Tuesday, May 19, 2009

On the Economy & the 2009 WSOP

WSOP bannerWe’re getting close, peoples. Just a week more and satellites get crankin’ at the Rio. On Wednesday, May 27th, Event No. 1, the Casino Employees Event, a $500 buy-in no-limit hold’em tourney, gets started. Then on Thursday at noon the real World Series of Poker begins with the “Special 40th Annual No-Limit Hold’em” event (Event No. 2), that $40,000 buy-in event everyone’s been talking about for weeks now.

Then all hell breaks loose.

One new event starts each day from Wed. through Sat. next week. Then the following week, we’ll slip into the routine of having two separate events start each day, meaning there will usually be around five or six different tournaments going on at once, with a couple of final tables each day.

Am noticing that on Wednesday, June 3rd there will be a whopping seven different events going on, including three final tables, all starting at 2 p.m. Vegas time. (I think that has to be a record.) I don’t see any other days on the 2009 schedule with seven events running. It’s the conclusion of that $1,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em Event No. 4, the “stimulus special,” that’s causing the pile-up there, I believe. That’s a four-day event, though really five days as it will have a couple of day ones.

So whaddya think? Too many events? There are 57 bracelets being awarded at this year’s WSOP (a new record). Is the WSOP spreading itself too thin?

Everyone’s wonderin’ about the numbers, specifically whether recent economic woes might affect turnouts. Casino revenues have certainly experienced a significant downturn. The Las Vegas Sun reported in late January that casino revenues had decreased markedly in 2008, and that the trend was expected to continue in 2009. A more recent article over on PokerNews Daily reports how Nevada has seen fifteen straight months of decline in gaming revenues (when months are compared year over year), with the drop-offs over the last six months ranging from 11.61% (March 2008 to March 2009) to 22.33% (October 2007 to October 2008).

There was another interesting article over on Poker News Daily yesterday in which Dan Stewart, the owner of PokerScout (that site that tracks traffic on all of the sites), is interviewed regarding the current health of online poker.

That article appears to have been specifically occasioned by the recent spate of overlays in Full Tilt Poker’s FTOPS XII, including an eye-popping $200,000-plus overlay in the $2.5 million-guaranteed Main Event. According to Stewart, Full Tilt’s decision to run a “mini-FTOPS” alongside the regular FTOPS -- mirroring the main events with similar events costing one-tenth the buy-ins -- appears to have affected turnouts for the big events. Says Stewart, the decision to run a mini-FTOPS was a “mini-disaster” that “cannibalized the business from the big tournaments.” Of course, Stewart also points out that Full Tilt nevertheless is doing just fine, as is the rest of the online poker world, which is “quite healthy” clicking along at an overall 30% increase in revenue over last year.

WSOP at the RioSo live casino games are hurting. But online poker is as healthy as its ever been. What about the WSOP?

There was some discussion of the economy and its possible effect on the WSOP on last week’s episode of The Poker Beat (the 5/14/09 show). The consensus there seemed to be that the currently ailing economy would not have much effect on turnouts.

John Caldwell is now a regular co-host on TPB. Unfortunately, I won’t be working with Caldwell this summer as he is no longer with PokerNews, although I’m sure I’ll see him out there somewhere along the way. According to Caldwell, the WSOP tends to thrive no matter what the economy is doing, being, as he calls it, “the exception to the rule.” He goes on to point out that “the prestige and the cachet of the event sort of insulate it from... the [failing] economy.... Now, it may be an issue in certain specific events... [but] I don’t think it’s going to be much of a factor [overall].”

Caldwell is probably right, although I do think it will be interesting to watch how the field sizes in the $1,500-$2,500 events compare to those of the $5,000, $10,000, and higher buy-in events. The smaller buy-in events are always much more popular, but I wonder if perhaps we’ll see an even more severe “class difference” happening this year, with just the same 200-300 players turning up for the higher buy-in events, while the hoi polloi stick with the smaller buy-in tourneys. (Sort of a WSOP and a mini-WSOP, in a sense.)

I, for one, am hoping for big fields and a highly successful WSOP, although I know it could turn out otherwise. Selfish, I know, as a thriving poker economy certainly is good news for someone like me.

In any event, it’s gonna be a busy time for your humble gumshoe, no matter how the turnouts turn out.

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Blogger Unknown said...

Regarding event #4, the structure sheet and the calendar differ as to when the final table takes place. Reading the structure sheet, they say the final table is on June 2nd, while the calendar lists the final table on the 3rd. With such a huge field expected, I tend to believe the calendar is more correct, as they're going to have a lot of trouble getting from about 1,500 on day 2 to the final table as the structure sheet states.

5/19/2009 11:13 AM  
Blogger Random Table Draw said...

If it happens I'm sure you'll break it down for us. See you in LV kid.

5/19/2009 4:35 PM  

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