Can the world poker economy sustain two winner is a millionaire tournaments playing out at the same time?
At the beginning of June we will find out as the Millionaire Maker kicks off at the WSOP with both day 1 flights that day, the winner guaranteed at least $1m. Over in London inside one of the most famous sports arenas, Wembley Stadium, Day 2b of the ill-fated International Stadiums Poker Tour is happening after a large number of day 1s elsewhere prior. The winner there gets more, €1m guaranteed.
I like the WSOP tourney and always have. Excellent idea to get a bumper weekend early in the series. Consensus seems to be that they will make the guarantee with little difficulty. When I was playing satellites to 1.5ks it was this tourney I had my eye on, so I definitely thought I would more likely play this one of the two.
As for ISPT … I first heard about this back in 2012, when it was slated to be that summer at Wembley. It sounded far fetched, with something like €20m guaranteed and it didn’t happen. Then it came back for 2013 with dates and initially some ill-conceived ideas:
€10-30m guaranteed depending on where/when you were looking
Plans for 30000+ players playing day 1 in the stadium on laptops
Lies regarding how many had registered and already qualified
Relatively obscure and dubious sites like Lock and Poker770 offering satellites.
At this point I was expecting it to get pulled and had no interest in playing it. Even for me in England, why would I want to travel to London to play an online shootout (sigh variance) where I could be out in less than an hour. Also I have played at Old Trafford in a GSOP – in a conference room, rather than on the pitch - when playing I was not thinking wow I’m at Old Trafford, in fact the majority of people agreed the location sucked for a poker tournament.
For ISPT the guarantee disappeared and the day 1s became online on sites like Poker770, so it became both more viable and also shrouded in controversy re the disappearing guarantee and lack of details about payouts, structure etc etc the kind of things everyone wants to know before you register or try to satellite in.
When I heard rumour that Dusk till Dawn were going to offer a guarantee and manage the tournament, I thought it would not happen. When it was announced I thought it was a huge risk. TO be clear, they are great and if anyone can these guys can. They slapped a million guarantee on the Nottingham UKIPT in Season 3 and met that. On the other hand there have been a few examples of overlays. But this challenge fits them and their efforts to pioneer poker in the UK.
Having a guarantee that players can be confident in will increase numbers, as will respected tournament organization, as will the live and online satellites and extra day 1s that DTD will put on. But will it be enough?
There are 2000 day one seats guaranteed in satellites and these will both help the cause and mean that I cannot resist playing in the huge Sunday ones guaranteeing 200 seats. Still even with say 5000 day one entries and 500 day 2 entries the prizepool will fall woefully short of the €5m needed to prevent DTD from having to reach into their pockets to top up the winners purse.
To return back to the original question, no I don’t think there is enough appetite for poker to run two tournaments albeit on different continents of this scale. There will be a decent number of players who would have played both if the dates were convenient. That said I don’t think having the ISPT event between the EPT grand final and the start of the WSOP as a cheaper alternative to the WPT world championship and a stop over on the way to Vegas for many European pros would make the difference between making the guarantee or not, but it would help.
Finally a couple of points for debate. I don’t think it is a bad thing that the later days wont be on the pitch, the novelty of being at Wembley will wear off. Still, some will claim it should be or at least that the final table should be on the pitch. Second I can understand why deals are allowed and it will be in the interests of the players, particularly if there is the huge gap between 1st and 2nd that an overlay would bring. But it feels slightly backwards to guarantee a million to the winner, potentially have to top up the prizepool to allow for this, then allow a deal so the winner does not pocket the million anyway. Over at the WSOP the winner will be a millionaire and that will probably make more headlines after the dust settles on each event.
Even if I qualify I hope that DTD do exceed their expectations and that the tournament is a success, it has been a long bumpy road for ISPT and it wont shake the connotations of poor organisation and controversy even with DTD rescuing it from potential failure. That said the chance for a big score from an affordable buy in gets hundreds of thousands playing every Sunday, so I can only recommend you check out the satellites which have started in earnest and applaud Dusk till Dawn for taking this beast on.