would like to see a research study done on people watching WPT events and see how they describe the contest when its three-handed (before the money appears) and when its heads-up (with the money on the table)?

My guess is during three-handed play they will be “playing for such and such title,” and during heads-up play they will be “playing for x amount of money.”

#2 Arbitrary stop points other than the final table

Most major tournaments are long enough to begin with, so I have a hard time understanding why a tournament would welcome the possibility of having an extremely short day because the scheduling has set some arbitrary “play-down to…” point.

And it does happen. I’ve seen tournaments where 32 people return to play down to 27, or 11 people to play down to eight. If you can play a tournament in fewer days you should always do it. Not to rehash an old argument I’ve made, but… Poker Pros Need a Wakeup Call

As you can see if you click-through and read that article, tournaments are already too long to begin with in my opinion, let’s not make it worse by having a tournament day that lasts all of an hour.

#3 Placating pros

Can we stop arguing about missing levels, a slightly higher rake, and how long late registration should be open? The chickens seem to rule the roost in tournament poker at the moment, which is absolutely insane since poker pros are only interested in one thing: increasing their ROI.

They don’t care (nor should they) how many people satellite in, how many people attend the tournament, or how much money the casino makes/loses on the event. And these are all super important factors for the long-term sustainability for tournament poker.

As Matt Savage points out in this article, tournaments are loss-leaders for casinos. Tournament poker players need to get this through their head before they wake up one day and find entire tournament economy gone –which could easily happen if casinos decide tournaments are no longer the loss-leaders they used to be.

It’s time for the tournament staff and the poker tours to take back control of events, and not worry so much about the 10 vocal players that whine on social media no matter what concessions they make. Basically, they are going to complain and push for more concessions no matter what, so don’t give in to any of their demands. Let’s make sure that casinos see tournaments as viable; that casual players want to play in them; and that the entire poker community understands that the era where tournaments were profit-makers was very a small window and no longer exists.


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