Mike Matusow tilts at WSOP Main Event max-late-registration practice, Negreanu and Hellmuth join in

Haley Hintze
Published by:
Posted on 11/11/2021

Mike “The Mouth” Matusow has chimed in on a popular topic in recent days: the question of how the World Series of Poker Main Event should be operated. The WSOP ME has been a $10,000 freezeout from its very inception, though whether it should stay that way or become part of the more modern practice of being a re-entry event is one of several topics poker players have discussed in recent days. Just ask David Williams, a former Main Event runner-up, who triggered a mini-controversy with a recent Twitter post suggesting the Main Event “needs reentry.”

Matusow’s thoughts on a re-entry to the Main Event remain officially unknown. However, he took an opposing line on a related topic — the extended late registration available for the Main Event and most larger poker tournaments, both at the WSOP and elsewhere. Matusow first shared his thoughts via Twitter on Sunday:

Since then, the recurring controversy has gained some steam, with Matusow himself pushing as hard as he can. Other “Mike the Mouth” tweets on the topic included his response to someone calling him a “crybaby:”

As usual, when Matusow gets worked up, it’s not confined to a single Tweet:

Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth offer somewhat supportive takes:

One of the first to respond to Matusow’s post in a supporting way was Daniel Negreanu, who opined that the longer any star pro wasn’t at the table, the better it had to be for all the other players:

Hellmuth chimed in, though, with a caveat about his own frequent late-registration practices. “I agree 100%!” Hellmuth posted. “In fact, my best chance to win is showing up early early. Day 1 is MUCH softer when a bunch of great players late reg: fact! (Fatigue is why I show up late).”

Numbers more complicated than quick takes indicate

One of the reason so many top pros have such differing opinions of extended late registration is that its effects are so difficult to quantify. But quantifying them is not impossible. One such recent effort was the niche strategy book Poker Satellite Strategy, by Dara O’Kearney and Barry Carter. Matusow’s rants fell right into the areas that O’Kearner and Carter explored, and Carter responded in mathematical and strategic terms in a recent post at PokerStrategy, called “Late registration is not bad for poker.

Grandiose headline aside, Carter does make some strong arguments while acknowledging that max-late-regging does indeed offer pros an extra edge. Carter estimated that registering just before registration closes may give a late-regging pro as much as an extra 10% chance of making the money.

The flip side, though, according to Carter, comes in the form of an “opportunity cost.” As he explained in depth, a max-late-regging pro simultaneously increases his chances of cashing, and decreases his chances of winning the entire tourney. That’s thanks to skipping hours of early play in which the pro might build a large stack against weaker opponents.

One could argue that the WSOP Main Event’s payout structure — which always generates its own controversy — actually helps late-regging players’ interests. Each of the nine players at the final table receives at least $1 million each, while first is worth $8 million. Fully 15% of the field cashes, too, for at least $15,000, or 1.5 times the initial buy-in. This means the middle of the payout structure is quite lean by comparison. But that only occasionally affects max-late-regging plays who are seeking a quick cash and then the chance to gamble for more.

Diverging opinions and business needs

Such math-based analyses are unlikely to change Matusow’s opinions. Plus, casinos are in the business to make money, and extended late registration allows for some extra revenue. The advent of extended late registration further favors deep-pocketed pros who can fire many bullets. Late reg is therefore that much tougher on lesser players hoping to make that dream-of-a-lifetime score in the Main Event.

And it should be noted that all three players mentioned here in joining in the argument against maximum late registration all late-registered the Main Event themselves. Matusow joined the Day 1 fray a full two-hour level after it began, while Negreanu and Hellmuth also arrived late for their starting days. It’s clear that all pros want some late registration available as a matter of personal convenience. But the arguing starts when the effects and strategic implications come into play.

Meanwhile, Matusow continues tilting at windmills. He calls it a “life goal” to end max-late-reg poker while continuing to assert it’s for the good of the game.

Featured image source: Haley Hintze