Five Thoughts returns this week after a one-week hiatus due to the mayhem that was the World Series of Poker, and this time it's brought to you with a little twist. While Rich Ryan galavants around Europe on vacation with his girlfriend, PokerNews' Editor-in-Chief Donnie Peters takes the reigns. On tap in this edition are the 2013 November Nine, the World Poker Tour Alpha8, a mob-like acquisition, and more.
In the early hours of the morning last Tuesday, the 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event reached its official final table. With that, nine new players were crowned November Niners. Leading the way by over 8 million in chips was long-time poker professional and two-time WSOP gold bracelet winner JC Tran, while notables Amir Lehavot, Mark Newhouse and David Benefield also joined the ranks.
While those four names provide plenty of special poker ability for this final table, it's the duo of names that came ever so close that really stick out to me. I'm talking about 2001 WSOP Main Event champion Carlos Mortensen and last woman standing Jackie Glazier, which is where we'll start.
1. Lady Luck Ducks Out On November
Glazier finished in 31st place for $229,281. While this is an extremely impressive run, everyone from Glazier and her husband Jamie, to the WSOP staff, to ESPN and the rest of the media are left with a bitter taste in their mouths. For the second year in a row, it really felt like this was going to be the year a female returned to the final table of the greatest poker tournament on the planet. Alas, it wasn't meant to be as her failed to out race the for Sergio Castelluccio.
As much as Loni Harwood's overall performance this summer showed that women are getting better and better, the WSOP Main Event would take leaps and bounds if a woman were to reach the November Nine. Whether she made it with the chip lead, an average stack or a short stack, all eyes would be solely focused on this female and the buzz created for the game would be immense.
I am happy to have had the chance to be a part of the atmosphere for the past two years as these women made their runs, but can't help but feel a bit empty. While all of the other story lines — Mortensen's included — were good, Day 6 and 7 were all about Glazier and her attempt to reach the final nine. Once she busted, a lot of the air seemed to be sucked out of the Amazon Room.
While all poker media, the WSOP and ESPN will do what it can to push the nine players at the Main Event final table, having a giant marquee name or story to attract more mainstream attention still alludes the event. Sure, within the poker industry the stories here can be considered huge, but it's not going to get it that mainstream grab like having a female at the final table would. Since the inception of the November Nine, Phil Ivey is the only true name that was able to transcend the poker world and really grab the attention from other markets. Not that Glazier is Ivey by any means, and that's no knock to her, but her story would absolutely huge for the game of poker, much like Gaelle Baumann or Elisabeth Hille would have done a year ago.
2. No Repeat for The Matador
Following the elimination of Glazier, much of the media looked for another story to fill the void. All of that pressure fell on Carlos Mortensen, who had won the WSOP Main Event back in 2001 and was in line for a repeat performance. But first, he had to make the final table.
Mortensen played a silently skillful tournament, winning a large majority of the pots he played and showcasing why he is still considered one of the best players in the game. Given the massive field sizes the WSOP Main Event has become accustomed to attracting, seeing a previous champion reach the final three tables seems almost unthinkable these days. When Mortensen won the event 12 years ago, he defeated a field of 613 players. This year, the field was more than 10 times that amount, coming in at 6,352 players.
After an already lengthy Day 7, Mortensen found himself at the unofficial final table of 10. It seemed like a virtual lock for Mortensen to reach the final table, given that Mark Newhouse was there with just six big blinds. You also had David Benefield with just over 21 big blinds, which was also shorter than Mortensen. But then, the tides changed.
Newhouse doubled on the fifth hand of the unofficial final table, then picked up more chips when his three-bet shove got through on the eighth hand and 15th hand. All the while, Mortensen's stack was going the other direction. On his final hand, the 20th hand at the unofficial final table, Mortensen fell to JC Tran and that was that.
Outside of Glazier, Mortensen was the best story left running, but that too had been axed with his finish in 10th place. Not only would Mortensen have had the chance to repeat as champion, but he would have also been the most recognizable face at the final table. While Tran is very well known and shouldn't be overlooked, he is no Carlos and all media, PokerNews included, will miss having this story to cling to.
3. Alpha Decay
Last week, the World Poker Tour announced the WPT Alpha8, an all-new, global series of super high roller poker tournaments that will be broadcast on FOX Sports 1 starting on Sunday, March 16, 2014. With buy-ins of no less than $100,000 for each of these events, I can't help but think that the WPT is jumping onto the wrong bandwagon.
Sure, we all love these massive, six-figure buy-in events, but with all these new WPT Alpha8 events added to the circuit schedule, I just feel the poker community is going to suffer a bit more than it's going to receive. Much like I felt the Full Tilt Poker Onyx Cup was a fairly bad idea when it first was announced, I have the same feelings here.
