Winning the Main Event is No Big Deal
For the first time all season, I turned on the 2014 World Series of Poker broadcasts on ESPN. I probably wouldn't have watched long except for the fact that both Griffin Benger and Dan Smith were at the featured table. I covered them extensively during my time at Ivey Poker, so I watched them a bit.
Just before turning the channel, ESPN showed a video done with Tony Roberto. He explained that he thought that winning the Main Event was "no big deal." It was "just another poker tournament."
I took a note of his name and the statement for future reference but as I thought about his brief interview, I realized that there is a bit of truth to what he says.
Back in 2003, if you had asked whether winning the Main Event was a big deal, the answer would have been "absolutely." Look what happened after Moneymaker won. The excitement was fueled by his winning the Main Event, not the $100 daily at your local casino.
However, in the last few years the prospect of winning the Main Event really doesn't carry the same weight as in the past. I'll quickly explain why.
First, the money can hardly be considered "life changing" for anyone other than the rank amateur. Some will argue, but how far will $8 million go for the average pro.
Before you say "a long way," remember that between 50 and 60% of that money is gone right off the top. In the most conservative estimates, that leaves about $4 million.
Next comes paying your backers. Oh, you forgot about those guys didn't you? Remember that 10% swap here and 20% you sold there. That adds up. Let's say you somehow manage to keep half of yourself in the Main Event. You walk away with $2 million.
What are the odds that a pro will take that $2 million and just go back to his normal grind? Not hardly. Most will either move up in stakes because they can afford to or they will start playing more events. You'll also start seeing them at most of the major events, those costing between $5,000 and $10,000 a pop. How about high rollers? Are they really going to skip those?
In the era of Moneymaker, Hachem and Raymer, a player that won the Main Event could almost count on a decent sponsorship deal by a major online poker site. That obviously helps with bankroll variance. Those deals just aren't out there. Yes, you will have more "celebrity status" as a Main Event winner, but that doesn't translate into cash as it used to.
So, what are you really playing for? It isn't life-changing money. It isn't the "opportunity" that goes with the bracelet.
Maybe it's the bracelet? The Main Event bracelet is certainly unique compared to others, but you don't see Main Event champs sporting those too often. You see more come up for sale than for display.
So in the end, what are you playing for? It really boils down to pride and making history. If you win the Main Event, you are forever known as a World Champion. That is something that cannot be taken away for any reason.
There are a lot of pros that will tell you they would take the win over the money, and most would even give away the bracelet if it meant they would be world champion.
Winning the Main Event in 2014 will not be the same as it was in 2003. It will not be "as big a deal" as it was then. However, the winner will be a World Champion of Poker until the end of time.
THAT is a big deal.