The World Series of Poker Europe – Is It Worthwhile?

At this time, Day Two of the Championship Event of the World Series of Poker’s first venture outside of the United States (London, England to be precise) is taking place. For the first time in the nearly four decades long history of the WSOP, bracelets are being awarded outside the confines of Las Vegas casinos. This, however, has led many to ask several questions…is the World Series of Poker Europe a “true” part of World Series lore? Should they be awarding bracelets? And finally, will the inaugural WSOP-E be well received?

This is indeed a welcome change from the last few decades as this will encourage more players to compete at international level as bracelets are quite unheard of in world series, though it is quite popular in QQ online and has become a norm there.

First off, the three events that make up the WSOP-E have been a success if you strictly look at the numbers. For the first event, a 2500 British pounds H.O.R.S.E. tournament, 105 runners stepped to the line and it was what could be easily called one of the toughest fields you could expect to see. Among those 105 players, a total of 98 World Series bracelets were represented and Jennifer Harman nearly became the first winner of a WSOP-E bracelet, finishing second to Germany’s Thomas Bihl. The second event focused on one of the most popular forms of poker in Europe, Pot Limit Omaha, and for a 5000 pound expenditure (roughly $10000 U. S.), a surprising 165 players came to the felt and handed out a bracelet to Dario Alioto (who also final tabled during the 2007 WSOP in PLO 8/b). Finally, the 10000 BP (almost $20000 American) Championship Event has pulled in 362 players from around the world. From simple numbers, you can see the unqualified success that the World Series-Europe has been.

While it has been successful there, some problems have become apparent. In England (as well as the rest of Europe), there are not the humongous casinos and card rooms that are prevalent here in the United States. The Championship Event, for example, was split among three different casinos in the London area. This caused problems for many players as, having set up in hotels closest to the main hosting casino (the Empire), some found out they had to play in one of the other two venues away from that spot. This was something that Harrah’s could have potentially avoided by visiting the venues, but it is a nitpicky point. Overall, it appears the events have been running smoothly and players are generally happy.

Should they be awarding bracelets at the World Series of Poker Europe? This was a question I debated for some time before deciding that they should. I have a feeling that the “powers that be” at Harrah’s, whom you figure have been considering this since they acquired the rights to the World Series, are envisioning something along these lines in other areas. If we have the World Series of Poker-Europe, how soon will we have a particular stop in Asia, South America, Africa or Australia? Although for the World Series of Poker Circuit events in the U. S. award a very nice championship ring, these different continental events should award the bracelet for recognition of a champion. Winning one of these tournaments, after all, is the equivalent of being a continental champion and should be recognized accordingly with the WSOP bracelet.

The question of whether they should be recognized along with career bracelets won in Las Vegas is a more thorny question. If Jennifer Harman had taken the WSOP-E mixed games event, would she be recognized as a three time bracelet winner? If Phil Hellmuth takes the Championship Event (at this time, he is in the Top Ten), will his total go to twelve bracelets won? These are questions of semantics, but I believe they should count, with the appropriate designations. A player who takes one of the WSOP-E events has to defeat some of the finest players in the game today and, as such, should be afforded the rewards of the accomplishment.

Is having World Series of Poker events outside the U. S. viable? Why not? With the success of the first visit to Europe and my view that we could soon see other continents contest for such a crown, it is simply demonstrating that poker is something most of us already knew…that poker is a worldwide game, that there is no difference between a straight on the felt in Las Vegas than one in London or somewhere else. What better way to demonstrate this than having continental championships, much like what go on in international basketball or soccer (sorry, international world…that should be “football” for you!). If you are the “World Series” of whatever, shouldn’t you have championships around the world to allow everyone to compete for the prize? Yes, the World Series of Poker-Europe is viable and, very soon, we will see the same contests ranging around the world.

For all the hand wringing over the WSOP-E, it was much ado about nothing. It has come off with few problems and has been well received, drawing the best from America as well as Europe and other segments of the world. It should be recognized as a viable tournament and the bracelets won are taken with the same skills you would use in poker anywhere in the world. With hope, we will see the WSOP-E flourish alongside the true “World Championship” of the Las Vegas World Series of Poker and add more continental stops in upcoming years.