Michael Craig, author of The Professor, the Banker and the Suicide King, a book about the series of games between “the corporation” (a collection of the top pro poker players) and Andy Beal, is fast becoming an indispensible voice in the poker world. On his blog, he posts this article about some of the problems going on at the World Series of Poker and how incompetently it is being run by Harrah’s. It makes me sad because in 2001 and 2002, a lot of us waged a public battle with Becky Binion Behnen, some from close up and some with only our words, over many of the same issues and we hoped that Harrah’s would fix them after they bought Binion’s and the WSOP. Those hopes are now pretty much officially dashed.
Yes, the WSOP has continued to grow exponentially, and the general public has no idea what’s going on behind the scenes. But ask anyone who matters in the poker world and they will tell you that Harrah’s is bleeding it dry, trying to wring every last drop they can out of this cash cow before it dries up. Like Becky, they’re screwing the dealers and the floor staff and chased away all the competent tournament directors:
Harrah’s has squeezed the dealers and floor personnel so badly that there are a lot of incompetent, inexperienced people making important decisions…Harrah’s has fired the most senior, most experienced tournament hands in their stable, either because they don’t want to pay a star tournament director like Savage or Lambert or because they want to go profiteering and can’t handle a tournament director telling them they can’t mess with the integrity of the tournament.
Perhaps most importantly, they have totally ignored the need for safeguards on the number of chips in circulation, clearly compromising the integrity of the tournament. When I heard a few days ago that the reported chip counts add up to more than should on the tables, I dismissed that claim – mostly because the counts reported by Card Player are always inaccurate. But now that we’re down to the final table with only 9 players with chips, it’s pretty easy to do an actual count. Guess what? It’s way off:
Their controls to keep players from buying in and substituting chips into later events are almost non-existent, as are their controls concerning the players’ chips at the end of each night. There are 2.41 million chips at the final table above the number you would expect from 8,773 players starting with 10,000 apiece.
2.41 million in chips isn’t chump change. There are only a few ways this can happen, and all of them are inexcusable and preventable. On top of that, they’ve used cheap cards, and continued to use them, even after the players have found one deck after another to be marked. With the astonishing amount of money that Harrah’s is generating with this tournament, there is no excuse for that. They should have top of the line Kem cards on all the tables at all times.
Unfortunately, none of this is likely to change. Why? Because the public has no awareness of it and therefore won’t pressure them to change it. And because the players will continue to show up. The newbies will keep showing up because they get in cheap through satellites and they’ve got stars in their eyes about becoming a star. And the pros will keep showing up because the newbies keep showing up, which means it’s an all you can eat seafood buffet (all fish and a few hungry sharks). The only way Harrah’s would have any reason to change it is if the players stopped tolerating it, and that’s just not likely to happen.
Update: Oops. The author’s name is MIchael Craig, not William Craig. I was thinking of the Christian philosopher William Lane Craig rather than the poker writer. It has been corrected.