On May 29, 2016, 49 of the world’s best poker players will gather at the Aria Resort & Casino to play in the 2nd running of the Super High Roller Bowl, a $300,000 buy-in event that will see the top seven finishers grab a share of $15 million in prize money.
The tournament was capped at 49 players and reached that total three months ahead of time, prompting Aria’s Director of Poker Operations, Sean McCormack, to exclaim, “I’ve never seen a high stakes tournament sell out three months in advance. It’s unprecedented.”
Not unprecedented is a rule put in place for the SHRB that forbids players from wearing sunglasses at any time during the four-day tournament. Players had to leave their shades at home for the inaugural SHRB last year as well. In addition, organizers have mandated a business casual dress code, citing the fact that the SHRB is “a worldwide television event with major corporate sponsors” who tossed another $300K into the prize pool of the rake-free tournament.
The dress code and increased value to players are designed “to help promote the game of poker” and to “put the highest quality product on the screen.” But does the rule prohibiting sunglasses actually do that?
Hand in Hand
Even the most casual poker players and fans are accustomed to seeing any number of pros sporting shades at the table. In fact, poker and sunglasses are practically synonymous. So much so that a whole bunch of pros promote a particular brand of sunglasses – Blue Shark Optics.
Greg Raymer, Chris Moneymaker, Humberto Brenes and Allen Kessler are some of the top pros who advocate the use of Blue Shark sunglasses. But individual players are not the only promoters of Blue Shark products, so to is the WSOP. The Blue Shark website proudly proclaims its status as “Official Poker Eyewear for the World Series of Poker.”
With a partnership of that nature, don’t expect to see the WSOP ban the use of sunglasses anytime soon. The WSOP obviously favors and encourages players to wear shades. So if sunglasses are good for poker’s longest running and most celebrated series, they must be good for the game, right?
The sunglasses debate has been bandied about among professional poker players for quite some time. You will find players on both sides of the issue, with some quite passionate on their views.
“Banning sunglasses helps to protect the integrity of the game against cheating,” Daniel Negreanu stated in his blog. “For that reason alone, they should be completely outlawed from poker.”
An opposite point of view comes from Jonathan Little, who previously blogged that “sunglasses are excellent for the game. If they are banned, I would not be surprised to see field sizes, especially in high stakes tournaments, drastically decrease.”
How About Caps?
Little believes that sunglasses allow new players to be more comfortable and confident, hiding any tells that the naked eyes might expose.
Those of you who watched the inaugural Super High Roller Bowl held in 2015 may remember that some of the players, including champion Brian Rast, were wearing caps that did a good job of concealing their eyes to those of us viewing at home. What good is banning sunglasses when caps keep the fans from seeing players’ eyes anyway?