Go back to 'old school' for 2008 WSOP schedule

WSOP entry sign

At last weekend's first annual California Poker Players Conference, the attendees were able to hear poker strategy from some of the best minds in the game. While talks by Mike Caro, Lou Krieger and many others were definitely worth the price of admission, the featured speaker on closing day was the commissioner of the World Series of Poker, Jeffrey Pollack.

During his time on the stage at Hollywood Park in California, Pollack was able to give players some insight into what to expect when the 2008 World Series starts on May 30.

The announcement that brought the biggest cheers was that the dreaded "Poker Tent" that actually had players in some tournaments playing elsewhere than the Rio would not be coming back. Pollack also stated that there would be new amenities added to help the players, that the schedule would not be larger than the 55 events that were played in 2007 and that the final schedule would be announced in December or January.

These are welcome improvements, but the WSOP could have a salutary effect on other tournaments too if it were to return to an "old-school" tournament schedule for next year's run at the Rio.

In the past couple of years, many tournament schedules have become totally devoted to No-Limit Hold'em, completely ignoring the intricacies and charms of the other disciplines in the poker world. Casinos may do this in the belief that they are catering to the desires of the players, but it has done more of a disservice to the game of poker than they might imagine.

While players who originally came to poker in this decade came because of Texas Hold'em, many of these players have been expanding their minds and now excel at other permutations of poker.

Most likely because H.O.R.S.E. and other mixed-game events are now being recognized as the true test of a poker player, younger players are becoming proficient in Omaha and Seven-Card Stud (and their Hi/Lo variations) and even trying to become proficient in Razz (admittedly, in this writer's opinion, one of the most aggravating games that there is!).

Thus, it is time that the World Series of Poker returns to an old-school format, not only to reduce the punishing schedule somewhat, but to recognize the rebirth of genres of poker other than Texas Hold'em.

During the 2007 WSOP, there were 55 events played, which is far more than even the professionals who are in attendance should have had to handle. When you consider that 54 of the tournaments were played in roughly the first 33 days, this was a tremendous grind. On some days this summer, there were as many as five tournaments going on, either starting, in their second days or into their final-table action.

Some professionals could be seen scurrying around the Rio, trying to accumulate chips in the various events that they had entered, in their attempts to take down the most glorifying trophy that poker can present. It also led, understandably, to many of them not being able to play their best poker. For an event that is considered the standard of excellence in the game, organizers should do everything within their power to ensure that the pros can play at their peak competence.

For 2008, there should be no more than three bracelet events running on any given day. This would encourage better performances by all players involved and would allow all players to be in the tournament room instead of in the dreaded "poker tent," which should never be needed again. It would also eliminate some of the repetitiveness that we have seen in the past couple of years at the World Series.

Last year, there were six $1,500 and three $2,000 No-Limit Texas Hold'em events. In a way, this cheapens the bracelets that are won. If someone was to ask, "What are you the world champion of?," saying you won one of the nine multiple denomination events doesn't hold as much weight as being able to say you were the champion of the only $XXXX No-Limit event. Holding only two No-Limit Texas Hold'em events would burnish the accomplishment of anyone who won the bracelet.

By eliminating multiple games with the same denomination buy-in, the WSOP could lower the number of events to 50, and could probably take that down to 40 with some tinkering on the schedule. The Shootout games don't seem to be as popular and could be cut down to only one event. Although they're popular online and with the World Poker Tour, the six-handed events could also probably be narrowed down to just one (the WSOP, after all, inaugurated the tradition of the nine-handed table).

By having fewer tournaments and eliminating multiple same-buy-in denomination events, the 2008 World Series of Poker could return to the old-school setup of WSOPs past, where a whole gamut of poker skills could be tested rather than just having one endless run of No-Limit Hold'em events. It would put less strain on all the players involved and also reduce the stress on the floor people, tournament directors and support staff.

What are the odds of the WSOP embracing any of the above suggestions? Who knows, but something tells me the World Series is wedded to its current business model, meaning we will probably not see any significant changes made by Harrah's in 2008.

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