Top Stories of 2005 – Part II –
The Real World Series


Witnessing it first hand, there is no greater sporting event on the planet than the World Series of Poker (WSOP).

The expansiveness of the WSOP makes baseball‚Äôs World Series or the NBA finals look like state high school championships.  It’s not even close.  And it’s not like the ratings are that much better either.

In 2005, the WSOP reached levels that were unthinkable just a decade ago, when "Action" Dan Harrington beat a field of 273. 

Which is almost as many people that played in this year’s media/charity event. 

This year we saw record field after record field.  Over 23,000 players entered various events this year, over $52 million in prize money was given out in the Main Event, and around $109 million total during all events, all steep increases over the previous year.  And that trend is expected to continue. 

Of course, all of this creates endless storylines, action, and excitement…

If 2004 was the year of the young guns, then 2005 was the year the pros came storming back.  Brunson and Chan won their 10th bracelets.  Seidel won his seventh.  Cloutier his sixth.  Ivey his fifth.  Pros-pros like Cunningham and Seif gained a national rep. 

Hachemwins_3Dr. Pauly, who was at the WSOP from Event #1 until the last hand, put it well, ‚ÄúThe WSOP was controlled chaos and I got to witness poker history get made every night.‚Äù 

Of course, all of the great storylines culminated with the Main Event.  This year‚Äôs ME didn‚Äôt disappoint, starting with the record 5,619 entrants.  You had big names like Ivey, Lederer, and Juanda going deep into the tourney.  You had defending champ Greg Raymer kicking ass and taking names to the almost unthinkable feat of going back-to-back.  Matusow earned redemption.  Dannenman earned status as the latest greatest poker everyman.  And Hachem earned $7.5 mil.

Poker’s World Series proved to be a true world series.  The international representation is sick.  The best (and the worst) from around the world show up to prove their wicked poker chops. 

With players from around the world expected to push the total number of entrants at the WSOP ME to around 8,000 next year, the frenzy and ‚Äúcontrolled chaos‚Äù will only increase.  But should the buy-in?  $10,000 meant a lot more back in the ‚Äò70‚Äôs when the tournament first started than it does now, especially with online sites running satellites where people are getting in for $2‚Äîmaking the WSOP ME like a crap-shoot lottery full of many-a-crappy-player. 

Is there a semblance of control that can be had here? Dr. Pauly thinks, ‚Äúthey should raise [the buy-in] because it was $10,000 back when it first started out. They are going to either have to cap it or raise the limit on the buy-in. That’s the only way to keep the tournament manageable from a logistics standpoint. Man, is it worth it to have to play two plus weeks for one tournament and have 6 or 7 day ones? And three day twos? It seems possible at the rate of popularity that the WSOP happens to be exploding at.‚Äù

Wsop2Next year‚Äôs WSOP is also raising some criticism by casting off almost all of the non-hold‚Äôem games‚Äîturning it into the World Series of Hold‚Äôem. 

But if that‚Äôs what the public wants, then WSOP officials/ESPN will likely continue to feed the machine.  And why shouldn‚Äôt they?  Poker only stands to benefit from increasing the interest of the game and giving the public what it wants. 

And it‚Äôs not like a little controversy is a bad thing.  Look at what David Stern did with the NBA dress code.  He had everyone talking about the NBA right before the season began, upstaging baseball’s "World Series" and the NFL.  So if nothing else, talk of increasing buy-ins, capping fields, and altering game formats will keep people talking. 

And that’s a good thing.

When it comes right down to it, the WSOP is totally unique to sporting events.  It’s one month of pure poker absorption.  That’s why the WSOP is one of the biggest poker stories of the year‚Ķand it will ALWAYS be one of the biggest poker stories every year.  How can it not?


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