New Additions to Poker Player’s Championship Prove Controversial

Two new games have been added to the WSOP Poker Player’s Championship (PPC) this year, and according to Allen Kessler, not everyone is happy about it. The new additions are No-Limit 2-7 Single Draw and Badugi, and bring the total number of games in the event to 10. This represents the second time that games have been added to the event, as the PPC itself replaced the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event in 2010 as the highest buy-in event at the World Series of Poker at the time.

Diversification of games seems to be a theme at this year’s World Series of Poker. For one thing, there are more non-Hold’em, non-Omaha events than there have been in years. The $1500 Dealer’s Choice event is back for a second year and a $10,000 Dealer’s Choice Championship has been added as well; not only that, but three new games have been added to the Dealer’s Choice lineup, for a total of 19. These additions and changes have been well-received for the most part, so what is the fuss about when it comes to the PPC?

Badugi – a logical objection

Correction: This article originally stated incorrectly that there was no $10,000 Championship for 2-7 Triple Draw; there is, but it is one of only two Triple Draw events on the schedule.

For some, the issue seems to be Badugi. The objection in that case is that all the other games in the rotation have their own events in the World Series, including $10,000 Championship events. The idea of a game being included which appears nowhere else in the series except in the Dealer’s Choice events seems to bug some people.

You could easily make the case that the Poker Player’s Championship should be a “Championship of Championships,” and that non-Championship games have no business being included. In that case, though, the addition of NL 2-7 Single Draw should be seen as the right move.

On the other hand, maybe the better solution isn’t to drop Badugi from the PPC, but to add a Championship events for it to the schedule. Of course, Badugi would likely draw a very small field at first, but it’s hard for a game to become popular when there are few opportunities to play it. As Hold’em contracts, there is room for other games to grow, so perhaps some new games should be given their own events, rather than merely creeping into the mixed events.

NL 2-7 Single Draw – a selfish objection

The bigger issue, though, over which people are actually choosing to sit out the event, is the No-Limit 2-7 Single Draw Lowball. Their complaint there is that it’s rare and unpopular as a tournament game – this year’s Championship drew only 77 players – but played often in cash games, so its inclusion will give cash game players an edge. Apparently tournaments are for tournament players, and cash game players are to be kept out at all cost.

This is essentially a selfish objection. If the argument were that the game was too boring, too unpopular or too high variance, that would be a different story, but it’s hard to take seriously an argument which amounts to a change being “too good for people who aren’t me.” No one is forced to play any tournament they don’t feel is going to be profitable, of course, but neither does the fact that a tournament was good for a given player in past years mean that its organizers are obligated to cater to that player’s profits in subsequent years.

What is the PPC’s function?

In its earliest days, the function of the World Series of Poker was to establish the title of world’s best poker player. The Main Event is of course useless in this role now, because it draws such an enormous field, including a great many amateurs, and so no matter how good a player is, there’s no guarantee that they will even come close to a Main Event final table in their lifetime.

Of course, nowadays, we have all sorts of Player of the Year lists and poker rankings, both for individual tours and compiled globally by organizations like GPI and Bluff Magazine. Although these sorts of lists have problems of their own, they’re still more compelling than the results of any single tournament.

Still, the idea of a single event to determine a champion has gut appeal. Moreover, the overwhelming majority of the events used to compile Player of the Year lists are No-Limit Hold’em. Poker is not a single game, but a family of games, so to my mind, the Poker Player’s Championship is still the best test we have of overall poker skill, including as it does a wide variety of games at a buy-in which filters out all but the most serious contenders, thereby reducing the “minefield” effect.

Looking at it that way, if some players are dropping out this year because they don’t feel that they’re good enough in all the games to be competitive in the event as a whole, that might not be such a bad thing. Of course, from a business perspective, the WSOP would like to maximize the number of entrants in all events, but the PPC is just one event out of more than 60, and doesn’t generate particularly huge prize pools to begin with; losing a few players won’t hurt the bottom line all that much.

It’s not even clear yet that attendance will actually be lower. Where one player is losing an edge, someone else is gaining, so the drop-outs may simply be replaced by mixed game specialists. After all, there’s a lot of enthusiasm out there for the $10,000 Dealer’s Choice Championship; WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel has even said that the PPC itself may eventually be changed to a Dealer’s Choice format, which would add even more games to the mix.

The World Series of Poker has recognized that diversification is necessary for the continued growth of the industry. Perhaps, instead of complaining about the changes, players likewise need to recognize the need for diversification on a personal level.

Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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