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So How About This Online WSOP Bracelet Event?

The 2015 World Series of Poker schedule was recently published and with it came many of the same types of tournaments we have seen for years. That’s good. They work. No sense in reinventing the wheel. As always, though, some tournaments were removed and new tournaments were added, such as the ambitious $565 Colossus with a $5 million guaranteed prize pool. WSOP officials are gunning for the Colossus to be the largest live tournament in poker history.

One addition, above all, has been an eye opener. For the first time ever, the Worlds Series of Poker will award an official gold bracelet for an online event. The $1,000 buy-in tournament will be held on WSOP.com Nevada and the final two players will face each other heads-up at the Rio, where the rest of the WSOP is being held, for the bracelet.

When I first read about it, I thought it sounded intriguing, but Event #64 has already proven to be a bit controversial. Some people just loathe the idea of adding an online event to the world’s most famous live poker festival. A portion of those people just think it’s blasphemous, others just feel like it’s gimmicky, that it takes some of the prestige, the “cool” factor away from the WSOP. Along those lines, there are also people who feel that an online bracelet diminishes the value of a “real” bracelet. Then there are those who are scared of the internet and are concerned about collusion, ghosting, or even someone making it to the final two and then paying a better player to stand-in for him in the heads-up match.

I’m sure you are all wondering where I stand on this matter (and by “you” and “all,” I mean my parents, brother, and wife*). Well, I’ll tell you. I mean, that’s why they pay me the big bucks. To tell you things.

So, here’s my hot take: it’s cool.

I mean, why not? Why not give an online WSOP bracelet event a shot? We’re in the year 2015 already; internet poker is quite clearly a thing. Players from around the world qualify for the other Series events online (I wish I could say “from around the United States,” but…sigh), so why not have an entire tournament on the internet? Sounds like fun to me.

Those who argue that it diminishes the value or prestige of winning a WSOP bracelet need to get over themselves. It won’t. The online bracelet might not come with the same prestige (but it might), but it won’t have any effect on the other events. People thought that WSOP Europe would water down the value of a bracelet. They thought WSOP APAC would do the same. They haven’t.

2014 WSOP Bracelet

2014 WSOP Bracelet

Now, that’s not to say that a WSOP bracelet is as prestigious as it once was. It doesn’t feel like it is. But that’s not due to any one thing. The expansion of the traditional, Vegas-based WSOP to a 60+ event monster had something to do with it. The proliferation of other land-based poker tours, like the World Poker Tour, European Poker Tour, and the other eighteen-bazillion PokerStars-sponsored international tours had something to do with it. The multitude of high visibility online tournament series (PokerStars WCOOP and SCOOP, Full Tilt’s FTOPS, etc.) had something to do with it. But adding a single online bracelet event isn’t going to hurt anything.

Does it feel gimmicky? I can see that. Part of the reason for its introduction is almost certainly a push by the World Series of Poker to get more traffic on WSOP.com. There will likely be players from around the state who might not normally consider heading to Vegas to play in one or two lower buy-in events (I wish $1,000 and $1,500 buy-ins felt low to me), but would happily login one day from home to take a shot at a bracelet. It also encourages visitors from around the world to create accounts, as even if they are between events at the Rio, they can still compete for a bracelet. The thing is, though, there is nothing wrong with that. It aligns well for both the WSOP’s business and the enjoyment of players.

As far as cheating concerns, there is no more concern with an online bracelet event than there is for any other online tournament. Of course it is possible people could cheat, but protections are in place to ferret out any shenanigans, protections which work most of the time and which are no less likely to work for this one tournament than for any other. I am not at all concerned about one of the final two players getting someone else to play in their place, as a) the pieces have to fall into place perfectly for the scenario to even present itself, b) the finalist and his stand-in would have to have the balls to attempt it, and c) they would have to then get away with false identities. Won’t happen.

The bottom line is this: adding an internet bracelet event is a perfectly fine idea. WSOP satellites have been around for years – this is a natural next step. As I said before, why not? It’s one tournament, it’s not hurting anyone. If people want to participate, great! If not, great! Give it a go, see what happens.

* Just kidding, my wife doesn’t read my articles.

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