World Series of Poker Event #64: WSOP.com Online No-Limit Hold’em is both underway and almost finished, playing down from 905 entries to a final table of 6 players in a single day, thanks to the speedy nature of online play. The prize pool is a relatively modest $859,750, considerably lower than the live $1000 Hold’em events, but this was to be expected given that legal online poker is still in the process of making its slow comeback into the American market.
The event will resume and a winner will be determined tomorrow, with today being a travel day to allow the final six players to get to the Rio if they aren’t there already. What’s fascinating to me is that identities of five of the six are still a mystery; a Google search reveals “imgrinding” to be Craig Varnell, a small-time pro from Aurora, Colorado, who has already cashed in Events #55 (DraftKings 50/50) and #57 ($1000 NLHE) at this year’s series. As for the other five – “casedismised,” “Stonerboner,” “SLOPHOUSE,” “GringoLoco72” and “TuttyBear” – nothing can be found, at least not through a cursory search of Google and Sharkscope.
I think that pseudonymous online play followed by a live final table makes for a fascinating dynamic, in that neither the spectators nor the players know what to expect when they meet face-to-face tomorrow. Unfortunately, poker in general and especially online poker being what it is, we’re pretty likely to see six young white males show up, but how great would it be if, say, “Stonerboner” turned out to be a 70 year-old woman?
If the format catches on and higher stakes online events appear at future series, I’d like to see them take the concept even further and assign all players randomly-generated one-time pseudonyms at the start of each tournament. After all, if big name players end up involved and use their usual monikers, seeing “OMGClayAiken” or “WCGRider” making a deep run would spoil the surprise. Much more entertaining would be watching a mystery player mowing their way through the field and getting to speculate about their identity. Perhaps the player everyone was sure must be Chris Moorman would turn out to be a kindergarten teacher from Rhode Island or vice versa. It could even make for some interesting side bets.
All-in-all, despite the modest turnout for this preliminary experiment, I think that hybrid events like this have a promising future in poker. After all, both the online game and the live game have their respective advantages and disadvantages. What needs to be done next is to examine those differences carefully and figure out how to design a hybrid event which creates maximal interplay and synergy between the strengths of each format.
Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.