$10m Top Prize for WSOP Main Event Gets Lukewarm Support From Barry Shulman

Written by:
Thomas Somach
Published on:
$10m Top Prize for WSOP Main Event Gets Lukewarm Support From Barry Shulman

LAS VEGAS -- Controversies at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) are like pimples on a teenager's face--they are always there, and there are a lot of them.

Past WSOP controversies have included such things as Full Tilt Poker flack John Juanda getting threatened on the tournament floor, Phil Ivey's boycott, the banning of online poker room logos, Jamie Gold openly cheating to win a title, men entering women-only poker tournaments, Darvin Moon's rap sheet and child molester Thomas "Amarillo Slim" Preston getting a standing ovation.

This year's WSOP controversy involves the Main Event's new payout schedule (prize breakdown), which has been restructured.

Under the new schedule, the winner of the 2014 Main Event will be awarded a $10 million cash payout, regardless of how many people enter the Main Event.

Critics of the move say it's a bad move, because if not enough people enter, there won't be enough in entry fees to cover the top prize without lessening some of the Main Event runnerup cash prizes.

In a recent interview with the poker website PokerStrategy.com, WSOP spokesman Seth Palansky explained the controversy: "A $10 million first place prize with the way we naturally do the payouts would require about 9,800 players. This is not a realistic goal. But it’s compelling for the WSOP to say turn $10,000 into $10 million, and we're celebrating 10 years at the Rio with a marketing campaign to win $10 million. This is a one-year thing tied to 10 years at the Rio, it is not a new format for the Main Event going forward. This was born from that, 10 years at the Rio and our concern over declining Main Event numbers."

Palansky continued: "The percentages of decline over the last three years are similar to what the decline in the other payouts will be this year. In other words, if we did nothing, the event may have declined another 3 to 5% this year. Thus, the likely 3% of prize money we are shifting to first place simply takes money we believe wouldn’t have been there if we didn’t announce the $10 million first place prize. I don’t want to say the estimated 2.3% payout shift to first place is insignificant, but you can’t argue it is glaring trouble for anyone either. Our goal is to grow attendance and grow the prize pool."

One top professional poker player, however, has mixed feelings about the new Main Event payout schedule.

In an exclusive interview with Gambling911.com this morning, poker pro Barry Shulman, who's won two WSOP bracelets and finished in the money in 15 WSOP events, said the $10 million guarantee for Main Event first-prize money is a "good thing" but he also said he fears it may lead to "deal-making."

"Regarding the guarantee, although it really doesn’t impact which pros will play, it will increase national press and therefore draw more attention to poker and drive even more players," Shulman said. "If the prize pool grows 5%, then I suppose that is a good thing.

"It will definitely encourage more satellites," he continued. "It will make a moderately softer field. If the payout drops 8% or so per place paid then that won’t be felt much, especially by amateurs. But it may encourage deal-making at the top.

"Flatter payouts generally are better as it keeps the money in the community, or in the case of online rooms, keeps players around longer, which gives them more pleasure and the house more rake. The Main Event may just be that special event that should be the exception."

Shulman, 68, who is also the owner and publisher of popular poker magazine Card Player, also told Gambling911.com that he plans to play in this year's Main Event, which is a no-limit Texas hold 'em tournament, as well as several other WSOP events, including ones involving no-limit Texas hold 'em, hi-lo, stud and Omaha.

"As my schedule permits," he said. "But no draw poker."

Several years ago, Shulman made poker history when he and his wife, Allyn, both won bracelets at the same WSOP.

Could they do it again?

It's possible, Shulman says.

"She will also be playing in this year's Main Event and several other tournaments," he revealed.

By Tom Somach

Gambling911.com Staff Writer


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