Value in Tournament Series' by AVP Resident Pro Benton Blakeman
The World Series of Poker is upon us once again! While some people are on bracelet hunts this summer, other players are more concerned in finding the best tournament for their money while they are visiting Las Vegas. In this article I'm going to outline the tournaments offered this summer and in my opinion I'll try to describe which ones you can find the best value in.
First lets take a look at what types of tourney series are running and then go from there. Luckily tournaments are everywhere this summer. Along with the micro buy in daily events at all the casinos, there are a plethora of tournament series' with events ranging from $100 on up to the Big One for One Drop at the WSOP boasting an unheard of $1 million buy in. Along with the World Series of Poker at the Rio the Venetian is once again hosting the DeepStack Extravaganza, Caesars Palace is hosting its Mega Stack series, the Wynn is having its Summer Classic, Binions is once again running its Binions Poker Classic, and the Golden Nugget will again host its Grand Poker Series. Lets take a more in depth look at each of these series and draw some conclusions about each.
The World Series of Poker is not only the most prestigious of the summer events, but by far the flagship event of the yearly poker calendar. Fortunes are won and lost each year, and players come out of obscurity for their chance at glory and fame. The buy ins range from $1000 to $1 million. From a structure perspective, these tournaments start off fast as they have fewer chips for the lower buy ins than the other venues series' offer. The flip side is that they boast massive prize pools for a relatively cheap buy in (in comparison to the prize money awarded) and offer the chance to get national publicity to final tablist and bracelet winners. If you are looking to make a big splash in the poker scene the WSOP is the place for you this summer. If you're looking for a deep structure with a lot of play for your money then it would be best to look elsewhere. While the tourneys themselves offer a great value with a lot of bad players and dead money who are just looking to participate in the WSOP, the fields are also littered with the best players in the world looking to win bracelets. Bottom line is if you can afford it and are looking for the big score plus some recognition and don't mind sacrificing early stage play based on structure, then head down to the Rio... I'll see you there!
In my opinion the next series of events of note would be at the Venetian DeepStack Extravaganza. This series boasts smaller buy ins for their noon events ranging from $200 up to their $5000 main event. The structure in the Venetians events are very player friendly. You start with a lot of chips, low blind levels and reasonable level lengths. The downside is that the payouts are not nearly as good as the WSOP, the coverage is minimal, and the fields are surprisingly tough. This series has historically been where the tournament grinders who can't afford a specific daily event at the WSOP congregate to play an event. I've come across many amazingly good players during the summer DeepStack series who aren't properly bankrolled for the WSOP so they spend the summer grinding the daily tournaments at the Venetian. Bottom line here is that you'll get plenty of play for your money but be prepared to face tough competition and not as much dead money as in WSOP events.
The Caesars Palace Mega Stack events would fall next in line in my opinion. They have buy ins as low as $100 (plus juice) up to the $1000 main event. I don't know how the turnouts will be this year, but historically these events are a great value. They give you a lot of chips, deep stacked play, and still benefit from foot traffic from strip passer-bys. The prize pools aren't huge but there is often a lot of dead money in these events, and the player pool of very good players is limited as most of them are playing at the Rio or at the Venetian. Bottom line here is that if you are looking for a lot of play, low buy ins, and decent prize pools generated from tourists and weak players, Caesars may be your spot this summer. In the past the tournaments have generally been run well and the poker room is nice and very spacious offering a comfortable atmosphere to play a long tournament in.
The Wynn Summer Classic will be held again this year at the Wynn casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Buy ins will range from $300 to the $2500 main event. For some reason the Wynn seems to get lost in the shuffle and tends not to draw great numbers in years past. I personally love the Wynn but I expect with the saturation of all the player pools between venues that the Wynn won't be able to draw comparable numbers to the venetian. The structures are typically good but the fields are often hit or miss when it comes to good players vs fish ratio. The bottom line here is unclear. If I were planning on playing some of these events I'd monitor the early turnouts and see what the fields look like. If they are getting a fair amount of players then there possibly is value here. If the fields are very small then I'd opt to play in a comparable buy in at another venue that boasts a larger prize pool with more fish in the field.
Binions Poker Classic is a hidden gem in years past. The cool thing about this series is that they offer many of the same games as the WSOP except it's only 10% of the buy in. Buy ins range from $100 to $1000. The ambiance of playing "where it all started" often draws many poker lovers to this series. The series offers plenty of chips, reasonable level lengths, and an overall solid structure. The player pools typically include small buy in grinders and many people who are there just to take it all in creating some hidden value in these events. The bottom line here is to pick an event on a day where you aren't playing a bigger tourney and go downtown to experience the feeling of what a WSOP event was like in the 80's and 90's. While I wouldn't necessarily advocate playing all the tourneys there as the low buy in and high juice is hard to overcome, getting there to play an event or two is not only fun but a good chance at a mid four figure score.
The Golden Nugget is once again hosting the Grand Poker Series. In the past this series has been run in the Grand Ballroom which is quiet, clean, and well staffed. Buy ins range from $125 to the $1080 Grand Finale. The cool thing about this series is that it is littered with non hold em events. Games include NLHE, PLO, HA, Limit HE, Stud, Stud 8/b, HORSE, Limit Omaha 8, PLHE, Stud mix, 8 game mix, Badugi, 2-7 TD, TD mix, Tag Team, and other variations of these games. The field sizes are usually on the smaller end generating smaller prize pools than its across the street competitor, but there is still value in these events. If you thrive on mixed games then the Nugget is the place to be this summer. A good mixed game player can find huge value in fields with players who are buying in just to learn these games on the cheap. It's also a great place to relax and play a low stress tournament if you've been grinding higher buy in Hold Em events.
So, what can we learn? Well, there's a tournament for everyone this summer. Ultimately I can't decide for everyone which tournament is the best to play. My advise is to write down or think about what your objectives are when deciding to play a tourney and use this article as a handbook to evaluate which series will most closely accomplish your main objectives. It's all outlined here for you, now you just need to decide where to go, plunk down your buy in, and get all the chips. I hope to see you at the final table!
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