Made it back home by midnight and so am reasonably rested (I think) for the upcoming grind. Before that the day had been taken up with a few more setting-up-shop type activities (got the rental car, finally got the friggin’ internet connection working here in the home away from home, etc.). Then spent part of the afternoon with about two-thirds of the PokerNews’ staff enjoying some delicious BBQ over at Lucille’s in Henderson. Big fun reuniting with a few more of the crew, as well as meeting some new folks. We talked a little shop, too, but the day was more devoted to pleasure than business.
That’ll change today, when we have some more preparatory meetings. Then work really begins in earnest tomorrow.
Technically speaking, today is the first day of the 2009 World Series of Poker, as that Casino Employees Event, a $500 buy-in, two-day no-limit hold’em event (Event No. 1), kicks off at noon. PokerNews will report something on that one, I believe, but won’t be giving it the attention the other 56 bracelet events will receive as far as live blogging and everything else goes.
So, really, all eyes are on that Event No. 2, the much anticipated $40,000 buy-in, Special 40th Annual No-Limit Hold’em event that starts on Thursday. Or, as Mike Matusow referred to it on the most recent episode of Wise Hand Poker (5/20/09), what “truly could be the dumbest idea in the history of the World Series of Poker.”
Matusow’s criticism is focused primarily on the timing of the event -- i.e., placing it right here at the start rather than later on. “Why, in God’s name, when you juice everybody to death, would you want to bust everybody on Day 1?” he asks. He went on to suggest it would have made a lot more sense to have positioned it after the $50K H.O.R.S.E. and before the Main Event, or really anywhere other than right off the top.
I can see a couple of obvious reasons why the decision was made to position the $40K NLHE event at the beginning. As many have observed, the presence of a no-limit hold’em tournament in the WSOP with a buy-in that exceeds that of the Main Event does have some significance. For one thing, the Main Event is the only so-called “World Championship” bracelet event in the entire schedule for which the buy-in is not the highest for that particular game. (Was writing about that here some three-plus months ago when the schedule was first announced.)
So there’s a good reason not to have the $40K NLHE event happen too closely to the Main Event -- namely, to prevent encouraging any sort of thinking that the Main Event isn’t really “the big one.” Daniel Negreanu was asked to comment on the event on the Two Plus Two Pokercast (the 5/19/09 episode), where he was specifically asked about the possibility of the $40K becoming a regular part of the schedule. “The danger there,” said Negreanu, “is that it really does change what the Main Event is. I mean, it’s kind of silly, wouldn’t you think, to have the $40K buy-in not to be the Main Event if it [were] to happen every year. And I think it’s dangerous to do that, because then you sort of dwarf the significance of the Main Event.”
That’s one reason why this year the sucker is early, not late -- so as not to dwarf the ME. Another reason for having it early is probably tied to ESPN’s production schedule. As you know, the network is only filming four events for broadcast later this summer and fall, the $40K NLHE event, the WSOP Champions Invitational, the Ante Up for Africa Celebrity Charity Poker Tournament, and the Main Event. The first two happen right at the beginning (this week), while the latter two occur right at the end (in July). ESPN will therefore be able to do their work this week, disassemble everything and send most of the crew away for a month (save the smaller group who will remain to do the ESPN360/Bluff final tables), then come back and reshoot at the end.
So how many will enter the $40K? Matusow seems to think the turnout will be huge -- 250, easily, or maybe even more. Which will be good for the moment, but bad ultimately, says the Mouth. “They’re gonna be just horrified, because they are going to get a way bigger turnout [for the $40K event] than they thought, and all of the other tournaments are going to be way down.” Negreanu was less concerned about the impact the event was going to have on turnouts for the rest of the Series. In fact, he seemed to suggest that having it so early will mean fewer will actually enter the event, since having it later could have made it possible to have more satellites.
The number I’m hearing most often is 225 or thereabouts. That seems to be the “line” near which most over-under bets are happening. I talked about it some at the BBQ yesterday with Tom Bostic and Jeremiah Smith. You might remember Jeremiah from his deep run in last year’s Main Event, or perhaps his hosting of PokerRoad’s Cash Plays podcast. He’ll be playing in several events this summer (though not the $40K), and will be doing some blogging over on PokerNews as he goes.
We all had our ideas, but none of us really know. Indeed, with just a few short hours until the WSOP gets underway, that’s kind of how the next seven weeks exist in all of our minds at the moment. We have vague notions of how it all will happen, but the specifics are yet to be determined.
’Cause you can study and you can prepare. But then the cards go in the air.