Copyright © Bob Ciaffone and used with permission.
The World Series of Poker is growing so fast that it is not easy for those who run the event to keep up. Yet despite some growing pains, there is no doubt that the administration of the tournament gets better every year. A number of the suggestions made last year by myself and others were adopted in this year's tournament. They included:
1. Staggered bathroom breaks. This year, the main tournament room at the Rio was split into two sections, with the bathroom break for the second group starting after the first group had returned. Bravo!
2. Use of an all-in button. It is not always obvious to spectators - and even the players - when a player has moved all in if he just declares himself all in without putting all of his chips into the pot. This year, the players were given a disk that looked like a large chip and had the words "all in" printed on it. Throw the chip into the pot, and you were down to the cloth. Using the chip was optional. I think it ought to be mandatory, so that no one could misunderstand the situation.
3. Giving the players enough time to eat dinner. We were given 90 minutes in 2006 instead of 75 minutes in 2005. This hour and a half was, in my opinion, exactly the right length of time.
I think the area that needs the most improvement for next year is the amount of time we are required to play each session. On our initial day of the main event, we started at noon and played six levels, which took us until 3 a.m. By the time the chip count was verified and we got to our rooms, it was 4 a.m. or close to it. I will grant you that the situation was better than last year, when some of us had to play again at noon the next day. This year, everyone had a day of rest before having to play again. But I think players need to be shown more respect, and not have the event turned into an endurance contest. Some might even look at the present method as age discrimination, as the young can stand this sort of physical trial better than the old.
I am not averse to playing a fairly long period of time. That is not a problem. The problem is recovering from the imbalance created by having your sleeping schedule discombobulated. This is exceptionally hard on those who fly in from the East Coast, where their bodies are already on a time three hours later than Nevada. Of course, all of this is even more brutal on those who come "across the pond" from Europe, where the time difference is eight or nine hours.
What would be a satisfactory schedule? I suggest starting at 11:30 a.m. (instead of noon) and quitting at midnight. Starting at 11 a.m. would be even better, but at that time, there is a shift change, and you need to give the shift supervisor some time to set up his shift. This could be accomplished by playing five levels instead of the present six, or using rounds of 100 minutes instead of 120 minutes. There is also some other tweaking that could be done to assist in reaching this goal. The bottom line is that people like me would not have any problem playing a 13-hour session, as long as their normal sleeping schedules were disrupted for only a couple of hours, and not thrown completely out of whack.
The two-hour period for each betting level has been used for the WSOP for as long as I have been playing in it, and is standard for a lot of other big tournaments, as well. It would be better to find a way to play only five levels. Can this be done? I think we are going to have around 11,000 players next year. This means five starting days will be required. So, why can't we have three second days, using a total field that has been brought down to 6,500 players? It takes less time each session to have the field reduced by having five days for "day one" reduced to three days for "day two" than to cut the field in half. This means coming down to roughly 1,300 players each day instead of 1,200. The whole idea might be tweaked into working by having the first level last only 90 minutes, and maybe playing a short time at level six. The first level is at such a small blinds structure for the starting chips that it would not hurt if it were abbreviated a bit.
Here is another idea for a playing schedule that would reduce the field in a comfortable manner. Have the survivors of the first two days play again before the other entrants play their first day. The advantage of this system is that the players who are still in the event are not hanging around for a long time unless they have a decent chance to cash, as happens when you get through the first two days. Otherwise, a person who plays on the first "day one" is going to have to sit out for the next four days before playing on "day two."
My second suggestion is changing the prize-fund distribution. I think anyone who cashes should get at least $15,000, so that those people who pony up the whole 10 grand to get in can get back some kind of win, instead of only a shade more than 10K and not even cover travel expenditures. Come on, guys. A "winner" should be making a profit, and not simply making some money to help cover his expenses. Let a winner truly feel like a winner. You are going to have $100 million in the prize fund, so there is plenty of money to start the payouts at a reasonable figure.
My final suggestion for next year is for management to do a better job of taking care of the dealers. Several of my dealer friends groused to me that they were not making nearly the amount of money they had been led to expect.
Consequently, they were not going to work in the WSOP unless some changes were made. These dealers are the cream of the dealer crop, and work in other premium tournaments around the country. I do not have the inside info on the exact reasons for the complaints.
However, there is no reason that anyone connected with the world's richest sporting event should come away with a bad taste in his mouth. There is plenty of money available to take care of everyone. We need to retain experienced dealers. Let's have the players, workers, exhibitors, and spectators of the poker world championship all come back from the tournament praising it to the skies. That will ensure that we will keep the goose that lays the golden eggs.