Surprise announcement came late last week
News that there would be an actual live World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event this year came as shock to most of the poker world. Many had thought with spiking coronavirus cases around the globe, the summer online WSOP Series on GGPoker would be the end of the gold bracelets for 2020.
Poker players, and fans alike, now will be looking at a busy December as the WSOP Main Event Final Tables and special Heads-Up title match join an already packed schedule that includes the return of High Stakes Poker. Many poker pros were happy to see the annual event returning with 2019 WSOP Player of the Year runner-up, Shaun Deeb tweeting, “I was hoping this was still in the table when I heard the idea of it so excited” and GGPoker Ambassador Daniel Negreanu echoing that with a simple, “It’s on!”
Summer Main Event Champion upset over new tournament
Not all reactions to the hybrid online and live tournament were positive though. A number of poker players questioned what this new event means to the summer WSOP series on GGPoker and WSOP.com. One of those with a bit of a concern, is Stoyan Madanzhiev, the Bulgarian poker pro who took down $3.9 million in the “Main Event” from the summer.
Madanzhiev outlasted 5801 runners to take down the title and bracelet in the gigantic $25 million guaranteed event on GGPoker. He dropped a tongue in cheek tweet at the WSOP questioning what championship December’s winner would crown as he showed off both his gold bracelet and signed certificate.
Response to Madanzhiev’s query has been relatively muted from the WSOP but Negreanu pointed out that December’s event will be a $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Freezeout tournament – the traditional format for the WSOP Main Event – whereas the online version was only a $5,000 buy-in and allow multiple re-entries with over 400 Day 1 flights.
Most of the poker community did rally behind Madanzhiev particularly with how classy he was handling the “demotion” of his title. The Bulgarian clearly has a sense of humour tweeting out later his early-bird suggestion for the 2020 poker awards season.
“I would nominate WSOP for the best bluff of the year – for bluffing the whole world successfully that we were playing the 51st WSOP in the summer,” he said.
Travel and coronavirus concerns for many potential entrants
While the Main Event will begin online – and there are already a few players registered on WSOP.com – the final table will be televised and live. The traditional home of the WSOP, the Rio, will host the WSOP.com final table while international players from the GGPoker bracket will be heading to King’s Casino in the Czech Republic.
This though means one former WSOP bracelet winner may be out of luck at trying to snatch a second title. Josh Duhamel, the 2010 Main Event champion, hails from Canada, one of many countries whose citizens are currently barred from entering the Czech Republic, and would therefore have to take a pass on the GGPoker tournament. Unfortunately for him, since the US-Canada border has been closed since late March, he could run into issues playing on WSOP.com as well since that requires players to be geographically located in New Jersey or Nevada.
Duhamel is just one of many players need to weigh the risks of border closures – or a possible coronavirus exposure – in deciding on whether to play in the tournament. WSOP makes it clear online that being unable to travel or testing positive for Covid-19 will result in disqualification.
These rules are different from a normal WSOP tournament where the absent player would be blinded out and possibly move up the payout ladder. Combining the added element of a possible disqualification and minimum final table prize money seems like just one of many variables poker players have had to take into account in 2020. If you’re looking to take your shot at WSOP history, GGPoker will be running satellite qualifiers shortly.
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