Pros torn over flatter payouts at 2009 WSOP

The Spoils of War

If you make it into the money in the 2009 WSOP, there's a good chance you'll get paid a little more than in previous years.

It's another story, however, if you go deep. You'll find that those coveted top spots don't pay out what they did in the past.

It's all a part of a flatter overall payout structure initiated by tournament organizers at the 2009 WSOP.

The goal was to give more players better value for their money, but it's raising a few questions from pros who would prefer that money stays at the top.

"I don't like the flatter payouts at all," said 2008 WSOP Main Event third-place finisher Dennis Phillips. "I'd much rather have it tip toward the top like it used to."

Daniel Negreanu
Daniel Negreanu prefers more money at the top.

Phillips isn't the only one to disagree with the payout structure. Jimmy "gobboboy" Fricke called it "The dumbest thing I have ever heard" on twoplustwo.com.

Others, like former WSOP Player of the Year Daniel Negreanu, are not ecstatic about the new payouts but understand why they were put in place.

"As far as the payouts go, for me personally it's not good to flatten them out because I don't benefit in any way, shape or form.

"But you have to look at the bigger picture and realize that for the game and keeping people involved, it's a good thing," said Negreanu. "It's a good thing from that perspective."

Online poker pro James "mig.com" Mackey, who a won a $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em event in 2007 for $730,740, echoed Negreanu's statements.

"I prefer it to be more top heavy but I understand the argument that if it's flatter it keeps more money in the poker economy. The fields should stay larger that way, but personally I like the bigger payouts at the top."

No, Jeffrey Did Not Win the Event
Flatter payouts are about value to the customer.

WSOP organizers have a different opinion and tournament director Jack Effel went so far as to call it the "dream structure" earlier this year.

WSOP commissioner Jeffrey Pollack said it's just a matter of listening to their customers.

"The goal there was to create more value for every player," said Pollack. "If you just make it into the money this year you're going to benefit more than previous years. We think that's a good thing."

Given the state of the global economy it would be easy to write off the flatter payout structures as the WSOP's response to the recession, but Pollack was quick to dispel that notion.

"No I think we would have done it anyways," said Pollack. "The focus for us was really 'How do we improve on last year' and one way was to give more value to the customer. Giving more value to the customer is always a good strategy regardless of the economy."

Doyle Brunson
Doyle Brunson has benefited from some winner-take-all tournaments.

WSOP payout structures have come a long way since the early days of the Series where first place took as much as 100% of the prize pool.

In 1977 Doyle Brunson won $340,000 for winning the WSOP Main Event while second-place finisher Gary Berland received nothing.

Since then payout structures have been steadily flattening. Of course the best case for flatter payouts can be found online where first place usually pays out in the range of just 10-15%.

It's that business model that has helped sustain a multi-billion dollar online poker industry. In other words, the players that make small cashes are willing to put more into their online poker accounts.

At any rate the flatter payouts appear to be here to stay and until there is a serious change to Harrah's strategy players like Negreanu, Phillips and Fricke will have to be content with the thousands of players that will keep buying into the WSOP because they made it into the money one time.

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