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Poker News | World Series of Poker | WSOP2009

2009 WSOP Review: Successes Far Outweighed Failures

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It has been nearly a month since the 2009 World Series of Poker found its November Nine and wrapped until the ESPN coverage catches up. The Rio hallways are now filled with random convention goers instead of poker players, and the poker world focuses on online poker tournaments, cash games, and live events from New Zealand and Kiev and from Los Angeles to Atlantic City. But the WSOP only recently concluded and is still fresh in most people’s minds and a summer full of poker news and events should be reviewed, if nothing else but for the mark it has made on the poker world.

Overall, the pros far outweighed the cons. Despite a global recession, the overall numbers for the WSOP were up and players continued to buy in to events for the sheer opportunity to compete for a WSOP bracelet. WSOP officials, especially Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack, were very approachable to all media and players, and he spent a great deal of time chatting with everyone to gather opinions, discuss points for improvement, and stay informed. Most lighter issues were dealt with on the spot, and broader topics were put into the well to be discussed before next year’s events. The 2009 WSOP can be considered a grand success, and though there were some missteps, the positive aspects of the Series overshadowed most everything else.


Some of the changes at the 2009 WSOP from previous years were minor, such as an extra event in a particular game choice or a different buy-in for one of the tournaments. The three new events added this year were the 40th anniversary $40,000 NLHE tournament, the $1,000 Stimulus Special, and the Champions Invitational, the former an open event and the latter an invitation-only tournament for previous WSOP main event winners only. Both were successes, especially for ESPN and its choice to televise both instead of the HORSE or any other non-holdem event, and both boasted of a certain amount of prestige that most preliminary events don’t carry.

A new implementation at the 2009 games was the winner’s ceremony. For each player who won a tournament, they were honored the following day with a ceremony to award a Harrah’s Diamond player’s card and the WSOP gold bracelet, and the national anthem of the home country of each player was broadcast throughout the Amazon Room. Play was stopped at the tables for the duration of the ceremony, which took - at most - 10 minutes, and though some players were irritated that they had to stop playing and choose to stand or not for each anthem, the overall impression of the ceremonies was positive. Most players enjoyed the attention and their special moment, and though one chose not to even show up for his ceremony, the general consensus was good.

Another pro of the 2009 Series was the installment of a new code of conduct, one that tracked penalties and warnings as the Series moved forward. Though the tournament staff kept the issuance of penalties as private as possible so as not to focus on any particular player, there was no knowledge of any one player conducting himself so poorly as to receive any disqualification or expulsion penalties. The tracking system went off without a hitch as far as the public knew, and players seemed more aware, as it was announced at the start of play each day, of the penalty levels for any behavior that went against the code of conduct.

The opening of extra rooms for the Series helped immensely with space constraints from year’s past. The utilization of the Miranda and full Brasilia rooms afforded more space for satellites, cash games, and the tournaments themselves. Though it did make it tougher for reporters to spread themselves out over the entire back end of the Rio Convention Center, it seemed to make for a better player experience.

The structure of the tournaments was changed in 2009 to allow players three times the starting chips, creating what some call “deep-stacked” events. Some levels were added to give everyone more play, and while some argued that the larger starting stacks didn’t make for much of a difference, it was apparent that the pro players were able to excel in many events. There were several multiple bracelet winners, including the seasoned pro Jeff Lisandro who won three - and a good deal of well-known preliminary event champions who proved the structure a positive one for players with experience and skill.


The most outstanding negative aspect of the 2009 WSOP was the closing of the Main Event with players still wanting to compete. It was estimated that up to 1,000 players were denied the opportunity to register on Day 1D, which was attributed to the massive influx of players coming in at the last minute on the last day. The first two days - even the third day - could have handled more players with the space and staff available, and Harrah’s warned late on Day 1C that the tournament might close when it reached capacity. It did just that when players waited until late to register, and there were hundreds of unhappy players who were turned away. Although Harrah’s should be applauded for the way it handled the players - issuing sincere apologies and attempting to explain the many reasons that an overflow crowd could not be accepted - there should have been more of an effort on the part of Harrah’s to let players know well in advance that there was a limit to how many players the venue could handle. And in their explanation of logistics, there should have been more information presented as to gaming laws regarding security cameras, staffing, space, time, and tournament rules. Commissioner Pollack stated that shutout events will be the first topic of discussion for the Players Advisory Council in discussing the 2010 WSOP, and he hopes to be able to say that no one will be shut out of any event.

Another issue, though minor as compared to the last, was the access established for the media. While most events allowed members of the media to roam the floor at will, it was during money bubbles of to-be-televised events and the last few tables of any event that severely limited access of reporters. The problem mostly came into play during media shut-outs when others seemed to wander about without worry, such as players’ significant others and random fans who slipped past the lines. There were several scuttles between ESPN camera crews and reporters, as in years past, and there were also disagreements with security personnel when accessing the media section of the featured final table. Clear rules might be in order to rectify any issues, despite having cleaned up the process a great deal over the past two years.

Speaking of ESPN , its decision to televise only NLHE events was controversial within the poker community. While the general poker audience may only understand no-limit hold’em, true poker aficionados were kept from seeing the $50K HORSE tournament and any type of variety. And among the NLHE tournaments covered by ESPN, one was the Champions Invitational, which had big names but no prize pool, and the other was Ante Up For Africa, which had celebrities and poker pros, not to mention the charitable aspect, but was not a bracelet event. It will be known when ratings are released whether the poker audience tuned in or out, but there was much disappointment among poker players and media that more events were not chosen for broadcast.

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