Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Short at SHRPO

Poker news over the three-day weekend focused largely on that Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open Championship, a $5,300 buy-in event with three Day 1 flights and unlimited reentries that sported a $10 million guarantee.

They ran a similar event last year right about this time, again culminating a long series of tournaments comprising the “SHRPO,” and after it drew 2,384 entries to build a $11,920,000 prize pool the tourney earned a lot of notice. I was there last year at the time, actually, helping cover the first World Poker Tour Alpha8 event that was happening that same week at the Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida, and I recall the buzz surrounding the event which Blair Hinkle ultimately won to claim a hefty $1,745,245 first prize.

The return of the “$10 milly” was announced back in May and I remember Rich Ryan then spending one of his “Five Thoughts” looking forward to the sequel while commending the tourney’s organizers for scheduling it after EPT Barcelona (albeit by just a couple of days).

Barcelona ended up breaking all kinds of records, attendance-wise. Then the end of August ultimately became quite crowded on the poker calendar on this side of the pond with events in California (the WPT Legends of Poker), Oklahoma (the WinStar River Poker Series), Mississippi (Beau Rivage Gulf Coast Poker Championship), Colorado (Colorado Poker Championship), Ohio (Labor Day Deepstack), Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh Poker Open Summer Series), and Montreal (Playground Poker Montreal Festival). There might have been others, too, not to mention the WSOP Circuit stops happening on either side as well.

Even so, it was a little surprising to hear they only ultimately drew 1,499 entries for the SHRPO Main Event, meaning an enormous overlay of just over $2.5 million after the tourney organizers honored the $10 million guarantee. The tourney is now down to 18 players. The EPTLive folks will be live streaming the final table tomorrow, I believe, as well as the final table of the Super High Roller today with James Hartigan and Joe Stapleton handling the commentary.

Among the chatter over the last couple of days has been the observation that this represents biggest overlay in poker tourney history, exceeding even that International Stadiums Poker Tour (ISPT) event at Wembley last summer where €589,060 had to be put up to ensure a €1 million first prize. The Seminole’s big overlay has also spurred other interesting conversations about the current state of tournament poker.

Those who think the turnout coming up short at SHRPO indicates something dire about the state of tourney poker in the North America are wrong. The other events listed above all saw healthy turnouts and there’s hardly a shortage of players and/or interest in tournament poker here. Those wondering about the possible negative effects of unlimited entry tournaments upon non-professional players have a point, although I don’t think they really dissuade the non-pros from participating all that much. Meanwhile those speculating about the future of super-big guarantees have a point as well. In any case, one would think the Seminole will probably be a lot more cautious about trying another $10 milly event in the future.

I guess I’m most intrigued by how complicated the reaction to the SHRPO overlay has been. Rather than simply hearing from players rejoicing at free money in Florida, the angles of inquiry and subsequent discussion has gone in all sorts of directions, including some that seem constructive. The fact is, the overlay has highlighted several issues relevant to players, casinos, tourney organizers, and even the media who cover tourneys, bringing to the foreground concerns that have significance to anyone with an interest in tournament poker.

Tournament Director Matt Savage summed up the conversation well in a single tweet, I thought, when he noted that “Poker tournaments are a fragile ecosystem, we (Players, TD’s, and Casinos) need to work together to get them to survive and thrive.”

There is most certainly an “ecosystem” (or special “economy”) in poker, something the rise of tournament poker has made all the more conspicuous over the last decade. And everyone who is part of it affects it in some fashion, whether they work together or not.

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