All 1,190 women who entered today paid $1,000 for a chance at a bracelet. The price tag is probably meant to be a bargain for women who want to play a WSOP event but don't want to play against a field comprised mostly of men; along with the Seniors Event (also dubbed a World Championship) it stands as the cheapest tournament on the WSOP schedule.
However, the smaller buy-in means a smaller chip stack to start the tournament, thanks to the Series' policy of having all starting chip stacks equal twice the buy-in.
This year's World Championship Ladies Event participants were given $2,000 in starting chips and the same structure as is used in the $1,500 NLHE events. With only 67% of the chips usually used in that structure, even some of the more experienced women were facing coin-flip situations earlier than they normally would, making luck a bigger factor in determining the winner than in any other WSOP event.
The first six levels of the Ladies Event saw the elimination of 82% of the starting field, a higher rate than your average guaranteed prize pool tournament on Full Tilt Poker or other online poker rooms.
Is that really the standard Harrah's wants to set for an event it bills as a World Championship? And furthermore, don't these women - who are, after all, paying customers - deserve better than what the WSOP has given them?
Some of the people I've talked to on the floor have suggested that a good solution would be to simply give the women $3,000 in starting chips for their $1,000 buy-in. I don't think that's any more fair to the players in other events than the $2,000 starting stack was for the women. The real solution is to raise the buy-in for the event to $1,500 from here on.
A higher buy-in would accomplish several important things. First, it would give the women enough starting chips to allow skill to play a greater role in the eventual outcome.
Second, it would put the event on par with every other event during the WSOP, instead of having it remain a sort of "minor-league" tournament amongst a major-league schedule.
And third, it would be a further signal from the WSOP to its players that their concerns are important and will be addressed.
The management at Harrah's might worry about having lower participation because of an increase in the cost of the tournament, but they shouldn't. If anything, they should be looking to promote a new starting chip stack in order to attract more skilled women to the tournament who don't currently play because they feel it's a crapshoot.
The women's event has grown as much as (or more than) other WSOP events since the beginning of the poker boom, going from 204 entrants in 2004 to last year's record of 1,286 players. Even with the small decline in participation this year, it's clear that women are becoming more interested in - and more skilled at - poker every day.
But as they grow more skilled and experienced in poker, these women players are deservedly going to ask that they be given the same starting stacks and structures as they get in other events. If they don't get what they want they may stop playing in the Ladies Event altogether, since they'll certainly be capable of staying competitive in open fields.
A World Championship event that no woman wants to play is the last thing that Harrah's wants. Next year's event should be a $1,500 so that the ladies tournament will sustain its popularity and help to continue to grow the game.