Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Pay to Play

You Have to Pay to PlayLooking back at “Looking Back & Looking Forward,” I noticed some redundancy in my list of goals for the new year. Item No. 6 (make ’08 my highest earning year) covers item No. 2 (make money). Oh, well. We’ll leave it there for the sake of emphasis. Probably says something about how turning a profit is fairly high up on my list of reasons for playing.

Speaking of . . . I happened to catch the December 20th episode of Pocket Fives podcast last week on which Joe “Dyzalot” Morneau appeared as a guest. Slightly more interesting than yr average Pocket Fives interview, probably because of Morneau’s age (he was introduced as “one of the very few ranked online tournament players over the age of 35”). There was the usual run-down of big scores that all tend to sound the same from show to show. I did like, however, some of what Morneau had to say about stress management and taking time off from poker when necessary.

Toward the end of the interview, Morneau talked about his plans to try out the live tourney circuit. He said he wanted to play the main events (usually $10K buy-in) as well as a lot of the smaller events that lead up to those big ones. When asked about what kind of bankroll would be needed, he said he thought “$1 million minimum is what you’d want . . . that’s a hundred $10K buy-ins right there.” Morneau said if one was only playing main events, one would probably need more, but by mixing in the smaller buy-in tourneys a million should be enough.

My first thought when hearing Morneau’s estimate was (of course) to marvel at how friggin’ high it was. No way the majority of those who play most circuit events have that kind of roll.

Then I thought about Dan Harrington saying in that recent CardPlayer interview (12/11/07) “I don’t think you can consider playing tournaments for a living. I think that is impossible.” The variance is too great, says Harrington, to believe one can earn one’s livelihood just playing tourneys.

Finally, I thought back to some pro players’ complaints about the expenses associated with playing the circuit, and the efforts of some to try and create some sort of “league” where pro players could play for sponsor-supplied cash prizes. (Harrington does touch on the failed Professional Poker League a bit in his interview.)

What if something like the PPL really did come about? Would poker be as interesting for us to follow if the players were playing with someone else’s money?

I’d guess no. Seems to me like it would be interesting in the same way an exhibition game is interesting. Curious enough (if nothing else is going on), but hardly as compelling as the real thing.

No, in poker you simply have to pay to play. The game doesn’t make much sense otherwise.

In The Biggest Game in Town, Jack Straus (winner of the 1982 WSOP Main Event) tells Al Alvarez how he finally figured out how to forget about money at the table. “Chips are like a bag of beans,” says Straus. “They have a relative value and are worthless until the game is over.” But when the game is over, the chips are no longer just a bag of beans. They represent the money risked by those who played the game. Otherwise -- as Straus makes abundantly clear to Alvarez elsewhere in the book -- he wouldn’t have bothered.

Looking forward to seeing how Morneau fairs on the circuit when he finally takes his shot. Wouldn’t be nearly as intrigued, of course, if he weren’t paying his own way.



Blogger Kelly said...

How many of the big players *are* risking their own money though? You hear a lot of whispering about backers, but I've never read a real story about them, or who they are, or who they back... but it seems to me that a lot of those who might not be the BIG winners are in fact avoiding a large portion of the tournament varaince through the use of backers.

1/03/2008 2:13 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

A very good point, Kelly.

In addition to backers, there are those celeb-pros who have sponsors buying them in to most (or all)tourneys -- although in that latter case, I suppose one could argue they've "earned" their entry fees (more or less).

1/03/2008 3:37 PM  

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