First and foremost, it is my belief that too many super high roller events are just bad for poker. They're going to spread the businessmen thin and diminish bankrolls much faster. I loved the idea of the WPT having a single $100,000 event at the WPT Championship every year, but even thought that adding a second in December was a bad move. Now adding a tour of events dedicated to huge buy-ins just seems like overkill.
When you factor in all of the other super high roller events around the world on the European Poker Tour, the WSOP and at the Aussie Millions, how much money does the WPT expect players to have? With these other events already having past super high roller tournaments, the new WPT Alpha8 stops are only going to create more congestion amongst an already saturated poker tournament market. Just look at the first one, which butts right up against the EPT Barcelona €50,000 Super High Roller at the end of August.
I'd much rather see the WPT focus on rebuilding their brand to what it once was. A couple years ago, the WPT was the marquee tournament series, specifically in North America. When the North American Poker Tour was around, it took over the top spot in that regard, and will inevitably be back to do the same once again. In my opinion, the WPT Alpha8 is not going to put the WPT back on the map where it once was.
Some have argued that the big draw for the WPT Alpha8 is what North American televised poker will provide, but I'm not sold on that. First of all, big time sponsorship deals aren't being tossed around anymore like they used to for the young pros in the game, so being on a TV final table isn't really going to have this generation of player overextending his or herself to play in these events. Second of all, the rich businessmen that often come out to these events don't really care for TV time. They're there as a hobby to have some fun on a few days away from work, not to become poker's next big celebrity.
Don't get me wrong, I really do hope this tour of events succeeds and brings some about sort of completely-out-of-left-field poker boom, but I just don't see it happening. Instead, I see numbers floating around the range of 20-30 players per event and lasting no more than a year.
4. GPI Acquires The Hendon Mob
On Tuesday morning, the Global Poker Index announced that it had acquired The Hendon Mob Limited (UK), founder of what is widely regarded as the most comprehensive live poker tournament database in the world. This is absolutely great news for the poker industry and should help to strengthen both products.
As GPI CEO Alexandre Dreyfus put it, “We plan to support and grow this tremendous asset. The Hendon Mob and the Global Poker Index are a natural fit to put together. As a combined company, they truly form an authoritative hub for all poker players, particularly those who compete in live events.” Dreyfus has already grown the GPI into what is the most extensive and accurate poker ranking system this industry has seen, and his vision can now be extended further for the betterment of the game.
I've always believed that the GPI is aiming to make poker similar to that of golf's Professional Golfers' Association. Eventually, poker will get there, but it's going to take time. Over time, constant steps in the right direction will advance the game, and this is a big one. With the GPI and The Hendon Mob now combined, there is really no question where the most informative and expansive poker database lies. By growing The Hendon Mob to track more tournaments and results, the GPI will in turn be able to grow and further fine tune its ranking system for the players.
I am very excited to see what develops from this new venture and can't wait to see what lies ahead.
5. Get Your Chip Game Right
If you were at the 2013 WSOP or have a finger firmly on the pulse of the poker industry, you'll know that RUFFLES® provided a bag of chips at each player's seat in the 2013 WSOP Main Event. Now, while I'm sure this was seen as a good advertising move by Frito-Lay and a player-appreciation move by the WSOP, it's seem pretty asinine if you ask me.
First of all, if the WSOP really appreciated the players, they wouldn't hand them a bag of RUFFLES® Crispy Fries that are in no way healthy for you. They're just 230 calories of pure trash, serving very little, if any, nutritional value to a poker player. Not only are they not what you want to be eating at a poker table to sustain energy for the long days ahead and maintain mental focus, but they're full of grease and are eaten with the hands. Upon seeing the chips passed out around each table prior to the start of each day, dealers began expressing concerns about the greasy fingers that would soon be all over the cards and chips throughout the day. Also, those cards and chips handled by the players aren't the cleanest objects out there. When you're handling those cards and chips all day, I'm sure the last thing you want to do is eat something with your fingers.
Every day while walking through the tournament area, these bags of fries would be scattered all over the floor, on the media desks, in the garbage and tossed in the corner. I also saw a few giant trash bags full of unused bags of RUFFLES® that were uneaten and off to the side. While I'm not going to condone eating unhealthy food like this, it's still very wasteful to see this. If the players are just going to waste the product, why even put it out in the first place? It's no secret that there has been a big health movement happening in poker.
Then, there's the issue with hypocrisy. The WSOP worked out a deal with All-American Dave this summer that allowed for a food truck out back for Dave Swanson to produce healthy meals to be delivered to the players. Several WSOP officials jumped on this plan, loved the food and were doing their bodies good. But then why give the OK to pass out unhealthy garbage food at the tables during the Main Event? Surely there are better options out there. A granola or protein bar, a piece of fruit, a bottle of water, etc. It doesn't just have to be food, either. A stress ball, hand sanitizer or small coupon to Starbuck's are also much better options. All of these are better for players, which makes them better for the game than a bag of greasy junk food.
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*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of PokerNews.