Every year there are new rules popping up at the World Series of Poker and this year is no different. Some are met with approval by the players as welcome changes, but one of the new rules this year - the ten level rule - is a total flop.
The Ten-Level rule means that no event will play longer than ten levels of play in a single day. While at the outset this may seem like a good idea, no marathon sessions for the players, in reality the new rule has caused a lot of controversy and heated debate. PokerNews interviewed a few players, who were clearly not happy with the new rule including Event #4, the $5,000 No-Limit Holdem champ Allen Bari who won $875,000. Bari was in the line of fire because of the ten-level rule when on Day 3, the field began with 42 players and was then down to 10 players who were moved to the secondary feature table. The remaining 10 players agreed to play down to a final table field of nine and then quit for the night. Instead, tournament staff, including WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel, informed the players they would have to play until level-ten or until a winner was declared, in compliance with the new rule.
The tournament commenced as per the new rule, stopping around 3:30 AM when level 10 was reached and just four players remained. The final four, including eventual winner Bari, returned at 2:30 PM. the next day. Voicing his displeasure over the new ten-level rule, Bari stated, "I think it's stupid. Momentum is huge in tournaments and if you take a day off to go to sleep it completely changes the momentum. Then everyone has time to adjust to what's been going on and they even have time to talk to someone, whereas you would only have 15-20 minutes to talk on break. We should've just stopped at nine. It should be based upon what point of the tournament you’re at. We were playing for a million dollars; it was 2:30 a.m. We had to stop. The night before they were all folding to me, the next day they were all jamming on me. It could've cost me money — luckily it didn't."
Maria Ho, who was the first female to make it to a final table this year and came in 2nd to Bari, shared her thoughts on the new rule in a PokerNews Podcast where she said, "The break gave people more time to evaluate their situation. When you play from 42 players to four, your game and your frame of mind completely changes. I wanted to stop at nine. I needed the mental recuperation, but also I wanted my friends there to support me. It's a WSOP final table — it's kind of a big deal. You want to have a break, and rally the troops. I didn't feel like I was at the final table of a WSOP event — and it completely changed the next day when we walked onto the main stage.
Jason Mercier, a gold bracelet winner and friend of Bari’s commented on the rule by saying, "The ten-level rule is pretty dumb; it ruins the flow of the tournament. Any time you get down to under nine players, you should let the tournament finish. Either stop it at nine and finish the next day, or let them play it out — even if they go to six in the morning. I think they should leave it up to the players; if everyone agrees to keep playing or everyone agrees to stop then they should do that. When tournament directors are going against what players want, they're not going to have everyone happy with the situation and they may even end up seeing people tip less."
Tipping: Revenge or Reward?
Many of the final players in Event #4 were not shy about voicing their negative opinions to the staff with comments like “Thanks for the great service,” and “Glad the WSOP is taking care of what the players want first.” Sixth place finisher Ricky Fohrenbach, showed his disdain for the new rule by announcing that he wouldn’t be tipping. This affirms Jason Mercier’s statement and proves that unhappy players exact revenge by not tipping when they win. But who does this really hurt?
The fact is; the majority of the hard working staff at the WSOP don’t have anything to do with making the rules. Not tipping just punishes hard working people like dealers, who work for minimum wage, and are expected to put up with untold verbal abuse by players as they enforce the rules, no matter how ridiculous they may think some of the rules are. Players need to realize that by withholding tips, they are not exacting revenge on the officials who make the rules, but are penalizing deserving and dedicated workers who deserve to be rewarded for a job well done.
More Pros Speak Out Against New Rule
After only a few weeks into the Series, other final tables have also been affected by the new rule and the players let their displeasure be known. In Event #8, the $1,000 No Limit Holdem winner Sean Getzwiller, was forced to face his final day with just two other players; Sadan Turker and Jon Turner. Getzwiller didn’t understand why they didn’t stop at nine or even six players and commented, "I was actually pleading to stop. We were six-handed and it was two in the morning and they wanted us to go another couple hours. It didn't really make a lot of sense. I don't understand why we played down to three people to come here the next day."
The final three players in Event #11, the $10,000 Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better Championship, Steve Billirakis, George Lind III, and Viacheslav Zhukov were also forced to play an extra day when they were had to quit at level-ten.
Effel Defends New Rule
In defense of the WSOP’s new rule Effel stated, "Not that players don't know what's right for them, it's just sometimes players get three-handed and think the tournament will end an hour later — and that's not the case a lot of the times. In the $1K, they returned with three players. The first player busted in five hands and the other two played heads up for five and a half hours. Had they continued the night before, they would've played until 9 a.m. This is all about keeping everything scheduled, organized, and keeping everybody fresh. If you're playing for a lot of money, there's no reason you need to play a 19-hour final table. That's why people don't work for more than eight hours — you start becoming rum-dumb, you're no longer able to function properly. We want to keep our players — our athletes — feeling good and feeling energized." To which he added, "We don't want guys falling over, having heart attacks, having strokes, being exhausted, getting sick. We don't want our staff to undergo those types of things either. We have a disclaimer you know, it says this tournament could go on beyond scheduled play.”
Asked if he saw any compromise or change that could be made Effel said,”The alternative to this is to butcher the structure, which is something nobody wants because they want as much play as possible. When I did the math, it looked like there were 16 or 17 events that might go that extra day."
Image from the series 'Cards of Life and Death.'