In August 2007 I placed third in a main event at London’s Gutshot club for £10,000. It was my first year since turning pro and it had been a good year. We did a deal with three players left – I was keen to lock up £10k because next month the WSOP circus was coming to town for the very first time and everyone was super excited. I had to play the main event. Was I bankrolled for it? No. Was I good enough to play it? Maybe not. Should I play it? Definitely not!
So with all the boxes ticked I rushed down to the Empire and handed over ten thousand English pounds! The place was buzzing and I enjoyed every minute of it. The tournament sponsors had guaranteed £1 million for the winner and, while they were left with some overlay, the turnout for a £10k event was still impressive at 362.
Fast forward six years and the WSOPE is no longer held in London but instead can be found touring France. This year’s main event attracted 375 entries, which in itself doesn’t seem bad at all. So why is it that the UK on the whole seems to be falling out of love with it altogether? After all, while it’s not in the UK, France is still easily accessible and lots of UK players still make the trip to Deauville or Monte Carlo for the EPT.
While I don’t have exact numbers I heard only three or four Brits made the journey to Paris. The ladies event only attracted 65 runners (and was won at the 500/1000 blind level), while the €25k high roller got 80 players. That is a respectable turnout considering the buy-in, but should these really be bracelet events?
What is a bracelet event? What is a bracelet? Does anyone care anymore? Don’t get me wrong, I can understand why Harrah’s wants to leverage their brand around the world and maximise it for every dollar, pound or euro they can but I think people are beginning to recognise this for what it is.
The WSOP will always be the holy grail of poker, and Vegas is a suitable Mecca, but I think events in Paris and Asia are losing their significance to the broader UK poker population. We’ll leave it to the high-stakes professionals to chase the wristwear while we concentrate on finding better value events to earn our crust.
Just in case this is sounding like an anti-tournament rant I’d like to balance it by saying I’ve rediscovered my tournament mojo this past month. It’s amazing what a result will do for you and, while my final table at UKIPT London ultimately came with as much disappointment as it did satisfaction, it reaffirmed my belief that grinding satellites (along with cash games) is the key to longevity if you wish to make your living from playing poker.
After satelliting in to the UKIPT I’ve bagged my seats to a couple of GUKPTs and the Irish Winter Festival and look forward to giving myself as many chances of earning some gold as possible. I was also pleased to be able to do a deal with Grosvenor this past month to offer GUKPT satellites to Poker Encore players. The GUKPT has faced serious competition with the emergence of both the UKIPT and GPS but it has enjoyed a bit of a resurgence in 2013. Luton was extremely busy all week and with the added value and guarantees in place it’s not surprising to see why.
If you were so inclined you could play a significant buy-in poker tournament almost every week of the year and, while the poker calendar approaches saturation point, there is always room for something new if it is done properly. Sky Poker are not newcomers to organising live events but their recently announced UK Championships should have people clearing their diaries for next February. A £500k guaranteed main event hosted at Dusk Till Dawn and, with coverage to be shown on Sky Sports, it sounds like it has all the ingredients to muscle itself some room in the already packed schedule.
Finally, this month has seen some attempts at breathing new life into the tried and tested format of tournament poker. Some might question the need but subtle tweaks at differentiating an event from the rest as opposed to radical changes to the game we love are welcome in my book. The recent WPT National event in London allowed players to play multiple Day 1s and merge any stacks they completed the day with. Meanwhile, Dusk Till Dawn have announced a new event which builds on the ISPT’s concept of running online Day 1s and offering players the chance to buy in for a higher amount on Day 2 to try to accommodate players of all levels. Whatever your views on these formats choice has to be a good thing and UK players are currently spoilt in this aspect.
Karl Mahrenholz writes every month for PokerPlayer magazine, available on iTunes here.