Poker Masters: Flawed, Unsustainable Series Hidden On A Subscription Service

Martin Derbyshire September 22, 2017 2229 Reads
Poker Masters

I’m having a bit of a tough time thinking of the Poker Masters as any kind of big deal.

Part of it is the fact that the Poker Masters is a brand-new concept. In contrast, the 2017 World Series of Poker was its 48th. Of course, it’s a heck of a lot easier to believe in something that’s been around for almost 50 years. However, a concept like Poker Masters must start somewhere. It’s not easy to embrace change, but change is inevitable. The Poker Masters should not be shunned solely because it is the new kid on the block.

However, my problem with treating the event like it is more than just another high roller series aimed at breaking its competitors’ bankrolls, is also due to the composition of the field. The idea is that the lofty buy-ins, including four $50,000 prelims and a $100,000 championship, will draw out only poker’s elite. The Poker Masters is meant to separate the best from the best. Does it?

The best in the world?

At the very least, some 35 or so of the best and richest poker players on the planet turned up for the inaugural Poker Masters in Las Vegas, Nevada. Unfortunately, this also included groups of players who share a single bankroll and only play in similar high buy-in, small field events. The players in these groups may very well be among the best poker players on the planet. However, since they only play in these types of events, that’s as hard to prove as the soft play and collusion some suspect they are guilty of while playing in them.

Several players who have made previous best in the world lists didn’t bother to show up either. Each likely has a different reason. These range from scheduling conflicts to wanting to avoid the half-million-dollar downswing that could result from running bad for a week. This brings me to another problem I have with the Poker Masters: It just isn’t built to last.

Since their inception, high roller events have been criticized as being unsustainable. They have continued to endure. However, a series like the Poker Masters may be asking too much. Can anyone in poker outside of a few elite players at the top of the food chain really afford to dump half a million dollars in tournament buy-ins? Will those that do really show up each year to donate? I’m naturally skeptical. I just don’t think the poker economy, or those backing it behind the scenes, have deep enough pockets to keep the Poker Masters afloat. Certainly not for anywhere close to the WSOP and its 48 years. In fact, they’ll be lucky to make four.

Flaws in the Poker Masters purple jacket?

But the real problem I have with the Poker Masters is the battle for the purple jacket itself. This is the award being offered to the player who earns the most money through the five-event schedule. Unfortunately, it is being awarded through a flawed system that has devalued the jacket almost entirely.

The idea that the player who runs hottest through a five-event series is anything more than that is flawed from the outset. However, awarding it to the player who earns the most cash has proved most problematic.

In the end, doubling the buy-in for the championship event meant anyone who won it could walk away with the jacket. Regardless of whether they even played any of the prelims.

Steffen Sontheimer won one and cashed in three out of four prelims. He bubbled the fourth, yet all that was practically rendered moot heading into the championship. In fact, Sontheimer was required to run deep to remain in contention for the jacket.

It doesn’t matter whether he managed to do it or not. It’s the fact any player could walk in off the street, skip the prelims and claim the jacket by winning the championship that revealed the flaws. Poker Masters organizers are certainly going to have to fix that going forward. Particularly if they want the public to attach any kind of significance to the jacket going forward.

For the hardcore only

It’s true that I’ve been critical of most of what Poker Central has done over the past year. They should be applauded for trying to introduce innovations to the game and poker broadcasting. However, they just keep going about it the wrong way.

Subscription-based content like PokerGO is great for existing hardcore poker fans. However, it does zero to help grow the game of poker or bring it to new audiences.

In theory, creating a high roller championship series like the Poker Masters and its purple jacket gives players something to strive for. It also gives fans another reason to watch them as they fight for it. In practice, they’ve put together a flawed and unsustainable series. Plus, they’ve hidden it away on a subscription service destined to last only as long as its initial investors’ resolve.

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