For the first time in World Series of Poker history, players can use their credit cards to register online for certain events in the giant poker tournament series.
The question is, should you?
First, there is some fine print involved:
- You need to register for your first event at least 72 hours in advance.
- There is nearly a 3% fee associated with the transaction.
- You can only use a credit card to register for tournaments with a buy-in up to $1,500.
But the answer to the question, “should I register with my credit card?” largely depends, in my opinion, on why you’re considering using plastic to register for a WSOP tournament in the first place.
There are several good reasons you should be willing to whip out your credit card to pay for a WSOP tournament, but there are also several potential hazards associated with using your credit card.
Here’s what you need to know about registering for a WSOP tournament with a credit card.
Fee is like a second rake
As noted above, there is a significant fee on these charges, above and beyond the normal rake paid to the WSOP.
The $1,000 and $1,500 buy-in events at the WSOP have a pretty steep rake. In these tournaments, 7% of total entry pool is withheld for entry fees, and a further 3% is set aside for tournament dealers and staff.
Essentially, a $1,000 WSOP tournament is a $900 tournament with $100 in rake. The breakdown is $1,350 toward the prize-pool and $150 of rake in a $1,500 event.
The 2.95% + $3 fee you’ll be charged to use your credit card to register for WSOP events is also pretty steep. This will cost you about $30 for a $1,000 tournament, and about $45 for a $1,500 tournament.
However, you could mitigate this cost a little if you have a cashback or rewards card. Instead of paying close to 3%, the fee is probably in the 1 to 2% range, give or take the rewards you receive. Anyone using a decent rewards card will pay somewhere between $10-$25 for $1,000 events, and $15-$30 for $1,500 events.
Who should use this payment option?
For a recreational player who is less concerned about his overall return on investment — and more concerned with enjoying his or her trip to the WSOP — using a credit card can make a lot of sense. It makes a lot of sense if — and this is an important if — you plan on paying your balance before interest kicks in (more on this in a moment).
If you’re not interested in traveling to Nevada with several thousand dollars in cash, the ability to charge it is a blessing. From my own personal experience, traveling with several thousand dollars is a lot more stressful than traveling with a thousand. If it’s not something you’re used to (this is unfortunately something I’m not used to) it can be an anxiety-inducing experience.
Using a credit card might also be a good idea for international travelers, who don’t want to go over the $10,000 threshold for customs.
Who shouldn’t use this option?
When I thought of the potential hazards of the WSOP adding credit cards to their payment options, two types of people came to mind:
Someone who has no plans of paying off their credit card balance in a timely manner
As noted above, you’re already paying the WSOP 10%, and the credit card fee is going to cost you another 3% or so. This is before any interest charges.
If you don’t pay off your card right away, you’re going to pay about $30-$50 in interest every month depending on your rate. Basically, if it takes you six months to pay off $3,000 worth of WSOP debt (maybe you entered two $1,500 tournaments), you will likely have paid another $150-$200 in interest payments alone.
This brings the total cost of using your credit card to $240-$290 ($90 in registration fees, and $150-$200 in interest payments).
This is on top of the $300 the WSOP has taken out of your $3,000 buy-in in tournament fees.
In the end, you paid a total of $3,300 to enter two poker tournaments, with only $2,700 of you money going to the prize pool. Essentially, 23% of the money you spent would be fees and interest.
Compare this to the fees and interest a savvy player is hit with — getting 1.5% cashback and paying off the balance immediately. This works out to about $350, or about 13% of the total amount paid.
A desperate pro/semi-pro (taking one last shot) and willing to go into debt in the process
Whether they’re trying to avoid a staking deal or simply don’t have any potential backers, it would be easy for a desperate poker player to rack up $20,000 of debt entering $1,000 and $1,500 tournaments. By the time this debt is erased, the player will likely have paid enough interest to enter a super high roller tournament.
We’re unlikely to hear about these stories, but my guess is a not-trivial number people will fall deep into credit card debt as a result of this.
What about debit cards?
One other aspect you should be aware of concerning the WSOP’s credit card policy is the use of debit cards.
Debit cards cannot be used to enter tournaments. But if you have a dual card (a debit card with MasterCard/Visa/Discover/Diners Club logo) that allows you to run the card as either a debit or credit transaction, you can use it if you run it as a credit card.
— Kevin Mathers (@Kevmath) May 6, 2016
The difference between the two is a debit is an immediate transaction, whereas a credit transaction occurs when the retailer processes the transaction, which can be immediate, daily or even longer.
This is essentially a moot point, as the money still comes out of the same place when you run a debit card as a credit card. But using your debit card as a credit card means you won’t have to worry about paying off your balance. It eliminates the potential pitfall of getting hit with significant interest charges if you don’t pay your balance in full.