PokerStars Team Pro Daniel Negreanu took to his blog on Monday to give his opinion on the use of “unlimited entry” format poker tournaments. He discussed the profitability of tournament circuit stops, the expected value of player travel, and the effect of the decline of cash game side action.
His post comes in the aftermath of criticism he received following a Twitter comment he recently made that he would “purchase a stack” during the World Poker Tour (WPT) Five Diamond World Poker Classic $10K main event at the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas.
Unlimited Entry Format Controversial
The ability for players to be felted multiple times while still remaining active in an event is currently a hot topic within the community. Many see the format not only as an unfair advantage to professional players with larger bankrolls, but also one that can be additionally off-putting to recreational players, generally. It also removes money from the poker economy faster than tournaments where players are only allowed to enter a single time.
Negreanu opens his thoughts on the concept by changing the paradigm a little bit. He writes that while he personally finds the “freezeout” format (in which a player may only buy-in a single time) preferable, the real issue is not what players “want” — or even what is good for the community.
He instead places emphasis on how profitable the event will be for its organizer, as well as the venue. This is because if casino management is not happy with the amount of money being generated, then there is a danger that the tournament may not be held at all.
Multi-entry tournaments has been a carrot that has gotten the attention of higher ups,” Negreanu stated. “Instead of having, say, 250 people paying $400 in juice for a total of $100k in revenue, if that number rises to 600 entries you now have $240k in revenue. This makes the bosses smile, and again, if the bosses don’t smile we simply don’t have an event.”
Discusses Travel; Decline in Cash Game Action
Negreanu points out that a global game has a global player pool. Important tournaments attract entrants from all around the world, including some that travel very long distances in order to play:
“By offering guys like Joe Hachem, who travels 24 hours to play a tournament in the US, more than just one opportunity to play a tournament, it’s a much more enticing proposition for him to fly over,” KidPoker added.
Adding to this dynamic is the fact that the trend is increasingly towards specialization. The explosion of growth in poker theory over the last decade has caused players to trend towards playing either exclusively cash games or tournaments. The old model of holding tournaments as a way to attract cash game action no longer functions. Today’s tournament players want to play tournaments.
A “Main Event” may bring entrants, but monetizing their presence at circuit events requires a new approach. That is why signature events are no longer considered a culmination, but rather a catalyst:
They create a festival AFTER the main event begins. For ages, tournaments in the US would run two to four weeks of prelims, then have a week long main event. Bust the main event, and there is nothing left to play. You could play cash games, but as mentioned, that isn’t happening.”
“A Mockery of the Game”
In what appears to be an indirect response to the outrage flowing from his initial comment, Negreanu concludes by stating that watching deep-pocketed players punt stacks during re-entry periods as they search to gain a large chip count “makes a bit of a mockery of the game.”
However, he also asserts that as long as this style of play is legal, he will continue to take advantage of something he feels ultimately gives him a better chance of winning a tournament outright.
It is of little surprise that Negreanu decided to address his previous statement, given the attention that it garnered within the poker playing community.
Also, at a time when the industry is struggling to retain its recreational player base, the insinuation that competition is somehow slanted toward professional players was definitely ill-advised. If poker loses the perception of having an “essentially fair nature” as Victoria Coren put it last month, then the game is in serious jeopardy of losing its appeal to the masses.
This most recent incident does, however, bring attention to the rapid pace at which both the game and the market are changing, and is just one more piece in the puzzle of the future of the game both live and online.
I think it’s safe to say that cooperation between players, tour organizers, and venues will be essential moving forward — to ensure that the game remains not only healthy and vibrant but also fair and true to its roots.