Last week, the World Series of Poker released details for 13 more 2019 WSOP bracelet events. In doing so, WSOP brass continued to water down what was once poker’s most prestigious prize.
The 2019 WSOP is on the way to equal or surpass the whopping 78 bracelet events that ran in last year’s event. To gain perspective, there were 36 bracelet events in 2003.
Of course, Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event that year, which kicked off an unprecedented boom in poker’s popularity. So, Harrah’s/Caesars can’t be blamed for taking advantage of the public’s newfound interest in the game by adding more championship level events to the schedule.
However, since then, WSOP management has more than doubled the number of events. This decision appears to have been driven by the greed of a group of corporate bean counters concerned more about raking as much cash as they can than the value of a WSOP bracelet.
Double the bracelets, increase the rake
The increase in bracelet events didn’t happen overnight. By 2008 it was up to 55 events, a reasonable reaction to the poker boom. However, five years later, it was up to 62 and starting to border on the ridiculous.
Management had added six more events by the time the 2015 WSOP rolled around. They added six more for 2017, and another four in 2018 brought the total to 78.
The WSOP will tell you that year in, year out, record-entry numbers prove the increase in the number of events is just a response to customer demand. However, the fact the organization has not only increased the amount it takes in through tournament fees by holding more tournaments but by gradually increasing tournament fees over the years as well, suggests the increase is more financially motivated.
The public always considered WSOP bracelet winners world champions of a certain poker discipline at a specific buy-in level. Can any more than a select few of the 78 bracelet winners from the 2018 WSOP still make such a claim?
Dropping the buy-in level
Additionally, Caesars has made the events more accessible to the masses by driving down the cost of a buy-in.
First, they dropped the buy-in of several $1,500 events to $1,000. Then, they added multiflight events like the Colossus.
To try to break live tournament poker entry records (which the Colossus did), it came with a $565 buy-in. The WSOP succeeded in breaking that record.
This year, they’re pushing the envelope even further.
The WSOP announced the schedule for the 2019 series last month. In doing so, the brass revealed it would be kicking off the 2019 WSOP with something called the Big 50.
The buy-in for the Big 50 is just $500.
WSOP brass also announced a re-imagining of the Colossus. Four flights are now two. Not to worry, though — the WSOP also dropped the buy-in to a measly $400.
‘Cheaper’ literally means that something is not worth as much
The WSOP says Colossus will be the lowest-priced bracelet event on the 2019 schedule. The truth is it will be one of the lowest-priced bracelet events ever. Plus, it represents an even further diminishing of the value and prestige of the WSOP bracelet itself.
Where this annual devaluation will all end is anybody’s guess. However, a WSOP with 100 bracelet events and $100 buy-ins is not that far off.
Hopefully, the WSOP execs responsible take a long hard look in the mirror before the game’s flagship series becomes just another one of many.
There would be no greater shame than to see the value of poker’s biggest prize completely eroded.
This year’s series will take place at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. The events will run between May 28 to July 16.
Editor’s note: We initially identified this year’s Colossus as the least expensive WSOP bracelet event of all time. @onepositivedude on Twitter reminded us about the $365 Giant from last year’s series. We have corrected the error and apologize for any confusion.