What do you do when you put on the biggest festival of online poker every year and then novel coronavirus hits?
The World Championship of Online Poker used to be the biggest game in town. Thanks to COVID, it now has to contend with coming as an afterthought to WSOP and WPT. Both of these ex-live colossuses are winding down their enormous online lineups.
It was entirely possible that the recreational poker players had glutted themselves on gambling. And that without the recs the pros are less likely to make these events the big deal they are.
But after an impressive opening salvo over the weekend, it looks like rumors of an online poker contraction were greatly exaggerated.
Thanks to all the worry, it was with some relief that we got to see that Ben “Spraggy” Spragg had to beat 12,192 runners to take down the WCOOP-5-L: $5.50 NLHE, $50k Guaranteed. He got $3,236.02 for winning and another grand in bounties.
Competing with the two biggest names in live poker doesn’t seem to have set PokerStars back at all.
AND NEW WCOOP 2020 CHAMPION!
I JUST WON A FUCKING WCOOP TITLE!
12,192 RUNNERS AND I WIN THE WHOLE DAMN SHOW!
— Spraggy (@spraggy) August 31, 2020
As with previous years, each event comes in three sizes, so there was a trinity of events running. For the KO NLH event, the small was the $5.50 buy-in event that Spragg took down, the medium event was $55, and the big event set players back $530 which Spragg also took 9th in.
Clearly unaware of the kind of evening he was about to have, Spragg Tweeted ironically “Busto within 3 hands in super unreasonable fashion […] 9th place for $5,200 hurts when there’s $80k up top. Sick, but painful start. Day 1 in the books. Good to be back.”
Naughty start to WCOOP.
Made my first ever WCOOP Final table and busto within 3 hands in super unreasonable fashion.
AKs rejam vs chipleader whose QQ holds.
9th place for $5,200 hurts when there's $80k up top. Sick, but painful start. Day 1 in the books. Good to be back. pic.twitter.com/iqrqqMGVFD
— Spraggy (@spraggy) August 31, 2020
Putting the P back in
The triple-tier structure means that the schedule of 75 events actually makes for a whopping 225 events. This dwarfs the numbers for the WPT Online and WSOP Online. More again than last year’s 219.
And here’s where WCOOP has a definite advantage over the WSOP’s rather weak lineup this year. Because the WCOOP is a festival of poker.
This isn’t just no-limit hold’em with a little limit hold’em for variety and a hastily wedged in Omaha hold’em event or two. The WCOOP is doing everything you would expect from the World Series — plus adding a few bells like Badugi and whistles like 5-card Omaha — for the real all-round action freaks out there.
Melissa Burr made headlines by calling the WSOP on their one-tone schedule. And the WPT simply put up a much smaller field of events. If you wanted to see the best duking it out over draw and stud games, then it is your turn now.
— GJ (@GJReggie) August 28, 2020
Goliath versus Goliath versus also Goliath
This isn’t the only reason the WCOOP is going strong. Stars’s marketing bumf aggressively pushes the various leagues, sweepstakes, and player of the year leader boards that will be running. And of course there’s the impressive size of their guarantees ($80 million for the series, $10 million for the main event).
But what’s actually bringing the players back is probably the chance to return to a site that sports something resembling professionalism.
GGPoker has managed to make PokerStars — the AOL-Time-Warner-Pepsico-Viacom-Halliburton-Skynet-Toyota-Trader-Joe’s of online poker — seem like the good guys.
— PokerStars (@PokerStars) August 17, 2020
And say what you like about Stars’s — and we all do — their internet connection doesn’t drop out wherever the wind changes. And Stars are unlikely to steal your bankroll for winning too much.
The WPT intelligently opted to go with partypoker, so they’ve not been dogged with the same PR omnishambles that the WSOP has. But they also had a much smaller number of tournaments.
Neither the WSOP nor the WPT was very friendly to micro stakes players. The WPT offered a few tourneys for tens of bucks, but the WCOOP has a slew of tourneys for $5 or $10 a pop.
Online poker has been on an upward trend during the world’s lockdown. We’ve all had more free time and a need for recreational escapes.
So, whether the contest is an afterthought to the WSOP or not it, looks like the WCOOP is back in a major way.