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Poker news | Jun 29, 2020

Has WSOP Cheapened Gold Bracelets with Numerous Online Events?

By RTR Dennis

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The World Series of Poker had a fantastic series of 101 live tournaments planned for this summer. However, organizers have been forced to postpone the 2020 WSOP due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

They've scrambled to keep the world's longest-running poker series going in the aftermath. Their current plan is to hold 85 of the scheduled 101 bracelet events online.

This idea is the likely the best solution given the circumstances. However, not everybody is a fan of offering dozens of gold bracelets through WSOP.com. I'll discuss more on the current situation regarding this year's World Series of Poker along with if 85 online bracelet events is too many.

COVID-19 Changes Everything Regarding 2020 WSOP

The World Series of Poker has gradually expanded the number of tournaments it offers each year. However, no prior year has been anything like what’s been seen in 2020.

The coronavirus has shut down many businesses, including land-based poker rooms. Owners of poker venues must shutter their doors to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Given that the average poker room with 20-30 tables is staying closed, a mega-tournament event that operates 480 tables simultaneously could lead to disaster. WSOP officials have made a smart decision to keep most events online for now.

Current Plans for 2020 WSOP

Officials have announced that 31 online events will run from July 1 through 31 on WSOP.com. Those wishing to play in these tourneys must be within Nevada's or New Jersey's borders.

The remaining 54 online tournaments will run on GGPoker. The latter is an international site that'll allow players from all over to compete without traveling to New Jersey or Nevada. International players simply need to live in a country that offers regulated online poker to play on GGPoker.

All of these tourneys will see winners receive a gold bracelet. In theory, they hold the same prestige as the many live events that have run throughout the years.

WSOP organizers are hoping to run the remaining 16 tournaments at the Rio in the fall. Their tentative plans will depend upon if the coronavirus is largely contained by that point.

Some Pros Believe WSOP Is Diluting the Value of Bracelets

Some poker pros aren't thrilled about the World Series of Poker giving away so many bracelets through WSOP.com and GGPoker.com. They believe that the value of gold bracelets is being cheapened when handed out to numerous online winners.

Brandon Shack-Harris, who has won two bracelets in PLO events, believes that the internet-based events will hurt the WSOP brand.

“I worry I am/will find myself more apathetic to attending events if our most revered brand isn’t concerned about their own image and value,” Shack-Harris writes in a long post.

High-stakes player Melissa Burr, who hasn't won a WSOP event yet, jokes about how freely bracelets will be given out.

“I guess the bright side of these online bracelets being handed out like Halloween candy is that I’ll get to ladder up ‘good players without a bracelet’ list," she writes.

Allen 'The Chainsaw' Kessler takes issue with the fact that WSOP.com is only running one event per day throughout July.

"I appreciate the effort; but since this is being run online, It would be so easy to run 1 nolimit and 1 mixed event per day.”

Other Players Are Fine with the Online Format

Ryan Fee, co-founder of the training site Upswing Poker, contrasts Shack-Harris' opinion. He believes that online events require just as much skill as live tourneys.

“Don’t agree, no offense," Fee explains. "Online poker is every bit as legitimate discipline as live. If the series were invented today it could conceivably all be online, they should update to keep with the times (generally) and the times (specifically)."

Michael ‘Gags30’ Gagliano, who won a bracelet in 2016, agrees with Fee's viewpoint. He also notes that an internet victory is no worse than the thin tournament fields in the early 1980s.

"Everyone complaining about WSOP diluting bracelet value and that online bracelets shouldn't count," Gagliano tweets. "Yet somehow still in agreement to definitely count the bracelet from when John ‘Aces Up’ Smith beat 8 people to win a 5 card stud tourney in 1981."

No Easy Solution for This Summer's Events

Again, COVID-19 has derailed any chance of this being a typical WSOP. Officials won't try to cram 101 live events into a few weeks throughout the fall.

Running events online is an easy solution to make sure that 2020 offers a full run of tourneys without forcing players into tight quarters. Sure, an internet tournament doesn't offer the same feeling or, arguably, same prestige of a live event.

However, organizers must play the hand that they've been dealt. Running the majority of events online seems to be the best way to play this particularly bad hand.