The World Series of Poker, poker’s most prestigious event, will kick off in a few short weeks. The WSOP features world championships in various forms of the game, all leading up to the granddaddy of them all, the $10,000 buy-in Main Event.
This year, however, the Main Event will be just a little bit different.
Harrah’s, the operator of the WSOP, with input from the Players Advisory Council, decided to postpone the final table of the Main Event until November 9, 2008 – a delay of more than three months. That’s right; more than 7,000 players will start play on July 3 and battle down to the final nine on July 14 at which time play will come to a stop.
Some players love this idea and think it will create tremendous buzz about poker’s biggest showcase event. Others believe that the lengthy delay will compromise the integrity of the final table.
I think both camps make valid points. The extended build up will definitely create promotional opportunities and excitement about the final table. It will also give the finalists unprecedented time to work on their game, study their opponents, and develop winning game plans.
Others, however, argue that winning the Main Event is a test not only of poker skill, but stamina too. I don’t agree. The Main Event wasn’t always a test of endurance. The ability to play winning poker on little sleep is not something that needs to be rewarded.
As far as I’m concerned, the schedule change will benefit those players that study video of their opponents, seek expert coaching advice, and work on their game plans. Let me explain.
Professional football was revolutionized when teams began to study their opponents by watching game tape. Today, all NFL coaches work long hours studying video leading up to game day.
Players at the Main Event final table will have three months to study footage of their opponents. Not only should they search for physical tells and predictable betting patterns from their opponents, they should look for their own bad habits too.
The schedule delay will also benefit those players who seek out coaching advice. Now, this is something that might seem at odds with being a poker player. After all, poker is an individual game — one player to a hand. But why pass up the opportunity to improve one’s game? Hey, if I don’t make the final table, I just might take on a student who could benefit from my poker experience.
The presence of pro coaches will undoubtedly add a new dynamic to the Main Event. While you might not see Phil Hellmuth actually playing at the final table, it’s possible that he’ll be visible in the stands as he cheers for his amateur protégé.
In fact, even the big name pros will probably hire coaches to help gather information on their opponents and help devise final table strategies.
Lastly, the delay will allow ample time to develop winning game plans. Just like an NFL coach might draw up the first 20 plays, finalists at the Main Event can do the same. But in addition to Plan A, finalists should also be prepared with backup Plans B and C. Maybe you’ll win a big pot and become the chip leader, or perhaps you’ll lose a monster pot and find yourself on the short stack. Players should establish game plans for a wide range of scenarios.
The Main Event schedule change will add an element of sophistication to the final table that will surely benefit those players that are best prepared. If I make it to the final nine, you can bet that I’ll be as prepared as anyone.