Millionaires Wanted

Millionaires Wanted

ISPTThe gaze of the poker world is being inexorably drawn to Las Vegas for the start of the 2013 World Series of Poker next Wednesday, but several other events on the poker calendar are vying for a piece of the attention. First up, starting on Friday, May 31, is the International Stadiums Poker Tour inaugural event in Wembley Stadium, London.

The checkered history of the ISPT has been well-documented on Flushdraw. Anemic turnout for online “Day 1” events and a communication strategy that appeared to be lifted from the Lock Poker playbook led the ISPT to partner with Dusk Til Dawn in March. While DTD has done an infinitely better job of communicating with the players and the industry, nagging doubts about the ISPT remain.

The ISPT has promised a €1 million payday for the winner, with “not more than 20%” of the prizepool being allocated for that purpose. That means that if the prizepool falls short of €5 million, there will be an overlay for the winner. As the event is priced at €2700+300, ISPT and DTD have made a bet that they can generate at least 1,852 entries.

This week ISPT announced through PokerNews that “more than 550 players have confirmed that they will be present” at the event – which leaves the event about 1,300 entries short of its target and creates a current winner’s overlay of €702,000. The crafty thing about only guaranteeing the 1st-place prize is that no other player at the event will share in the overlay.

The numbers should increase somewhat between now and next Friday, and re-entries will contribute further to the prizepool. But for a €3,000 (US$3,900) event, re-entries will probably comprise a small fraction of the prizepool. The oddball structure of the event (“Day 1” took place in multiple flights online for a tenth of the buy-in) also has hamstrung the payouts. 50% of the Day 2 field will be paid, with the minimum payout starting at €540. If the event gets 1,000 entries, finishing in 28th place will be worth only €7,200 – hardly appealing for players who might re-enter and could be on the hook for €6,000 or more – and the jump from 2nd place (€375,000) to 1st place will be staggering.

WSOPCompare that event to the WSOP’s “Millionaire Maker”, also a re-entry event, that is slated to begin on Saturday, June 1. Like the ISPT event, the Millionaire Maker is guaranteeing a $1 million 1st prize. Unlike the ISPT, the WSOP event is priced at only $1,500, making entering and re-entering more feasible for the casual player.

Last year, the WSOP’s opening weekend $1,500 re-entry event (Event 9) generated 3,404 entries. That wasn’t enough to guarantee a 1st-place prize of $1 million – winner Askhan Razavi earned $781,396 – but the event wasn’t really marketed as anything special by the WSOP. This year the WSOP has heavily marketed the “Millionaire Maker” in all of its WSOP press materials.

There’s every possibility, of course, that the standard WSOP payout structure will have to be modified for the Millionaire Maker event to ensure the $1 million 1st prize. But WSOP hasn’t painted itself into a corner the way ISPT has. Using last year as a guide, there should be value for players all the way down the payout chain, even if the structure winds up being modified slightly for the balloon payment at the top.

The Millionaire Maker and the ISPT are directly competing with each other, insomuch as two events taking place 5,000 miles apart can be said to be in competition. The WSOP has 44 years of history on its side; all the ISPT can point to is a tortured 18 months of walking back public statements. If you’re betting on the success of one event over the other, the easy money is on the Millionaire Maker.

There’s also a third million-dollar tournament on the schedule in early June. The Asia Millions, an event run by PokerStars Macau, will begin on June 5. It may compete with ISPT and the Millionaire Maker for the spotlight but it won’t be competing for any of the same players. The tournament, to be held at the City of Dreams casino, sports a HK$1 million (US $130,000) price tag and will attract rich Asian businessmen who want to play with the one-percenters of the poker world. More than 50 players have already committed, ensuring that the grand prize should be at least $2 million.

Three different tournament, three different million-dollar prizes. Welcome to poker in 2013, where you, too, can become a millionaire.


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