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Does the WSOP Bracelet Glitter as Bright Down Under?
The poker community has often ferociously debated the value of the WSOP gold bracelet.
Regardless of whether that value has changed over the years, there’s no doubt winning a bracelet is, and always has been, one of poker’s most revered achievements.
In the past WSOP bracelets were exclusively awarded in Las Vegas. Then, in 2007, the inaugural WSOP Europe was held and for the first time players could win a gold bracelet outside of Las Vegas.
Proponents claimed it finally gave the international crowd a chance to have home field advantage while detracters felt it further diluted the value of one of poker's greatest achievements.
One player who knows what it’s like to win a bracelet far away from the USA is Aaron Lim, the only Australian to win a bracelet on home soil.
He considers that a huge honour but does the bracelet really mean the same to recreational players in Australia, as a bracelet awarded in Las Vegas?
“I know in America the WSOP bracelet is extremely prestigious. I don’t think the hype and marketing has really reached the Australian region in its full yet.”
Numbers Fall Down Under
It’s hard to ignore this sort of conversation when you consider that Event 1: $1,100 No Limit Hold’em Accumulator of the 2014 WSOP PAC has seen a more than 40% decrease on numbers.
There were just 611 entrants this time around compared to 1,085 at last year’s WSOP APAC.
There are still nine other bracelet events on offer over the next two weeks, so more players are likely to make their way to Melbourne from all parts of the world, but it’s certainly not a great start.
Field sizes aren’t everything, but it’s certainly one of the main stats that the general poker world uses to measure the success of poker tournaments.
The Value of an Australian Bracelet
Lim is extremely proud of his bracelet win. He even gave it to his mother who is probably even prouder then himself.
However, it just may be that the WSOP bracelet may just not be the pinnacle of poker in Lim's country.
“In Australia, the premier event is definitely the Aussie Millions,” Lim told us while on a break deep in the Accumulator. “In terms of the recreational players here, I’m just not sure if the WSOP has reached its full potential in Australia yet.”
If what Lim proposes in true, then perhaps it is apt to suggest that there isn’t room on the Australian poker calendar for both the Aussie Millions and the WSOP APAC.
However, it could also be hypothesized that having the WSOP held in that part of the world is good for the overall growth of poker in the region. Lim is positive about that growth all throughout Australasia.
Poker in Asia-Pacific Region is Still Strong
“I think poker in the region overall is still growing, especially around Asia,” Lim says.
So perhaps one of the reasons the WSOP APAC numbers didn’t start well is because less international players have made the trek down under this time around.
Lim is correct too. Poker tournaments held in Macau are experiencing record numbers and the recent ANZPT Melbourne held right here at Crown Casino was the largest ANZPT in history.
“It has to have a lot to do with the competition around at the moment. There’s just so many tournaments around now that it’s hard for players to get to all of them,” Lim says.
“EPT London is running right now. So a lot of the people in the northern hemisphere are going to fly to that instead of coming down here. Especially as a professional player.”
Is It All About the Money?
If professional players have decided to skip the WSOP APAC because there are better tournaments closer to them, then it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that some players simply value money more than the glory of a WSOP bracelet.
“I think as a professional player you look at ROI and how many tournaments you can play and the buy-ins,” says Lim. “So if you are going to potentially earn more money flying to a place that’s closer, I think that would probably be more attractive.”
Poker players are certainly known for trying to squeeze every edge they can get and every cent of EV, but every summer in Las Vegas there is undoubtedly a lot of buzz around the accolade of winning a bracelet.
It’s hard to know if that same buzz will ever be felt to its full extent somewhere like Australia, Europe or whichever part of the world the WSOP may find itself in the future but it's clear for some players nothing equals the value of a WSOP bracelet.
Long-time poker vet Gary Benson, who won Australia's first WSOP bracelet in 1996, is thrilled to have bracelet events in his own backyard.
"It’s fantastic," he said.
"There are 10 bracelets and the fields are obviously a bit smaller than in Vegas so it’s easier to win one. It’s the best thing that could happen to Australian poker."
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