Opinions in the world of poker are as common as bad beat stories. That’s certainly the case this week with the announcement of a new World Series of Poker online series.
The new WSOP Online summer festival will greatly ramp up the number of bracelets won online. With the WSOP postponed until fall, organizers are trying to offer a chance at gold for players stuck at home. This also becomes the first time international players can win a bracelet as well.
As news trickled out, USPoker reached out to several experienced players to gauge reaction. Some had a positive reception and were excited about the series. Others believe additional events water down the series and importance of a bracelet.
A quick glance at the WSOP Online
With the actual series in doubt, the WSOP Online offers a co-branded festival awarding bracelets throughout the summer. That includes a total of 85 bracelets given out this summer.
Organizers promise plenty of pomp and circumstance to coincide with events including coverage from Poker Central. Here’s a look at what to expect.
- Number of bracelet events – 31
- Dates – July 1-31 (one event per day)
- States available to players – Nevada and New Jersey
- Game formats – Mostly No Limit Hold’em events with a few Omaha tournaments
- Buy-in range – $400 to $3,200
A few highlights include the $1,000 NLHE Championship on July 31 to close the WSOP.com side of the series. The $500 Kickoff on July 1 should be popular as well as $1,500 and $3,200 high roller events on July 13-14.
- Number of bracelet events – 54
- Dates – July 19 to Sept. 16
- Locations available to players – Around the world including Canada and Mexico
- Game formats – No schedule yet, but many formats and extra non-bracelet events expected as in the recent WSOP Super Online Circuit Series
- Buy-in range – Not known yet, but Super Series buy-ins ranged from $33 to $25,000.
GGPoker has been one of the fastest-growing online poker sites and this becomes the second series sponsored with WSOP. Players should look forward to numerous events beyond the bracelet events and big guarantees.
Daniel Negreanu is now a brand ambassador for GG and was quick to trumpet his excitement for the series.
— WSOP (@WSOP) June 8, 2020
Phil Hellmuth is ready to go for WSOP Online
The thought among players about winning so many bracelets online seems to fall into two camps. One side believes the WSOP Online solves a problem – not having the annual series this summer in Las Vegas. The series also can keep online poker in the news and further the cause of acceptance in the US.
Another group believes the additional online bracelets dilute the WSOP product. They argue that a bracelet is special and events like this take off some of that luster.
Count 15-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth among those in full support. When informed of the new series on Monday, he booked his stay at the Aria casino resort in Las Vegas for all of July.
“I think online poker is legitimate,” he told USPoker on Monday. “I’m looking forward to battling tens of thousands of poker players for WSOP gold this summer.”
Hellmuth remains the only winner of both the WSOP Main Event (1989) and WSOP Europe Main Event (2012). While he doesn’t have an online bracelet, he came close in 2019 – taking fifth in a $400 event for $39,640. Hellmuth plans on playing the GGPoker half of the new series as well.
“I’ll either go to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, or Vancouver, Canada,” he says. “I’m hoping that if it’s Vancouver, I’ll be close to other poker players playing in tournaments. If Cabo, I’m already set up well down there.”
Support for series, playing online in Las Vegas
Brian Altman has been in a unique situation during the Coronavirus pandemic. The two-time World Poker Tour champion was to play the final table of the Borgata Winter Poker Open in Las Vegas on April 1.
The event would be filmed for television on April 1. He booked a stay in Las Vegas after playing the WPT Rolling Thunder in March. What was supposed to be a short stay to prepare for the final table turned into an online poker sabbatical.
In March’s WSOP Online Super Series, Altman won a $215 Turbo event for $32,781. Still in Las Vegas, he’s looking forward to more action and a chance to win a bracelet this summer.
“I’m not sure of my exact schedule, but I plan on playing some of the events,” says Altman, who has two WSOP Circuit rings and is still looking for his first bracelet. “I think it’s great the WSOP is adapting to these unique times and running online events across two different sites.
“That being said, this situation highlights the need for the expansion of regulated poker in the United States, so that people from all states can play against each other, and perhaps once again participate in a worldwide player pool.”
Limited states for WSOP.com players frustrates many
Other players will be out of the mix. South Florida player Tony Ruberto has two WPT titles and one WSOPC championship ring. Traveling for the online events isn’t in his plans. His situation highlights the difficulties of having bracelet tournaments in such a limited number of states.
“Unfortunately I live in Miami and we aren’t allowed to play at WSOP.com,” he says.
Online poker is only legally available in New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. In 2019, Michigan and West Virginia also legalized but haven’t gone live yet. Hopes are high among players that the game sees further US expansion in coming years.
Added WSOP online events have another effect – offering a wide range of players an opportunity to play in bracelet events. Poker legend Doyle Brunson, 86, left the WSOP behind because of long hours needed at the table.
WSOP Online may just offer the “Godfather of Poker” a shot at bracelet No. 11. He indicated as such on Twitter on Monday.
— Doyle Brunson (@TexDolly) June 8, 2020
Not a fan of new WSOP online bracelet approach
The number of bracelets at the annual summer WSOP in Las Vegas had already been climbing in recent years. Some players feel this trend has now spilled over online and devalues winning a bracelet.
Two-time bracelet winner Brandon Shack-Harris falls in this category and took to Twitter with his views on Monday. If a live series is indeed held in the fall, Shack-Harris believes the new series is bracelet “double dipping.”
“I’ve had nothing but great interactions with WSOP chairmen and staff, and take pride in competing on their platform,” he noted. “I’m not trying to create heat for them, but I have concerns about the quality of their product and potentially how they view the quality of their product given the decision to go ahead with a large online format that awards a trophy with a prestigious history attached to it.”
Shack-Harris argues that large non-bracelet summer series could still attract big numbers. Recent series in the US and internationally back up that assertion.
“My assumption is that a chance at a bracelet is what people feel is necessary to generate traffic, but I think it’s short sighted and only hurts the overall health of the product,” the two-time bracelet winner notes. “I also feel people are always happy to compete in online series in general – I would and I’m not a no limit grinder.”
Mixed feelings, but the WSOP show must go on
Three-time bracelet winner Ben Yu looks at the new series from a business perspective. Players revere a WSOP bracelet and see it as a huge accomplishment. But during uncertain economic times, running the series online helps a company struggling after weeks of having casinos shut down.
“It’s unfortunate to have an event that incentivizes travel to Nevada, New Jersey, and abroad in the middle of a pandemic,” he says. “But I understand their desire to continue business and it’s still much better than having any kind of live event.
“Going forward, I predict WSOP will continue to use the draw of bracelets to run events players will criticize. But the WSOP has very different incentives from those most vocal, and those players don’t have much leverage. I don’t have a strong opinion on the topic. Disclaimer: I’ll probably play the Nevada ones.”
As a Las Vegas resident, Dylan Linde plans on playing bracelet events in Nevada and possibly abroad on GGPoker. A WPT champion, he’s still seeking his first bracelet and has a measured view on the new series.
Linde sees some positive aspects including the well-being of the game and huge prize pool possibilities. The added bracelets, however, make him worry about the value of poker’s ultimate trophy.
“I certainly will play them but I’m not certain of my feelings on them,” he says. “On one hand, I think keeping people’s interest in the WSOP alive is good and that helps the health of the game.
“On the other hand I’m worried that the buy-ins and number of events will dilute people’s awe of a bracelet. I think that awe drives many recreational players to play – as well as pros. Although, until last month no one had won a circuit ring for $3.2 million.”