Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thinking About the Big One

The Big OneJust listened to this week’s Two Plus Two Pokercast, good as always. This one (episode 209, dated 2/14/12) featured a lengthy interview with WSOP Communications Director Seth Palansky.

The interview comes in a couple of segments, the first one (lasting a little over a half-hour) being all about the 2012 WSOP kicking off in Vegas in late May and the second one (going for another 40 minutes) mainly focusing on the Circuit events that run year-round. The interview starts at about the 48-minute mark, if you’re curious to dial up the show and listen.

During that second segment there was discussion of the various logistical challenges that arise at WSOP-C events, as well as some talk of the controversy regarding the “staff appreciation” fee at these events that has received a lot of scrutiny of late. For more on the latter -- really a hidden fee that has added to players’ costs without increasing prize pools -- see Todd “Dan Druff” Witteles’ summary and update regarding what has happened in the past and where things stand at present.

For me one of the more intriguing parts of the interview came during the first segment when they were discussing the 2012 WSOP, in particular the $1 million buy-in no-limit hold’em event, a.k.a. Event No. 51, a.k.a. “The Big One.”

Early in the interview there was some general discussion of this year’s schedule and its record-breaking 61 bracelet events, and Palansky was asked about the various factors that are considered when the schedule is drawn up. Somewhere in there the $1 million event came up and Palansky kind of casually suggested it “will get a few dozen players at most.” But then later they talked some more about it, and I was intrigued by the additional hints Palansky dropped regarding the potential field size for the event.

Palansky noted how when the event was first announced the WSOP decided to add a caveat that at least 22 players needed to play in order for it to be an actual bracelet event. He explained on the show how that was the field size for Doyle Brunson’s first WSOP Main Event win (in 1976), which is why it was chosen as a minimum here.

It has already been announced that they’ll meet that goal, as at least that many have confirmed they’ll be playing. They actually capped the event at 48 players -- why they did, I’m not sure -- and when speaking of the cap Palansky said “I really don’t feel there’s any chance we don’t get there.” In other words, it sounds like we should expect 48 to play in the sucker, or something close to that number, anyway.

Palansky further added that more than 50% of those who play in the event will be amateurs or “non-poker players,” including people from the sports world, hedge fund managers, lottery winners, and Macau businessmen. The mysterious Andy Beal will be there, too, adding further intrigue. Also, when co-host Adam Schwartz suggested a line of 0.5 for the number of women playing, Palansky responded “I’ll take the over,” thus indicating at least one woman has indicated she’ll be playing, too.

All told, Palansky expects the event to raise $5 million for the One Drop Foundation charity. Recall how $111,111 of each entry will be going to the charity (here’s the fact sheet for the event), which means there would need to be at least 45 players for $5 million to be raised.

When Jamie Gold received $12 million for winning the 2006 WSOP ME, it was the biggest prize ever won in poker, a record that continues to stand in early 2012 I was kind of amazed to hear that the WSOP really expects that many players to participate in the event. I believe Palansky, but am still kind of shaking my head about it.

When I appeared on “Keep Flopping Aces” last week, we discussed “The Big One” a bit and speculated about how big the field would be. One question that arose was whether or not it would sport the biggest first prize in poker history -- that is, would it exceed the $12 million first prize that Jamie Gold earned for winning the 2006 WSOP Main Event?

If 48 players actually play, that will create a total prize pool of $42,666,672. (Incidentally, there will be no additional juice taken from the prize pool for this event beyond what goes to One Drop.) The top 20% of players will be paid in this one, and according to the payout schedule if 48 play the top nine finishers will get paid, with the winner getting 43% of the prize pool. With 48 playing, that’ll be a cool $18,346,668.96!

If 25-29 players register, first place will be getting 48% of the prize pool, which means if 28 play, first place will earn just under $12 million ($11,946,668.16), while a 29-player field will be enough to break Gold’s record, with first getting $12,373,334.88.

When Lou Krieger asked me on the show to predict whether Gold’s record would be broken, I said I didn’t think it would. Even though we have known since December that at least 22 have said they would play, I couldn’t imagine too many more players would be winning to part with a million clams to participate. (Or could find enough backing to do so.)

But from what Palansky was saying on the podcast, it sounds as though Gold’s record is most certainly in jeopardy. The fact that the field will be containing a lot of “non-poker players” also indicates that the charity element more than anything is encouraging some to play poker for money that well exceeds what most poker pros would be willing to commit.

Indeed, I expect that regardless of what the total field size turns out to be, one would have to think there won’t be that many familiar faces among the bunch. Will still be a wild one to follow, though. And I wouldn’t be surprised to see the player who manages to grab that record-breaking first prize perhaps give a little more to One Drop when all is said and done.

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Blogger Rakewell said...

You can play in it, too. You just have to get them to accept Stars free-money transfers.

2/17/2012 9:06 AM  
Blogger Robert Dudek said...

To break the record, first prize should be equal or greater than 12, 991,000. We must always remember to subtract the buy-in.

2/18/2012 10:34 AM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Good point, Robert, although if they get exactly 29 and have a $12.37 million first prize, the WSOP will call it a new record. (In fact, they're already indicating they will on the payout schedule sheet.)

Speaking of ignoring buy-ins, if they do get 48 and have an $18 million-plus first prize, the winner will vault to the top of the (non-restricted) all-time money winners' list!

2/18/2012 12:51 PM  

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