While this year's World Series of Poker, at large, has received many mixed reviews for some dubious decisions, the $10,000 main event grows apace. Selectively excerpting Wikipedia's article, the recent growth in the main event has looked a little like:
|Year||Winner||First Prize in US$||Entrants|
|2006||To be decided on August 10th||12,000,000||8,773|
Just look at the growth in the number of entrants - and, to a lesser extent, the growth in the size of the first prize. Such growth causes massive logistic problems; up until a couple of years ago, the thought of a poker tournament with more than 200-ish players was rare and more than a few hundred players was exceptional. What has had to happen this year is that they split the 8.700 entrants into four parallel streams and held four parallel "first day"s, whittling 2,200-ish down to 900-ish each time, then combined pairs of "first days" to produce two "second days", whittling 1,800-ish down to 600-ish each time.
After a formal rest day in the tournament, which is a first, the remaining 1,159 players are finally all into a single stream where they will play down to 600, 300, 150, 60, 27, 9 and eventually 1 on successive days. It reminds me a bit of the (association football) World Cup, where you have the group stages with many parallel iterations of the same level of play, then a break before an identifiable second half where each new round of play represents a further whittling of the field.
The tournament is growing at least in part because of its monstrous success; people want a chance to win a vast sum of money, approaching the purses of the biggest prize fights in boxing even if not quite yet "the biggest prize in sport", in a single (albeit extended) activity. It's remarkable that the standard of play in the $10,000 event is probably rather lower than it was in (say) the $1,500 and $2,500 events, simply because so many rich people with little clue about the game are attracted to one of the world's unique social events - and the fact that so many (frequently rich but somewhat unlikely) people are there makes it more attractive as a magnet. It's a virtuous spiral, as "they" say.
Players this year who you might not have expected to find playing include Tom Parker-Bowles, who's only Prince Charles' stepson, former world heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis (who was, most entertainingly, knocked out by a woman in the first round), six-time snooker world champion Steve Davis, six-time snooker nearly-world-champion Jimmy White, golfer Paul Azinger, male porn star Ron Jeremy, and so on and so on. (A link to a video of a slightly off-colour poker interview with Ron Jeremy can be found here - well worthwhile for a killer question at the end.) I was probably most amused by the fact that Ricki Lake, of all the people, played in the ladies' $1,000 event. Briefly.
The event is so large and so slightly out-of-control that it's not all that easy to find good information, but I have lots of tabs open at the same time, many of which are frequently updated: the Poker Stars blog, the Full Tilt blog, PokerPages' links to the daily event blogs, Party Poker's pokerblog.com, the Tao of Poker (which has gone slow recently because most of the blogger's content has gone onto the Poker Stars blog), threads at the Hendon Mob forum and the Gutshot poker club. It's interesting that this is the most (relatively) mainstream sporting event that the mainstream media probably cannot hope to cover better than the bloggers, simply because it's so out of control, and the fact that everyone covers the event from different angles and focuses upon their friends is probably welcome. It'll be interesting to see whether this phenomenon of media specialisation crops up in other ways in the future.
The poker arbiter at the Mind Sports Olympiad, Dan Glimne, played in last year's $10,000 main event. Dan is a great bloke, outstandingly gentlemanly, but this year he's putting his interests aside to support his wife's political campaign. He won't be at this year's MSO and I'm not sure he's at the World Series of Poker either. However, I've met one person at the Mind Sports Olympiad who is in the $10,000 main event this year, one Richard Gryko. Charmingly, he was relatively young - 16, I think - when he played in our poker tournaments; as there are no cash prizes, there's no minimum age requirement (and, in fact, we've had some sub-teenagers do better than you'd expect, which might say as much about our standard of play as anything else). Only now is Gryko old enough to play in US tournaments, where the minimum age limit is 21. I believe he's doing rather well at the moment, though as ever with no-limit poker he could lose it all on one hand; should he turn out to do very well indeed, I shall treasure the fifty or so e-mails we swapped in 2000 and 2001 :-)
Some other links I have stored: the full payout structure for the main event - $12,000,000 for first place, a shade over half that for second and so on down to $14,597 for each of 820th to 873rd. The balance doesn't really feel right to me, but the task of redistributing 94% of (8,773 * $10,000) among approximately (8,773 * 10%) players, while interesting in a geeky competition organisation sort of way, is too big for this post.
Another poker site planned to enter a trained monkey into the main event, but that didn't happen. (I guess that's the sort of thing they must have been thinking about with generic "right to refuse entries at our discretion" disclaimers, though obviously the specific nature is unpredictable.)
Daniel Negreanu (memorably described by the gorgeous dezzikitty as "that wiry Canadian") proposes a schedule for next year; my view is that they should accept that they're happy to have two bracelet events running in parallel, so there's no reason why they shouldn't have more and just start more than one bracelet event each day - say, a new hold'em tournament every day and a new non-hold'em event most days.
That's all I have, except to say come on the Brits, bring lots of money back to the country from overseas and pump it into our economy, especially the Brits I've met. Oh, and apparently the Gutshot poker club will have PPV-busting live coverage of the final table on Thursday. It'll start in the evening UK time and run through the afternoon US Pacific time. If there's 7½+ hours of heads-up play at the end, like there was in the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event, then it could run and run. A whoooole lot of PPV for your money!
I should really use my Chris Tarrant icon for this post, as identified in the first paragraph, or possibly the dealer button icon, but amnewsboy very kindly made me this icon instead which I love a little too much.
Other than that, I haven't been up to much recently. The most interesting thing that's happened to me for a while is that I gave blood today for the first time since last August. I still have some glooping around inside me and it's still dark red.