The 47th annual World Series of Poker is upon us, with just a few days to go until the Colossus kicks the open events off on June 2. Players from all around the world will battle for 69 gold bracelets, hoping to cash in on the opportunity to claim the most coveted prize in poker. The seven-week summer odyssey will once again create poker superstars, cement iconic players legacies and produce memories that will last a lifetime.
It’s certainly worth noting that no two years at the WSOP are exactly alike -- so before you sit down in the Rio’s convention center, you should be aware of the key changes the WSOP has made. If you’re not sure how to react, or what these changes will mean, don’t worry -- we've asked some of the biggest names in the game how they feel these alterations will play out.
15 percent of the field finishing in the money
Historically in poker (or at least over the last 10 years or so), 10 percent is the standard portion of the field that cashes in any given tournament. Certain events and series overseas and online have trended towards paying out a higher percentage of the field, with upwards of 15 percent of the field receiving a payout, including the 2015 WSOP main event where 1,000 out of the 6,420 players who entered (15.6 percent of the field) cashed.
The WSOP has expanded their payout structure to the rest of the schedule in 2016. This summer, players earning a min-cash will receive at least 1.5 times their buy-in too -- and the prevailing thought is that these factors, among others will cause the money bubble to burst on Day 1 in many cases.
Players, by and large, like the 15 percent of the field cashing concept, and I agree wholeheartedly. Some players do, however, lament the reduction in the first prize.
“I love this change by the WSOP,” concluded 2008 WSOP main event third-place finisher, Dennis Phillips. “With more people cashing, I feel there will be more participation, more activity and more sense of accomplishment. Overall, I believe that there will be a better feeling among the players this summer. These players will turn around, take their winnings and play another event or head to the cash games.”
Three-time WSOP bracelet winner Jason Mercier agreed with the overall idea, but had some personal concerns.
“It is definitely better for the poker community as a whole, the poker economy and the longevity of poker,” said Mercier. “As long as they are not raking more, I think it is great for poker. But as for me, I personally think it is bad for me as the top prize will be smaller.”
Starting stack of 50,000 in $10,000 events, including the main event
Last year, the WSOP increased the number of starting chips for every preliminary event to five times the buy-in, with one exception -- $10,000 events remained at three times the buy-in with 30,000 chips to start. This year, the WSOP have extended that change to every event, pushing that stack to 50,000 for $10,000 buy-ins – including the main event. A lot of players seem to like the idea, including three-time WSOP bracelet winner Michael Mizrachi and 2010 WSOP main event champion Joe Cada.
“Anytime I can play with more chips, I like it,” said Mizrachi, “The more chips, the better. I like to play a lot of hands so with more chips, it gives me the opportunity to win more pots and hopefully a big hand or two.”
“I like this change. I love to play deep-stacked,” Cada said. “With more chips, there will be more room to play and I’m all about more play in these events, especially the main.”
Others seemed less excited for the change, meeting it with mixed reviews.
“I’m not a big fan of this change. I don’t feel this is necessary,” lamented 2003 WSOP main event champion Chris Moneymaker. “It went from 10,000 chips when I won to 20,000, [then] to 30,000, and this year, we will be up to 50,000. The players already have millions upon millions of chips at the final table.”
“It depends on the structure more than the chip amounts,” explained Mercier. “Just because you get more chips doesn’t mean that there is more play. Most players don’t realize this and are just happy to have more chips.”
Earlier starting times
Over the past several years at the WSOP, most days featured two new events kicking off per day, along with tournaments coming back for Day 2’s and 3’s. The first event of the day (often a no-limit hold ’em event) started at noon, while the other (commonly a mixed game event or a different format) started at 5 p.m. In 2014, the WSOP moved the second event up to 4 p.m. This year things shift again with early events kicking off at 11 a.m. and the afternoon event starting at 3 p.m. Restarts were also set to be moved up an hour, but after much player feedback, they WSOP decided to leave that aspect as it was last year with the one exception being the main event.
This change in particular has been met by mixed reviews. I personally like the modification and others, who are accustomed to waking up early or dislike playing well into the early morning hours, approve as well.
“I absolutely love it. I think it is the best thing that has been done at the WSOP in 20 years,” proclaimed 1999 WSOP bracelet winner and long-time WPT commentator Mike Sexton. “In the past, most of the big buy-in mixed game events took place in the evening. We used to get out at 3 a.m. and it was brutal. Not only will this be better for the players, but I also think it will increase entries as well.”
Phillips noted that the earlier start times gives players a unique advantage they may have never had before.
“I’m an early person, so I want to get rocking and rolling and start early,” said Phillips. “Also, since the WSOP is starting before any other tournament series in Las Vegas, this allows players who unfortunately bust out early from a bracelet event to go over and play another tournament series event that same day without having to necessarily hurry.”
Others didn't agree with the WSOP's decision at all.
“Many times, the better cash games are late at night in Vegas,” clarified 2009 WSOP main event champion, Joe Cada. “Therefore, the earlier start time will be rough some days. But, this is my job so I will do what I have to do. Also, it will probably get me on a better schedule this summer.”
Reigning WSOP National Championship winner Loni Harwood also preferred the later start times due to the strong social aspects that surround the WSOP.
“I don’t really like the early time change,” she said. “During the WSOP, one of the things I look forward to is seeing all of my friends and hanging out with them, often late into the night. Thus, I like to sleep in and wake up later. However, I guess I will have to adjust this summer.”
No matter what the changes are at the WSOP, there is one thing that will never change: pro players (myself included) are always pumped for the start of the summer and the WSOP.
“I’m really excited to play in the WSOP,” exclaimed reigning 2015 WSOP Player of the Year, Mike Gorodinsky. “It’s always an exciting time of year, sort of like summer camp for poker players. I see a lot of my friends throughout the year at certain stops, but the WSOP is a time for all of them to mesh together and play a lot of poker. I’m really looking forward to it again.”