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The WSOP Main Event has kicked off at the Rio in Las Vegas. With the first of three Day 1’s just wrapping up, the poker world is looking forward to seeing whether this year’s Main Event will experience growth and which players will compete for this year’s OctoNine final table.

The preliminary events are wrapping up with a few final tables still to come. In the meanwhile, Jason Mercier has managed to commit half of his bankroll in a most unusual way. Next, the Tag-Team NL Event proved to be a huge success, continuing the trend of making WSOP official look like marketing geniuses. Finally, we finally had someone decide to post $10k to play in the Ladies Championship.

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Tag Team Back Again – Polk and Fee For the Win

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. The WSOP knows how to put together a gimmick event. Event #61, the $1,000 Tag Team NL Hold’em Event brought out 863 teams and over 2,000 players to the Rio last week.

Related: 3 Gimmick Tournaments We’d Like to See in 2016

From most reports, this event was very well received and aside from a few spots of confusion in the early levels, most seem to agree that this event was a smashing success. It is the first time that the WSOP has held a tag-team format event since the early 1980’s when they ran the Mixed Doubles event.

This time around, the format received a couple of major upgrades. First, there were zero restrictions on gender Next, teams could comprise of two to four player. Finally, the game was NL Hold’em rather than Seven Card Stud.

We knew that there would be some superstar teams formed and several went deep. Team Mizrachi (Michael, Robert, Eric and Daniel) was the 26th place team. Jonathan Little and his parents Larry and Rita all made the final table and finished 9th. Benny Glaser competed for his 3rd bracelet of the series and his team finished 6th. John Gale and TJ Shulman finished in 3rd place.

Ultimately, it was Ryan Fee and Doug Polk that won the first ever NL Tag-Team Event and each earned $76,679 and a gold bracelet. The pair came into the event hoping to promote their site and was able to do so in a major way after winning the event.

Holding events like the Tag-Team NL is just one way that the WSOP keeps things fresh and attracts new players. After a while, the standard format of events gets a bit stale and attendance numbers in certain events highlight this fact. Adding fresh events to the schedule gets players excited and is a great way to beef up attendance.

As long as they keep producing hits like the Tag-Team NL, we say keep bringing on the gimmicks.

Jason Mercier Commits Half of His Bankroll In Tournament He Didn’t Even Play

In poker, it is never a good idea to commit half of your bankroll in a single game whether it is a poker tournament or a cash game. As such, it is mind-blowing that five-time WSOP bracelet winner Jason Mercier committed over half of his poker bankroll in a poker tournament he didn’t even play.

Ok, enough joking around. On Friday, Natasha Barbour made the final table of the $5,000 NL Hold’em Event and prior to its start, Mercier proposed to her on the final table set. She naturally made the correct call and went with the long-term +EV move of saying yes.

The only way the moment could have been more perfect is if she managed to win the bracelet. Instead, she finished in third for $348,374. This was her seventh cash on the summer and second final table in as many years. Last year, she finished 2nd in Event #20, a $1,500 NL Event.

Mercier and Barbour (soon to be Mrs. Mercier) are poker’s all-time winningest couple in live poker. Mercier has five bracelets, an EPT title and $17.38 million. Barbour has a WSOP Circuit Ring, won the 2016 Ladies Event at the PCA and has just over $1 million in career earnings.

We wish the happy couple much success and love in the future.

It Was Bound to Happen Eventually – Man Donates $10k Ladies Championship

The “$10,000” Ladies Championship kicked off on Friday with majority of the field posting $1,000 each to play a “$10k Championship.” Starting in 2013, the WSOP officially made the event a $10k Championship but gives women a $9,000 discount to play the event. This was done as a way to discourage men from entering the event.

As far as we can tell, events from 2013 to 2015 were devoid of male players. That streak was broken in 2016 when Tony Ruberto put up $10k to play in the championship. He was seated at the same table as Karina Jett and she posted his photo on Twitter for the world to see.

According to Jett, Ruberto lost a prop bet and entered the event. His prescience drew a mixed reaction with some wanting the women to bust him while other welcomed his $9,400 donation to the prize pool ($600 is withheld from the buy-in).

Even without looking at the social stigma that playing in the event carries, this was an extremely -EV move on the part of Ruberto. He paid $10,000 to play in a fast structured event that only had $5k in starting chips. In addition, you have a big fat target placed on your back during the entire event.

I’m also not a big fan of his playing the Ladies Championship because he “lost a prop bet.” What was the thought process behind making the losing stipulation an entry into the Ladies Event? It seems to me that there would have been a better way to “punish” his loss than to put him in an event where his mere prescience was an insult to many. Or did they think the Ladies Championship is a big joke and it wouldn’t matter that he played?

My main concern is that this is going to start becoming a trend. An expensive trend, but a trend nonetheless. Hopefully this is a one-time incident and that those considering a similar move in the future reconsider their options.

James Guill

James Guill began his poker career in 2006, spending two years traveling the US tournament circuit. Since 2008, he has covered the game extensively for some of the biggest names in the industry. When not writing about the latest poker news, he can be found hunting for antique treasures in Central Virginia.