If you haven’t heard, Greg Merson (pictured), two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, was not at all happy with the World Poker Tour’s decision to run a $500 buy-in, $1 million Guarantee at Aria in Las Vegas at the same time as this year’s WSOP Main Event at the Rio.
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“Can’t breathe on PartyPoker/WPT trying to step on the toes of the WSOP Main Event. Of course you can play both, but very disrespectful IMO,” he Tweeted to his 34,000 followers.
The comparatively low buy-in WPT500 was an effort by organizers to take advantage of the many grinders hanging around town for the WSOP who could not afford the $10,000 Main Event.
But Merson was having none of it and continued to voice his displeasure on Twitter: “Just a desperate attempt by a company trying to hold onto a glimmer of the spotlight as they have continued to slide since 2006 #showers.”
At that point, Matt Savage (pictured), Executive Tour Director of the WPT and organizer of the WPT500, tried to calm down the 2012 Main Event winner, replying, “Sorry for upsetting you, no one is more supportive of the WSOP than I am and wouldn’t expect a single player to skip the ME for this.” He also added, “In addition, we moved our dates from the 1-6th out of ‘respect’ for the ‘Little One Drop,’ as a $1K buy-in is too close to $500.”
On the forums, most agreed with Savage that the $500 event was unlikely to draw any players away from the prestigious five-figure buy-in Main Event and welcomed more competition for the WSOP. “Some people prefer a tourney where they can win $200k in 2 days instead of an entry to a $10k, 2 week+ tournament,” chimed in Andy Bloch. “WPT is a competitor. Who really cares if there is a $500 at the Aria? Nice for people who fly in and want to play every day,” said Russell Thomas.
Merson was unmoved and kept up his tirade, calling the Main Event “our Super Bowl” and telling WPT execs to “save your five-day reentry money grab for another date.”
The pro’s comments might have been spurred by a new sponsorship alliance with the WSOP, as pointed out by F5 Poker. In the middle of this year’s Series, Merson was photographed wearing a WSOP.compatch after leaving Phil Ivey‘s training site. One Twitter observer was not impressed with the bracelet winner’s behavior: “Astounded @WSOPcom would still consider @GregMerson as potential ambassador after tirade against #WPT500 @ARIAPoker event! #GreatValueEvent.”
Merson’s Main Event run came to an end on Day 2AB, with the pro Tweeting, “I have been eliminated from this tournament.” That didn’t stop him from keeping up the jabs, though: “Debating going to play Day 1P of the [WPT500] tournament,” he said facetiously.
At that point, the WPT500 was already turning out to be a rousing success, smashing its guarantee with 3,599 entrants and generating a prize pool of $1.8 million. In the end, Sean Yu bested the field, defeating Kareem Marshall for a $260,000 first place prize.
On Twitter, poker industry professionals were quick to complement Savage on the tournament. “Pretty impressive vision and even better execution. Congrats,” said Parx Poker Ambassador Matt Glantz (pictured). “Congrats to @ARIAPoker @WPT for a hugely successful #WPT500,” agreed Bellagio Poker Room Manager Sean McCormack.
Merson seems to be standing by his remarks, but he made clear that the criticism wasn’t directed toward Savage himself. “@SavagePoker wanted to let you know those comments were in no way directed toward you. You are one of the best in the business and we are lucky to have you in the poker world,” he said. “They were my views stemming from frustration of poker companies not working together to schedule stuff that doesn’t hurt numbers for major events.”