How Popular Will the $50,000 HORSE event be at the WSOP?

by Lou on January 24, 2006

A few days ago I posted about that the World Series of Poker adding a $50,000 buy-in HORSE event to this year’s schedule.

Now they’ve announced a try-out event aimed at testing its drawing power. At the WSOP Circuit stop at Caesars Palace, slated to run from April 28th to May 11th, a $5,000 HORSE event will be played on May 2nd.

Until this HORSE stampeded into the arena, hold’em was what the event was all about, with only a lone Omaha event as a change of pace. But WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack listened to players who said that hold’em was dominating the WSOP, to the detriment of other games, and the biggest buy-in event in WSOP history was added to the schedule.

The $50K HORSE event will be played prior to the $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em tournament, and the high cost of entry should limit the field to poker’s biggest name players — or its wealthiest. Did Harrah’s make a good decision by adding a $50,000 buy-in HORSE event to the schedule? While we won’t know for sure until the WSOP, we’ll have a good idea after the $5,000 buy-in HORSE event makes it debut at Caesars in early May.

Many top players believe that mixed games are better determinants of who should be considered poker’s “world champion” than just a hold’em event. The size of the buy-in is also designed to limit the field, thereby making it unlikely that an unknown player will jump out of the woodwork and make his mark with an unexpected win.

This could eventually lead the folks at Harrah’s to decide that the $50,000 HORSE event should be the championship bout, not the $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em tournament. While that would certainly reduce the number of players willing to pony up $50K for a chance to become poker’s champion, it would also relegate the traditional championship event to the status of “…just another hold’em tournament.” If Harrah’s were to designate the HORSE event as poker’s Big Kahuna, it wouldn’t take long before you’d find far fewer players signing up for the $10,000 no-limit hold’em tournament.

Would that lead to more and more satellites for the $50K event? It might. But there’s only so much money to go around, and since satellites are essentially multi-level marketing modalities, far more folks and far more dollars would have to line the base of the pyramid to provide $50,000 for each player who wins an entry. In fact, if the money stayed the same, it’s hard to envision the $50K HORSE event ever topping 1,000 entrants. But I say that with trepidation. After all, we’ve all been waaaaay over to the short side when it came to predicting the number of WSOP entrants during the past few years.

I don’t see Harrah’s forcing the action by declaring that the HORSE event is now the world championship event, because that ensures that the $10K tournament would decline in status. But if the $50K event grew in stature to the point where it became the primo event all on its own — the “people’s champion,” as it were — then all Harrah’s would have to do is recognize that reality. Anointing a popular choice is not nearly as dicey as forcing the action, which would mean kicking the $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em tournament — an event that now attracts 6,000 players — to the curb in the process. I just can’t see Harrah’s making that kind of decision, especially when there’s no guarantee that the $50,000 HORSE event will become a popular event.

It’s hard for me to guess just how popular the $50,000 HORSE event will be with players and with the TV viewing audience. I don’t think Harrah’s can make an accurate assessment at this juncture either, which is why a try-out of sorts at Caesars on May 2 sounds like a good idea. After all, they still try out Broadway shows in the hinterlands, so why not poker?

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: