Attendance for $50k H.O.R.S.E. drops

Phil Hellmuth
Where's the Poker Brat?

The prestigious $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event at the 2009 WSOP was missing a few players as only 95 people bought into the event.

The field is by far the smallest in the history of the event, which brought in 143 players in 2006 and 148 in 2007 and 2008.

ESPN dropped the H.O.R.S.E. event from its television taping schedule for the 2009 WSOP after disappointing ratings the last two years.

The 2006 H.O.R.S.E. event had a format that featured No-Limit Hold'em being played exclusively at the final table with the rest of the tournament using the H.O.R.S.E. mix.

Daniel Negreanu was a big advocate of the idea, which gave ESPN the opportunity to feature the event with the viewer-friendly No Limit Hold'em as the main focus.

The format was changed in 2007 and for the third year in a row the H.O.R.S.E. mix will be used all the way through the final table this year.

Negreanu, along with some other pros, is not happy.

"People don't listen to me," said a fired-up Negreanu during a break. "That's the absolute truth and I'm pissed about it."

Negreanu played a big role in formulating the format that was used in 2006, when Chip Reese won the inaugural $50k H.O.R.S.E. event with No-Limit being played exclusively at the final table.

"This event was originally slated to be No-Limit Hold'em the very first year and it worked fine because it satisfied the viewers," Negreanu said.

"ESPN was happy, everyone was happy. Then four stupid people, who don't know half of what I know about how this works, decide we should switch it to H.O.R.S.E. Nobody watches H.O.R.S.E. on TV."

Along with Mike Matusow and Andy Bloch, Negreanu lists the lack of television coverage as the number one factor decimating the field for this year's event.

"Without television, because ESPN isn't going to film the H.O.R.S.E. event anymore, you lose a large majority of the field of players," Negreanu said.

"Players that would have gotten sponsored by online sites are no longer able to play because they're not going to put up the $50,000 themselves."

The event was created in 2006 and the $50k H.O.R.S.E. bracelet has quickly become one of the most prized prizes in poker.

Without a TV deal for the event some pros, like the always outspoken Matusow, saw the drop off as inevitable.

"It wasn't a low turnout," Matusow said. "I thought they'd get 100 and they got 95."

"How could it be low? They rake $17 million from everybody and they had a $40,000 buy-in that took everybody's money in the first event in No Limit."

"They also took TV away. What do they expect? I mean it costs seven bucks for a hot dog in the back room. You can only break so many people."

The 2009 WSOP began with a special $40k No Limit Hold'em event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the WSOP.

The H.O.R.S.E. event, for whatever reason, has suffered in 2009.

"It's not good for the game," Bloch said. "It's not good that we don't have TV for the event."

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