Late last week, the dates for the 2016 World Series of Poker were announced. The tournament series runs from May 31 to July 18 and the details of several events were unveiled, including the second running of the Colossus. Dubbed Colossus II, the $565 buy-in tournament guarantees $7 million (up from $5 million in 2015) and offers a $1 million first place prize, up from $638,000 in 2015, which was tantamount to 5.7% of the prize pool. It starts June 2.
Upping the Ante in the Colossus
Caesars Vice President of Corporate Communications Seth Palansky told PocketFives that upping the ante in the Colossus was done because it was so successful the first time around: “[WSOP Executive Director]Ty Stewart always feels that if you do something successful, you need to outdo yourself the next year to give people a reason to come back, to get people into the fold that didn’t attend the first version.”
Entrants in the 2015 Colossus were somewhat irate that the $565 buy-in tournament only had a first place prize of $638,000given that over 22,000 entries were recorded. The reason: the WSOP payout structure was based on the so-called Golden Ratio, but a WSOP tournament had never had that monstrous of a field before.
Palansky said the data WSOP has shows that players don’t prefer top-heavy prize pools. However, “We decided there’s never been a $500 buy-in poker tournament with $1 million up top, so that’s enticing. We didn’t want to have a $1 million first place prize. We thought it would be competing with the Millionaire Maker, but we brought out so many new players to play the WSOP for the first time in 2015 because of the Colossus.”
At the same time, Palansky called the $7 million prize pool guarantee “safe,” adding that guarantees are “sometimes scary” to offer as an operator of an event. However, players on the fence about whether to enter will know there’s $1 million up top for the winner as well as a larger guaranteed prize pool than Colossus I. Those two factors will hopefully encourage them to enter.
Fixing Colossus’ Payout Issues
Payouts in the Colossus were also an issue in 2015. Lines snaked around the Rio’s convention center, which Palansky said was partly due to the WSOP’s computer program freezing after a data center handled more information than it ever had before. The solution in 2016 is to implement the same structure as WSOP Europe’s Oktoberfest where each starting fight plays into the money.
Palansky explained, “You’re going to get people to the payout window every starting day. On Day 2 and beyond, you’ll have a lot of people left to pay, but it will be more staggered. It worked well at Oktoberfest. We’ll have to put out some documentation to explain it more so players understand the structure and process.”
Big One for One Drop?
Not mentioned in the initial press release announcing the 2016 WSOP details was whether the Big One for One Drop would return in 2016. Antonio Esfandiari won it in 2012and Daniel Colman took it down two years ago. “The intent is to have it every other year,” Palansky said. “We need to find an appropriate time for ESPN if they’re going to film it. We need to do more player outreach and make sure schedules work.”
WSOP November Nine
The November Nine will return as well, although with 2016 being a Presidential election year, the finale of the 2016 WSOP Main Event may occur in October instead of November. WSOP officials were pleased with the three-night, near-live conclusion that aired on ESPN and ESPN2 this year.
Palansky relayed, “We definitely like the fact that the three-night format kept us in primetime and seemed to work well. It meant shorter playing days for the players and more people watching.” In 2012, the November Nine was pushed up to October to accommodate the last Presidential election.
Each year, WSOP officials meet with a Player’s Advisory Council and seek out opinions of others within the industry. One complaint that came up in 2015 was how long several tournaments took to get into the money. Possible solutions include starting events at 11:00am and 3:00pm instead of Noon and 4:00pm, respectively, and playing 40-minute levels on Day 1 and longer levels on other days.
Palansky explained the dilemma WSOP officials face: “As we have given more starting chips and put more levels into these structures, these events are going longer than ever before. We had 41 events go 33 levels or more in 2015. That’s going on to four playing days. What our analysis shows is that people have jobs and commitments. They don’t have as much time. Speeding up play on Day 1 is ideal, in some sense, for an amateur, but others will tell you the shorter time benefits amateur players anyway.”
What Percent of the Main Event Field to Pay Out?
Also up for debate is how much of the field to pay in the Main Event. In 2015, 15% of the Main Event entrants were paid, but participation didn’t increase. There were 6,420 entrants in 2015, which made it the eighth largest Main Event field ever, but it was still down from the 6,683 entrants in 2014. WSOP officials originally announced a $10 million first place prize in 2015, but replaced it with paying 1,000 places.
Finally, following what seemed like excessive tanking down the stretch in the WSOP Main Event this year, some members of the poker community have called for a shot clock. However, don’t expect the WSOP to implement it to more than one or two events, if at all.
“We think it was an issue that related to the Main Event, the two hour levels, the bright lights, and the million-dollar payouts,” Palansky asserted. “The only slow-play we see in general is near the money bubble. Otherwise, it hasn’t been a factor in other events. We can’t overreact to two nights of poker on the biggest stage, although none of us loves how that looks.”
WSOP officials have tested the concept of a shot clock, but the results showed that if a 30-second shot clock were implemented, many decisions would take the full 30 seconds. Palansky noted that players do not want to give off timing tells and act after three seconds or ten seconds, for example, and so instead will wait out the entire shot clock. “The idea of a shot clock sounds good for the purpose of speeding up the game, but we haven’t been able to determine if it will actually speed up play,” he said.