Where's the stud? Growing criticism for WSOP's flop-game only schedule

Jon Pill
Posted on: August 08, 2020 09:09 PDT

When the WSOP moved online, there was some outcry about the range of games — entirely made up of Texas hold’em games and PLO. If "range" is a word that can be used for a set of tournaments that is so uniform in content. There was just one exception: a Limit Omaha 8 or Better game, which you’ve missed if you were hoping to get in on that.

That shocking stat requires you to count the two short deck games as Texas Hold’em variants.

But the fact remains in 85 tournaments that there is not a single mixed or flop-less game. There is no Badugi. No Chinese poker. There is not a single stud or draw game. No 8-game mix. No HORSE. No Indian poker.

This has been decried as a bit of a comedown from the diverse and exciting line-up of previous years. As a result, the series has come in for some criticism.

I’m Melissa Burr, sir

While some people raised their voices when the schedule was first published, it wasn’t until a recent op-ed by Melissa Burr that the fire started to become concentrated.

Burr focuses heavily on mixed-games but her comments apply to the broader lack of variety.

I could very easily make the argument that mix games prepare players for the future of poker. Every year a new game comes out that threatens the stronghold no-limit hold’em has on poker,” she writes.

Her letter has section titles like: “Mix Games Are Good For Development” and “Mix Games Build Character”.

She ends with the following: “Lastly and certainly not least, mix game players have a vicious reputation for being degenerates [...] If you run more online events, we might go off in your casino. Think about it.”

The lights are going out

Melissa passes up the most obvious argument of all — the call for self-preservation, where hold’em’s reign has been in decline the last few years.

PokerCentral had impressive results streaming a wide range of mixed and non-hold’em games. Short deck is the new go-to for the live nosebleeds crowd. And the big game has been an eight-game-or-more mix since it first moved to Bobby’s room.

The WSOP must be aware of this, so the bizarre two-tracked schedule is probably due to some practical consideration.

Looking for the possible

The WSOP is working with relatively new poker rooms, which might not have large enough player bases year-round to support the mixed game economy. Developing the coding for 5-card Omaha or smoothly switching from H to O to E, might not pay off if those tables will sit idle once fall arrives.

The trouble might also be down to a lack of trust in the software. If something goes wrong it looks pretty bad for so established a brand.

The traffic was expected to be at a new peak for the online series, as there would be honest-to-god bracelets on the line. So it makes sense to go with the well-tested world of Omaha and Holdem, which have been played online for as long as there has been an online to play on.

This may well say much less about the marketability of mixed game formats than the sturdiness of flop game coding.

Not that “practicality” is going to satisfy the hankerings of those players who are done with flops and just want a straightforward round of pot-limit razz.