The next time someone tells you poker isn’t fun anymore, just point them to the Day 1 recaps of the 2016 Tag Team tournament. The new-to-the-WSOP tournament got underway on Wednesday at the 2016 World Series of Poker with little fanfare and somewhat low expectations.
That changed almost instantly, as this tournament is putting the fun back into poker.
The Tag Team event – a $1,000 buy-in tournament that allows the entry fee to be divided two, three, or even four ways – attracted 863 teams of between two and four players. All told I’d guess somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,100 players took part in the tournament.
This is a pretty impressive turnout.
More importantly, everybody seemed to be having fun in the Tag Team tournament. And people took notice, as the number of people inquiring about late registration went through the roof following all of the positive tweets about the tournament, and these positive tweets continued throughout Day 1, with players clamoring for more Tag Team events.
@WSOP what a great tournament. Such a positive buzz! Next year 4 of these? 2k/4K/8k/16k? One every week!
— Jeff Gross (@JeffGrossPoker) July 7, 2016
@WSOP The Tag Team was a great event!@! thanks for bringing fun and love to a world that have very little!!!!! I applaud you guys.
— raymond (@TheRealRayDavis) July 6, 2016
Davis didn’t stop there, as he later took his praise to Facebook, saying, “The WSOP tag team was a great event!!!! the WSOP should really have more fun events like this.”
Based on the tweets that were being fired off, some of the players were treating the Tag Team event as an all-star game…
— Jeff Gross (@JeffGrossPoker) July 6, 2016
… others saw it as a father– mother son game…
Tag Team event is amazing. Where else can I play WSOP tourney with my Mom #DreamsComeTrue
— Marc-Andre Ladouceur (@MarcAndre_FDawg) July 6, 2016
… and others just wanted to keep it all in the family, be it the Mizrachi brothers, or the Little’s, whose team included two-time WPT champion Jonathan Little along with his father and mother, or Chris Moorman and his wife Katie Lindsay.
The diversity of the teams was astounding. On one hand you had talent-laden teams like Jason Mercier, Natasha Barbour, Mustafa Kanit, and Daniel Weinman, or the equally talented squad of Daniel Negreanu, David Williams, Maria Ho, and Vanessa Selbst. And on the other hand you had some of the greatest strategic minds in poker teamed up with family and friends whose poker knowledge is, well, shall we say, limited:
— Andrew Brokos (@thinkingpoker) July 6, 2016
And of course, at the end of the day, no one wants to let their parents down, which led to top players adjusting their play:
— Jonathan Little (@JonathanLittle) July 7, 2016
Even more reasons people registered
Other teams were there playing for charity:
— Andrew Barber (@abarber1) July 6, 2016
— Jamie Gold (@RealJamieGold) July 6, 2016
And as noted above, win or lose, everyone was enjoying the event.
If you can’t beat them…
One of the more interesting teams that registered was Niall Farrell and Safia Umerova, who played heads-up for a bracelet just a week ago. To the best of my knowledge the two players didn’t know each other before their heads up battle, so to find them teaming up in this event is pretty cool.
If you can't beat them… pic.twitter.com/rB2WPa7Zjj
— Niall Farrell (@Firaldo87poker) July 6, 2016
Obligatory @Mikunbelievable story
Perhaps my favorite update of the 2016 WSOP occurred in the early stages of the tournament, when Mike Dentale’s unique brand of motivation was overheard and chronicled by a WSOP live reporter:
“Mike Dentale has just tagged out, and as his teammate Chris Limo takes over, Dentale tells him, “For every chip you lose I’ll beat you to death.”
“Limo looks at the stack Dentale left behind and jokes, “Look like you have less than 5,000 here.”
“Dentale quickly corrects him, “9,600!””
Apparently, I’m not the only person on #TeamDentale:
— Jessica Dawley (@JessicaDawley) July 6, 2016
The bottom line
The WSOP hit a home run with this event, as it seems to have been a welcomed relief, almost like a day off, for many of the players who have been grinding all summer. Yes it’s a bracelet event, and yes the winning team will walk away with a six-figure payday, but I cannot recall a single WSOP tournament, not a Seniors event and not a Ladies event, that has been this lighthearted or upbeat.
It takes something special for the poker world to “take a day off” and let loose and just play some cards, and with the Tag Team event the World Series of Poker managed to pull it off.
My only hope is the Tag Team event returns in 2017, and remains a bracelet event, because it’s cool to see poker players enjoying themselves.