Is The WSOP Good Or Bad For Poker?
The World Series of Poker, or the WSOP for short, is the biggest and best-known poker competition that gathers people from all over the world.
The WSOP, especially since it started being broadcast on TV, has helped attract countless players. The idea of winning life-changing money in the Main Event has been an inspiration for many to learn poker and give the game a proper try.
From that perspective, the question from the title seems redundant.
How can anyone ask if the WSOP is good or bad for poker when it’s clearly had such an overall positive impact on the game?
However, there are two sides to every coin, and very few things in life are just black or white.
In this article, I’ll try to analyze the good and the bad of the WSOP to try and come up with an answer.
You may or may not agree with some of what’s written here, but this is an opinion piece after all, so that’s to be expected.
Elimination Can Put Players Off Poker Forever
The World Series of Poker features a few dozen tournaments every year.
Poker players and fans of the game will happily spend money to travel to Vegas, pay for accommodation, and, of course, cover tournament entries to experience it all.
But, it’s safe to say that very few are traveling hundreds or even thousands of miles just for the experience. Every player who sits at the green felt hopes they will somehow end up on the final table and walk away as the winner.
This is especially true for the Main Event, the dream of almost every poker fan out there.
Every year, there are millions up for grabs, and someone will take home the money. But, who will it be?
All the hype and glamour surrounding the World Series of Poker are good for the game at the very basic level. They help keep the poker dream alive, and without that dream, which truly exploded with the 2003 Moneymaker win, the game’s appeal is just not the same.
At the same time, this idea that “anyone can win,” which has almost become an unofficial slogan of the Series, represents false advertising to some degree.
It’s true that every player has a chance to win a tournament, but their chances are much lower than those of a person sitting next to them, who’s been living and breathing poker for the past couple of decades.
What I’m trying to say is that, for some players, the WSOP can be a rather harsh awakening.
After saving money to travel and play in some events, they can quickly be eliminated from all the tournaments they enter.
That kind of experience can kill the desire to play the game, especially if someone has very high expectations. This isn’t WSOP’s fault, of course, but it’s there.
So, from that point of view, the WSOP can be “bad” for poker as it can cause some players, especially amateurs and those new to the game, to throw in the towel.
Is this something that happens regularly? Probably not.
Most amateurs don’t have big expectations and try to have a good time while in Las Vegas.
But it’s safe to assume that at least some of them are turned away from poker after a bad WSOP experience.
TV Producers Love Drama – Players Not So Much
We can’t talk about the World Series of Poker without talking about the TV production. Without being on TV, the WSOP would never have such a big impact on the game, so it’s a good thing.
But, as with most things, it has its bad side as well.
It’s no secret that TV producers love drama.
Watching nine people seated around the table and playing cards is only fun if you actually love poker.
But if you throw in some drama into the mix, the show becomes interesting to a much wider audience.
You’d think that this doesn’t make much of a difference, but things aren’t that clear-cut.
Poker has come a long way over the past couple of decades. The game is no longer considered a shady activity enjoyed by questionable characters.
That said, it’s still a far cry away from being perfectly acceptable.
Many people still see it as pure gambling that attracts people of questionable morals.
When WSOP producers decide to give too much screen time to drama and scandals, it may be good for ratings, but it’s bad for poker.
Someone just starting their poker journey, for example, may see this and decide to find a different hobby.
Not because they don’t love the game, but because they don’t want to find themselves in such an environment.
If there is so much drama and scandals at the biggest poker tournament in the world, what can they possibly expect in their local casino?
Again, this has more to do with the people who have TV rights than those running the World Series, but it’s something worth mentioning in the context of this article.
I have to say that the WSOP has done a pretty good job focusing on what really matters: the actual game.
Having tournaments broadcast on TV and online is certainly good for poker, but there are occasional bad elements as well.
Have WSOP Bracelets Become “Trivial”?
Back in the day, winning a WSOP bracelet was a pretty big achievement. The number of tournaments every year was pretty small, and buy-ins were fairly high.
