The period of adjustment from a live World Series of Poker, which may or may not happen this year, to one played entirely online is a prolonged one. That said, the first week of action in the World Series of Poker Online event managed to draw in some big names and provide some typically exciting finishes. Even with some concerns being raised on various venues, the first week of high-stakes online poker seems to have gone off without a hitch.
Dokler also gave us a taste of one of the unintended delights of this event: inventive screen names. His is Art.Vandelay, which must have made George Costanza proud somewhere in the world. (No word on whether Dokler has ever secretly wanted to be an architect like the Costanza character in Seinfeld.)
The events that took place this past week were open to any player who were in the states of Nevada or New Jersey at the time. Still to come later this month are events that will be held at the GG Poker website and aimed at international players.
All of these online events are in lieu of the actual World Series of Poker, which is still in postponement status. These website-based tournaments have been well-populated so far, which is good news for the players looking for sizable purses to offset the buy-ins.
That’s not to say that there weren’t some grumblings about the new way of doing things until things can get back to the status quo. First of all, an article on Forbes went in-depth with concerns about players trying to cheat during the online tournaments. The article talked about everything from the habit of “ghosting,” where someone other than the named player would be playing the hands, to worries about software programs being used.
The gist of the article ultimately turned out to be that it would be extremely difficult for someone to win a lot of money in an WSOP event via cheating. But it’s still more of a concern in online tournaments than it would be in live events. Luckily, the top gambling sites in charge of the biggest events, like WSOP.com and GG Poker for the World Series of Poker online tournaments, offer pretty strong security protocols.
Another worrisome complaint was from those bemoaning the number of re-buys available in these online events. While these re-buys are welcome because of how they drive up the purse, they also make it more likely that a bracelet could be captured by somebody getting a third or fourth chance.
For many professional poker players, winning a bracelet from playing in the World Series of Poker represents a pinnacle of the pastime. Anything that in any way lessens that experience can be problematic when thinking of poker in terms of its history. In other words, does a bracelet won with a rebuy deserve the same sort of accolades as one won without it?
Ultimately, the answer is up for debate between the purists and the new breed. But rebuys aside, any worries that these online winners might thrive against lesser competition should be doused somewhat by the caliber of some of the big names involved.
Daniel Negreanu, who has been active in promoting the online event through his side bets, was already in the mix in a few of the tourneys held so far. And before hitting a run of bad luck, Phil Hellmuth was actually the chip leader relatively late in the game of the event eventually won by Dokler.
Any of the perceived negatives about this new way of conducting the World Series of Poker has to be balanced against some of the cool stories coming out of the first week of play. For instance, Matt Bode won the high-speed “turbo” event held on July 4th and he did so from the comfort of his father’s basement. If that doesn’t scream internet poker, we don’t know what does.
And don’t forget about the victory that Louis Lynch scored in Day 2 of the online events. Lynch defeated Ryan Ko when it came down to a head-to-head to decide first and second place.
It remains to be seen whether this incarnation of the World Series of Poker is able to stand up to the incarnation of the tournament that so many have known and loved for so long. But maybe Lynch’s victory was a symbolic one for the new normal in the biggest poker tournament of all.
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
While online poker tournaments continued to heat up, the live poker games held in casinos throughout the country continued to sputter due to the pandemic. The biggest news came from California and Florida. Live poker action had returned in these states but is now back on the shelf.
Meanwhile, governmental leadership in New Jersey has decided that smoking and drinking has to be banned from their casinos for the time being. That action forced the Borgata, one of the most popular casinos in the Atlantic City area, to postpone its opening. Their owners decided that, without the amenities they could usually offer in place, it was best to sit out and wait for better days.
Pennsylvania’s governor has also decided that masks must be worn in all public spaces. That should also put a kibosh on any smoking in those casinos, which might adversely affect attendance for poker games.
The path towards normalcy in the casino world always seemed a bit fraught with peril. But we are now finding out just how difficult this is going to be.
What that means is that the poker world will likely be in stop-and-start mode for some time. Players must have patience. That goes for those in places where play is available albeit with many restrictions, as well as for those whose favorite tables remain closed.