When players take to the felts for the 2009 World Series of Poker (WSOP) at the Rio in Las Vegas, they'll notice a stark difference instantaneously. The starting chip stacks, which were doubled in 2008, will be tripled in 2009. In addition, tournament directors have added several levels to event structures. Poker News Daily sat down with Tournament Director Jack Effel to learn more about what players can expect when the WSOP begins in just two short months.
On the decision to triple the starting stacks, Effel told Poker News Daily, "At 2x chips, players didn’t feel like they got a lot of play in the smaller events. With 3x chips, you can play around with the structure and add more levels." The $1,000 buy-in "stimulus" tournament, for example, will give players a stack of 3,000 to go to battle with. Added levels include 75-150 as well as 1,200-2,400, which is included in $1,500 buy-in and up events. The Main Event will award 30,000 in starting chips and has a bevy of levels, each lasting two hours.
Deep stack tournaments were popularized by the Venetian in Las Vegas, among other places. Now, you can find these tournaments around the world. Effel commented, "It's a very competitive industry with a lot of tournaments moving to a deep stack format. However, putting on a successful event is difficult unless you really understand the math behind it." The WSOP has based its model on playing time per day. Tournament officials are aiming for eight to ten hours of play for the first two days of a tournament. In an economic drought, Effel explained the importance of allowing players time to make moves at the table: "It gives players plenty of game for their money."
As a result of 30,000 in starting chips, Effel expects each tournament to take an extra two levels to complete, or about four hours' time for the Main Event. He explained, "You'll feel that in the beginning. It gives players more of an opportunity to make moves and use strategy. It's going to benefit both the little guy who won his way in and it's also going to benefit the pros, who have additional time to perfect their strategy." Play on each of the four starting days in the Main Event is scheduled to last for five levels. Last year, 6,844 players turned out. For the first time, its final table was postponed until November in order to create additional hype. The result was a 50% jump in television ratings for the final table telecast, which aired on ESPN within 24 hours of filming.
In the Pot Limit Omaha tournaments, players will begin with a starting stack equal to the buy-in. Players can then elect to add on twice at any point during the first three levels in lieu of a rebuy. All entrants will be required to add on at the end of three levels of play. The Rio's massive Amazon Room and surrounding tournament areas can accommodate up to 300 tables. Registration for events is scheduled to open this week, but was not yet available at the time of writing. All rebuy events were eliminated from the 2009 WSOP schedule after input received from the Players Advisory Council.
The 2008 WSOP was marred by incidents involving Scotty Nguyen and Phil Hellmuth. The former won the $50,000 buy-in HORSE Championship allegedly intoxicated. The latter lambasted his competition throughout the Main Event. Both were featured prominently on ESPN. Effel noted that, in 2009, floor staff will receive additional training for the enforcement of player conduct rules: "When you have a rule, employees are less likely to use their own interpretation. Sometimes what you think is acceptable is not acceptable to others. It's tough in certain situations to figure out whether a player was being abusive. Obviously, we learned a lot from last year."
Effel noted that Nguyen received several warnings during his antics at the HORSE final table. However, he was not penalized. Effel explained, "Some of the things he said weren’t heard by the floor person. Unless you're standing over the dealer, you may not catch something. That's pretty much what happened." This year, Harrah's staff will utilize a player tracking database that will log any penalty or warning. For the first time, tournament staff will be armed with a history of player infractions.
Visit the 2009 WSOP schedule to review structure sheets for each event. Stay tuned to Poker News Daily for the latest from the Rio. (Credit: Poker News Daily)
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