To win one of these trinkets, an amateur player had to be prepared to put a fair amount of money on the line. Pros had the bankroll, but opportunities were limited.
Over the years, things have changed quite a bit on both sides of the spectrum.
Nowadays, there are live WSOP events only costing $300 or $500 to enter, and people can even win bracelets online. The entire 2020 WSOP was held online because of the coronavirus situation, which was the only viable solution other than canceling the Series completely.
But was it the right solution?
Many pros have voiced their concerns that this was actually bad for poker as it devalued WSOP bracelets.
If anyone and their dog can win one, the trophy will lose its appeal and, after a while, it could become almost completely insignificant.
And, there are plenty of bracelets to go around every year.
Modern WSOP will feature around 60 tournaments, so that’s a few dozen new bracelets every year. Many of these are given away in tournaments with buy-ins under $1,000, whether they’re played live or online.
But how is any of this bad for poker?
If anything, it can inspire casual players to give it a try and perhaps win a WSOP bracelet – something that many couldn’t even dream of a decade or two ago.
The problem is, there is a rather delicate balance in the poker ecosystem. Professional players are the ones that keep the dream alive to a great extent.
If they’re not happy with what the WSOP is doing, they’ll share their opinion with the world. That, in turn, can have a negative effect on the game, killing the dream or rendering it insignificant.
If your favorite pro tells you that WSOP bracelets have become a joke, you’ll probably be less inspired to chase after one.
Of course, poker isn’t just the WSOP, but for many amateurs, the whole motivation to play the game is the competitive aspect of it.
If that balance is disturbed, their passion for the game will dwindle, and, eventually, some of them will stop playing entirely.
Digging Under the Surface
The World Series of Poker is just one of many activities happening in Las Vegas. It’s a city that’s been built entirely on the gambling industry.
And, don’t get me wrong, gambling is a lot of fun – but there is a dark side to it.
Many of those traveling to play in the WSOP come unprepared for what awaits them in Vegas.
Yes, this isn’t WSOP’s fault, but again, there is no way to separate these things.
It’s all a package deal, and when you go to play in the World Series of Poker, you might get more than you’ve bargained for.
I know a few people who went to Vegas to play in some WSOP events and maybe some cash games on the side but ended up blowing their bankrolls on table games.
An experience like that leaves a very sour taste in the mouth, and it’s a feeling that’s not easy to get rid of. The worst part is that feeling is directly connected to poker because they went there to play poker.
You’re right in thinking that this danger exists almost everywhere as poker rooms are usually inside casinos, but Las Vegas is different. You don’t have to be a gambler to lose your money in the pit in Vegas.
Of course, I’m overly dramatic here on purpose, but it’s something that deserves to be included in the discussion of whether the WSOP is good or bad for poker.
Most people will only boost their love and passion for the game after visiting WSOP for the first time, but there is always a second side of the coin.
The Verdict: The WSOP Can Only Really Be Good For Poker
While I’ve tried my best to come up with some valid points why the WSOP could be bad for poker, there is simply no way for these negative aspects to outweigh the positives.
Without the World Series of Poker, the game wouldn’t be what it is today.
For many amateurs, the WSOP is the equivalent of poker. They don’t even know about EPTs, WPTS, and other series. Some of them don’t even know that cash games exist.
For them, poker is all about tournaments, and tournaments are played at the WSOP.
Saying that the WSOP is bad for poker is like saying the Champions League is bad for soccer. Sure, there are some things that could be fixed, and everyone has an opinion about what could be done better.
It also needs to be said that WSOP organizers have shown quite a bit of flexibility over the years, trying to adopt new ideas and cater to players of all shapes and sizes as much as possible.
But in a competition that gathers dozens of thousands of different people from all over the globe, someone will always be unhappy about something. That’s just the nature of the beast.
Overall, there’s no doubt that the WSOP is good for poker.
It has changed a lot over the years, and it will change even more in the future, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which it would be bad for the game.