UPDATE: This article regards a questionable rule in the 2015 World Series of Poker official rules as originally written. Since publication of this article, the WSOP has edited the rules. The new rule reads that the bounty chips are redeemable (for $500, presumably) at Players Services. The event is now a standard Bounty tournament, in other words. According to tournament director Jack Effel, the change was made in response to player feedback.

People on Twitter have started noticing something unusual and a little bit sneaky in the official rules for the 2015 World Series of Poker. It seems that Event #62, $1,500 Bounty No-Limit Hold’em is not quite what it claims to be.

In a standard bounty tournament, a certain portion of each player’s buy-in is removed from the general prize pool and instead used as a bounty for that player. Whoever eliminates that player receives that money, usually in the form of a special token redeemable at the cage for cash.

Nothing on the official structure sheet for Event #62 suggests any different; all it says there is: “Players will receive $500 from the prize pool for every player that they eliminate.”

If you read the official series rules, however, you find Rule 38, regarding satellites:

“WSOP Buy-In Chips are no cash value chips won by a participant in a Satellite or in Event #62, $1,500 Bounty No-Limit Hold’em Tournament conducted at the Casino, which may only be applied toward Tournament buy-ins equal to or greater than $500 commencing on May 27, 2015 and concluding on July 14, 2015. All WSOP Buy-In Chips will expire on July 14, 2015 and will not be accepted at any future WSOP event or any other event at the Casino or any of its affiliates.”

In other words, the “bounties” awarded in this event are not cash awards at all, but rather $500 tournament vouchers, which can only be used during this year’s WSOP. These make up over a third of the prize pool (after tournament fees), so although the main prize pool is still being paid out in cash, the overall effect is that anyone entering the bounty event is also committing themselves to enter a subsequent event, or else forfeit some of their equity.

Suspect timing

If this wasn’t dubious enough on its own, look at the timing. The rule specifies that the Buy-In Chips are only applicable to this year’s series, and to tournaments with an entry fee of at least $500. The Daily Deep Stacks running alongside the WSOP are all lower buy-in than this, so “at least $500” essentially means bracelet events.

Event #62 starts up on July 1, very near the end of the series. Furthermore, it’s a three-day event, wrapping up on July 3. There are only three events starting on or after that date: the Lucky 7s, the Dealer’s Choice Championship, and of course the Main Event.

The first of those is a $777 buy-in, meaning that it’s only a viable use for a single Buy-In Chip. Theoretically, someone winning exactly two or three bounties and busting on Day 1 or early Day 2 could use them for Event #65 – $1500 Stud Hi/Lo, but aside from that, anyone winning two or more bounties will be forced to use them to enter either the Dealer’s Choice or the Main Event, both $10,000 affairs.

You’d think that more warning would be in order for a $1500 event which more or less compels a large percentage of its entrants to follow up with a $10,000 investment in order to make use of their prizes. It seems clear to me, anyway, that Event #62 is in fact a cleverly-disguised satellite: an attempt by the WSOP to boost registration for the Main Event.

The possibility of reselling

Correction: This article originally stated that reselling of Buy-In Chips was not explicitly against the rules. Although there is no such provision in the official WSOP Rules #38, it is likely against Aria rules. The article has been updated to reflect the dubious legality of doing so.

Although selling Buy-In Chips (aka lammers) isn’t technically allowed by most casinos, it’s not usually a hard thing to do discreetly. A player who finds themselves stuck with a few of them after Event #62 and doesn’t have either the time or the finances to use them will likely be able to find a buyer.

However, given the limited time window, the narrow range of events they can be used for, and – I would expect – the number of people who will be trying to sell them, it’s likely that the going rate ends up being considerably less than the $500 face value. Whatever the loss incurred that way, it effectively ends up acting as extra rake on players who enter the tournament, if they aren’t planning on using their Chips themselves or have a friend lined up to buy them at par.

This is already a heavily-raked event. Bounty tournaments sometimes base their tournament fees only on the regular prize pool, not counting the bounties. Doing things that way might have made the Buy-in-Chip bounties more palatable, but unfortunately that is not the case. In Event #62, 10% of the total money collected is being taken for tournament fees and tournament staff, the same as for the other $1500 events, so taking an additional loss to sell one’s bounties for cash on top of that would be unbearable.

In other words, the long and short of all this is: don’t play Event #62 if you weren’t already planning on playing the Main Event.

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