Jamie Gold

WSOP Main Event Prizes Announced, Guarantee Sparks Debate

2014 WSOPThe prizes for the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event have been announced, and the numbers don’t seem to add up for a lot of players. We knew going into the 2014 WSOP Main Event that first place had a guaranteed prize of $10,000,000. What we didn’t know was how the rest of the prizepool was going to be distributed.

Today we were given the information about how the rest of the money was going to be shared out, and it turned out to be as bad as a lot of us were expecting. The prize list  for the final table is below:

Taken from Wikipedia

Jamie Gold won $12 Million winning the main Event in 2006

1st Place:         $10,000,000
2nd Place:        $5,145,968
3rd Place:         $3,806,402
4th Place:         $2,848,833
5th Place:         $2,143,174
6th Place:         $1,622,080
7th Place:         $1,235,862
8th Place:         $947,077
9th Place:         $730,725

A minimum cash, which means finishing in places 622-693 out of 6,683, will earn players $18,406 for their hard work. This is less than double the price of entry, which is seen by most players as a pretty standard starting point for a min-cash. Just over 10% of the starting field will get a return on their investments. Last year saw very similar payout numbers for place 2-9, with a 1st place prize of $8,361,570 rather than the $10 Million that this year’s winner is going to take home. About 10% of the 2013 field were paid as well, but in a smaller field, a min cash was worth $19,106, more than this year’s min-cash from a bigger prizepool. So the players who manage to survive through the 5990 players who go home with nothing have to make it into the top 9.3% in order to match, and slightly beat, last year’s min cash. This $10 Million guarantee for first place has sucked up large amounts of the prizepool, mainly taking money from the lower spots, to keep the November Nine table looking good for the ESPN broadcast. If you add in the fact that the WSOP refuses to allow deals, as illustrated by the tweet below, this is a strategy that is bad for the industry as whole.

No one could reasonably have expected to see the Main Event to attract enough players to see a $10 Million first prize naturally created from the entries. If the WSOP wanted to see the big numbers on the final table, they should have been willing to put up the difference themselves rather than effectively steal equity from the players who have managed to almost herculean task of making the money in the Main Event. In 2013 a min-cash was 0.032% of the prizepool, this year it has dropped to 0.029%. 1st place on the other hand has jumped from 14% of the prize pool to nearly 16%. The figures may seem to be small, but breaking even is hard enough at the WSOP, even for some top quality players. Seeing such a reduction in the lower payouts in a real sense is not going to stimulate the poker economy, and as whomever wins the event has probably only kept about 20% of their action, they are unlikely to be joining the super high roller elite.

Could this be the WSOP Main Event Next Year?

Could this be the WSOP Main Event Next Year?

Considering some of my other articles this year, people may think my only goal this summer was to bash the WSOP. I can honestly say that this is not the case. I truly love this industry, and I’m fed up of having to write articles that are negative in outlook, but when I see things like this I can’t ignore them.

The true impact of the strategy of guaranteeing the 1st place prize probably won’t be seen until after the broadcast of the final table, and maybe not until we see the numbers for next year’s main event. The heads-up battle in November where two players will be battling over nearly $5 Million heads up, and it all comes down to a flip isn’t going to help the skill argument for the game. Poker is not craps, blackjack or roulette, your actions do directly impact your chances to win, and a flip for such a large amount of money isn’t really the best way to promote that aspect of the game.

I also think that if the first-place guarantee is kept for next year, we will see a decrease in the numbers of players in the Main Event. Mid-stakes grinders and other discerning players are going to look at how this guarantee took equity from the lower payout places, and come to the very rational decision that unless they go really deep, the prize isn’t really going to be worth the time. Going home and playing online is going to be much better for most of these player’s bankrolls.

$10,000 is a lot of money to most people, and by removing the equity from the group of players most likely to take a shot at the main event title, I think this is another misstep from the WSOP team. It certainly isn’t the only one I’ve seen this year.


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