The event was added to the schedule last week after the series had already begun. Ended up attracting 20 players all told, making for a perspective-obliterating $5 million prize pool. (Those are Australian dollars, which I understand are currently very close in value to the USD.) Heck, the total prize pool for the Main Event (still ongoing) that attracted 721 players is $7.2 million!
There was some chatter early on yesterday that this event -- the Super Duper High Roller, as I saw Kevmath refer to it last night -- might be made a winner-take-all affair. In fact, it appeared it might have even gotten underway before that was determined, although I can’t imagine players would put up a quarter million to play an event without a reasonably sure idea of what the payouts were going to be. (Then again, they might.)
In the end it was decided the top three spots would cash, with $2.5 million going to the winner, $1.4 million to second, and $1.1 million to third. Looks like it took eight hours or so for Erik Seidel to win, with Sam Trickett (who won the $100,000 Challenge there at Melbourne just a few days ago) taking second and David Benyamine third.
The event and Seidel’s win evoked a couple of recent posts here -- the one from a week-and-a-half ago “On the All-Time Money List” and another earlier this week about players double-dipping in this month’s $100K events, “Ordering Twice at the 100 Grand Bar.”
With that $2.5 million score, Seidel moves past Jamie Gold and into third place on that All-Time earnings lists with about $13.78 million, just $80,000 or so behind Ivey in second and less than half a million behind Negreanu in first.
And a quick check of the 20 entrants in the $250K event shows that 15 of them also played in the $100K Challenge, with Roland de Wolfe, Eugene Katchalov (who won the PCA $100,000 event), Annette Obrestad, Paul Phua, and Richard Yong joining the fun yesterday after not playing in the $100K one.
Also of note, two players played in all three of this month’s big, big buy-in events -- James “Andy McLEOD” Obst and Daniel “jungleman12” Cates. Cates cashed in none of the three, while Obst finished fourth in the $100K Challenge at the Aussie Millions to win $200,000.
The “All-Time Money List” was already a bit distorted before this month (for various reasons), but this spate of big buy-in events certainly further knocks it out of whack. And I think it’s likely we’ll see more of these $100,000 buy-in (or greater) events moving forward -- perhaps not right away, but relatively soon. Which will make it even more difficult to compare players’ relative success on the tourney circuit.
Setting aside the skewing of the rankings, though, it is interesting to think about how difficult it is for almost all of us to relate to what is going on with these mind-bogglingly huge buy-in events.
If you think about it, for just about all of the sports and games that people watch others play, spectators can themselves play the same sport or game, too. Sure, when I watch the Australian Open the pros who’ve made it to the semifinals there are certainly playing a much higher-level game than I could ever hope to play myself. But the rules are the same, much of the same strategy applies, and really the game “plays” similarly, even if I’m not hitting 110-mile-an-hour serves.
But poker is different. As my class and I have been discussing over the first few days of our “Poker in American Film and Culture” course (discussed here), a point being repeatedly made by all of the writers we’ve encountered thus far is that the money is what gives the game significance. As John Lukacs puts it in his essay “Poker and American Character,” what is important in poker is not so much “how [players] play their cards but how they bet their money.” He elaborates on this “reality” of the game as it is provided by money:
“Money is the basis of poker: whereas bridge can be played for fun without money, poker becomes utterly senseless if played without it. Note that I said money, not chips -- chips only when they represent money and money only because it represents the daring or cowardice of other people.”
The game of tennis is played at a higher level when cash prizes are awarded to the winners. And yeah, maybe a golfer standing over a crucial putt at the Master’s is going to think a little about the financial significance of making the shot before striking the ball. But in none of these other games does money have such fundamental influence on how the game is actually played.
For each of those 20 who played in the $250,000 event yesterday, that huge buy-in represented something -- i.e., it possessed some, specific meaning to each -- that was relevant to how each player subsequently played the tournament. For some, the money meant as much to them as the dimes and quarters mean to those of us playing the micros. For others, it meant a little more. But for all, such significances definitely mattered.
Thus is it doubly hard for most of us to relate to the game we’re watching being played for such stakes. Not only can we not imagine buying into such an event ourselves, but we cannot tell with precision what exactly the money represents to those who do.