No WSOP in 2021, please: why we need a break

Jon Pill
Posted on: March 16, 2021 04:36 PDT

Editor's note: This is an opinion piece by author Jon Pill. The views expressed here are entirely the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of or its staff.

2020 could have gone better. That's true for most of us, but it's especially true for the WSOP.

The company may not even realize what they lost yet. Their balance sheet probably hasn't been hit too hard. If anything, 2020 gave them an excellent reason to do away with a ton of overhead. Meanwhile, letting GGPoker run the summer series turned the whole affair into practically passive income.

But 2020 also saw the WSOP burn off a huge amount of goodwill in the poker community. And that would still have been the case even if GGPoker hadn't turned out to be one of the most toxic brands in the poker world.

The World Series of Problems

In GGPoker's hands, the WSOP became a mess of crashes, delays, and the bizarre banishment of players.

The series was overstuffed with cheap events. And because GGPoker was a two-bit affair before they made the deal with the WSOP, they just didn't have the programming chops to put on anything but flop games. Even then non-hold'em and fixed limit games were miserably few.

The series was unplayable for most U.S. players. As with baseball, the "World" in the title is basically ironic. The WSOP is an American event. It makes apple-pie seem like communist slop.

Worse still, the 2020 online series devalued the main event. They held three of them, none of which could be considered properly equivalent to a "real" WSOP ME. But all of which were advertised as such.

The WSOP Main Event's prestige is an emperor that has always been rather scantily clad. One-off tournaments are crap-shoots. But we suspend disbelief each year in the name of pageantry. Now the emperor has been fully divested of even his imaginary garments.

While the WSOP flailed around all year, the smaller, more agile WPT brand took to the online world with admirable flexibility. Not to mention competence.

Polk-Negreanu found a way to make poker feel like a real competition and a showcase of skills, rather than a series of pre-flop coin-flips. After 2020, the tournament circuit feels less like the central column of the poker world. Now is a great time to change things up again.

Flying down to the Rio

Now the WSOP is hinting at a late 2021 return to the Rio, as if last year never happened. If we're lucky, enough people will have accepted the proffered vaccines to protect even the anti-vaxxers. So the WSOP will be able to run without threatening to kill any more than the Rio flu normally takes down each year.

But 2020 gave us a peek behind the curtain. The Wizard is gonna have to start digging around in his bag for a new set of medals, watches, and diplomas if he doesn't want us to head back to Kansas.

We're just not going to buy the old act any more.

This is why the WSOP should take 2021 off. It solves both of the problems 2020 created. They can wait while the Pepe-le-Pew scent of GGPoker dissipates and the perception of scarcity and value returns to the currently hyper-inflated bracelet.

The late running of the 2020 main event final tables made the previous year's "Main Event" serve for 2021 anyway.

Solve for how

The first WSOP owed its inception to the Dandalos v. Moss exhibition match in the 40s. When Benny Binion wanted to replicate the 1940s magic, that first WSOP ended in a tied vote. Every player voted for themselves.

When self-voting was disallowed, Johnny Moss won outright forever, earning an asterisk against the 9 in his "number of bracelets" entry.

The next year, Binion invented the freeze-out. Since then, the WSOP hasn't changed much. It's bigger, there are more cameras, and the location has changed. But the form is more or less the same.

A year off will give time for the taint of GGPoker to wash away. It will let us get hungry for bracelets and Vegas pageantry again. And it will let the WSOP team come to grips with such people and opportunities as this brave new world has in it.

Featured image source: Flickr by Gordon Ednie