You can be forgiven if you believed that Event 39 of the 2006 World Series of Poker, the $10,000 No-Limit Hold'em World Championship event, is the last event on the WSOP roster. It only makes sense. The Main Event is the crowning jewel of the World Series. It attracts all of the attention, gets all the press, and deservingly so; that 8,773 player field and corresponding $12 million first prize is enough to capture the imagination of even the most disinterested observers.
But although it would only make sense to put the Main Event last on the docket, WSOP organizers have added six tournaments to the roster that will begin after the flagship event is underway. These events, tellingly, are all low buy-in ($1,000 - $1,500) No-Limit Hold'em events, and though they will be peopled almost entirely from the ranks of those eliminated from the Main Event, the winners will all get WSOP bracelets, just like the Main Event winner.
Well, that's not entirely accurate. The winner of the Main Event will get a special, 170-diamond, one-of-a-kind bracelet to distinguish himself from those who won bracelets in the more pedestrian WSOP tournaments, like the $5,000 Seven-Card Stud event and the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event. But those winners of pre-Main Event tournaments will share common bracelets with those winning these last-minute, low buy-in tournaments against extremely weak fields.
Why is this a bad thing? Well, think about it. There'll be as many as six new bracelet winners crowned before the Main Event ends this year. Their names will go alongside every other bracelet winner's from the 2006 World Series of Poker, with nothing to differentiate between their victories and those of the legitimate winners.
Plainly put, these extra tournaments threaten to make a farce of the whole idea of the WSOP bracelet. It cheapens their worth, anyway, when you consider that any really motivated pro could bust out of the Main Event and proceed to rack up two or three bracelets in the "loser's bracket" that follows.
I know I'm echoing Daniel Negreanu on this point. In his interview with Erik Sylven he spoke out against the extra tournaments, saying "the idea of giving away bracelets for the events that starts after the Main Event is absurd, you don't do that."
To Daniel's credit, and to the credit of most of the professionals who've already been eliminated from the Main Event, the number of recognizable names entered in the first tournament today was noticeably small. Apart from Men "The Master" Nguyen, Erik Seidel, and Dave "Devilfish" Ulliot, the field was mostly amateurs, which is great. You'd hate to see a situation where Phil Hellmuth (or someone) racked up more bracelets while Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunson were still playing in the Main Event.
When Roger Maris hit 61 home runs in 1961, breaking the record held by George Herman "Babe" Ruth, baseball purists suggested that since the Babe had hit his 60 dingers in 154 games and Maris his 61 in 162, an asterisk be used to signify the discrepancy.
These extra tournaments 40 through 45 are clearly a means by which tournament organizers at Harrah's hope to keep players in their casino, and not tournaments in the true spirit of the World Series of Poker. So if we're going to give the winners bracelets, can we at least give them asterisks, too?