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WSOP Europe Bracelets "Not Real Bracelets" According to Savage

29 September 2010, By: compncards
Phil Laak Wins Bracelet 400x300
Phil Laak Wins Bracelet 400x300

The debate on whether a WSOP Europe bracelet is indeed a valid bracelet or not has reached a new level.  Matt Savage was recently quoted on This Week in Poker as saying the following about bracelets won outside of Vegas:

"I don't like it. I don't think it's like a real bracelet." 

And "The World Series was founded in Vegas, and that's kind of what it's about. So, I don't think that those bracelets are as valuable. Phil Laak has a bracelet now, great, but he didn't win it in Las Vegas."

When asked about whether the WPT has lost prestige due to offering lower buy-ins, Savage was quick to point out that WSOP Europe fields are capped fields and that causes the bracelets to lose value.

Ty Stewart Responds

Ty Stewart, VP with Harrahs and the WSOP, did not take these comments lying down. He stated the following in a comment posted in a story about Savage's comments on
Wicked Chops Poker:

"I wonder what he might say about his own WPT bracelets, awarded retro-actively after six seasons in a blatant attempt to borrow equity from the WSOP and confuse the marketplace…"

"Sounds like sour grapes when your “biggest event in history” ($3.4MM prize pool) is still several million in prize pool less than the WSOPE main awarding a bracelet somehow not worthy to Mr. Savage."

"You tell Phi Laak and Gus Hansen they didn’t earn real bracelets here in London. I’m sure they felt their WPT bracelets received in the mail had already capped their career accomplishments."

Another Viewpoint

BJ Nemeth made a lengthy comment about the issue in the comments of the same article.  Among his points were:

"It’s not up to Harrah’s or one or two journalists to determine whether or not one bracelet is worth another. It’s up to the entire poker community."

"Another key differentiator is the bracelet bets among players. If all bracelets are equal, it would never be an issue. But every major bracelet bet addresses the standing of a WSOP-E victory. Some bets count those bracelets, some bets don’t, and some bets only use it as a partial victory — if Ivey wins a WSOP-E bracelet, he doesn’t win his bracelet bet, but he doesn’t lose it either."

"When it comes to WSOP-E bracelets, they are treated a bit differently. Annette Obrestad is the youngest player to ever win a WSOP bracelet, but it is usually asterisked since you only need to be 18 to play in Europe. So there’s the youngest to win a bracelet in Vegas, and the youngest to win a bracelet in Europe. Also, very few people call Obrestad’s bracelet a “Main Event bracelet.” It’s more often qualified as a “WSOP Europe bracelet.”

Mission Accomplished

Ty Stewart returned with another long comment to sum up his thoughts:

"Well, considering the prize pool and the (non-paid) media coverage... I think the community as a whole has pretty well made up its mind.

"Instead of trying to stain what has been a great event in Europe (one without question good for the industry) I’d applaud Mr. Savage if he could use his role as tour director to come up with new traditions and trophies for winning WPT titles.

"We’ve felt as you have that “Nothing Else Counts” when it comes to bracelets in the minds of the players, but it may be time to take a more formal approach to defense of our intellectual property.

"I’ve had the good fortune of having several conversations with Jack Binion about the spirit of the bracelet and the vision for the series overall…Most recently when I asked him to come present Ivey’s 8th. The Binion family had a very simple and pure goal….bring together the best poker players in the world. With those who have honored us with their presence here in London, I do feel confident saying mission accomplished."

My Take

Personally, I side with those that do not view the WSOP-E bracelets in the same light as the WSOP Vegas bracelets. In all honesty, the players clearly do not view them in the same light either.

If they did, why did many choose to totally skip the WSOP Europe this year? T.J. Cloutier, Scotty Nguyen and even Doyle Brunson were all no shows. Kathy Liebert, Allen Kessler and Matt Stout all showed up half way through the event.

WSOP-E bracelets are much like the mixed bracelets at the WSOP Vegas. Many of the pros go after them because of the smaller fields. 

When the super sized NL events were too much for the pros to win regularly, they moved on to the smaller fields. By design, the WSOP-E fields will be smaller, and while the overall competition may be higher, the odds of winning in a field of 200 to 500 are much greater than winning in a field of 1,500 to 8,000.

For the bracelets in Europe to have more meaning, the players have to give them meaning. Some are doing a great job of doing such, but many by their actions are making it obvious to the poker world that they are not as important.

One final point that I should make is that even WSOP bracelets in Vegas were not viewed that highly until the last decade or so. There were years that players didn't play either due to protest or because the cash games were more important. 

Trends change, as does opinions. Given time, these bracelets may come to mean as much, but for now, people need to get over the delusion that the bracelets in Europe mean as much as the Vegas bracelets.

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  • compncards 29/09/2010 7:15pm (11 years ago)

    Technically they already are. Many of the no-name NL bracelet winners and a few no-name mixed game winners you barely hear from again unless they actually can play. And the ladies, seniors, and employees are really just a glorified bracelet. However, the WSOP has been around 40 years, and so their value is still there as a whole. I would be fine with a reduction in the number of bracelets. However, unless they surprise us with a reduced schedule for 2011, we will have more bracelets this coming year.

  • Charlie River 29/09/2010 12:10pm (11 years ago)

    I'm more inclined to think that the Vegas bracelets will become less valued too. After all there's plenty of them, and most bracelet winners you've never heard of.