Editorial: An “Old School” Poker Tournament Series? Why Not?
31 October 2019
PokerBrave (1135 articles)

Poker is a game that has been around for at least the past century or so (OK, you can go back to the 17th century and find a form in the game as nas from India, but that’s another discussion for another time). Over those years, there’s been moves to change the game, to make it more exciting for the players. We’ve moved from draw games (Five Card Draw, in the beginning) to stud games (Seven Card Stud) to flop games (Texas and Omaha Hold’em). We’ve even created tournament poker, to allow for players to show their skills in a large setting rather than an individual cash game.

But how far can you go?

Daniel Negreanu has been thinking about this, apparently quite a bit. He has looked at the innovations that have come up and decided that, instead of looking forward to the “next big thing,” perhaps we should take it “back to the future,” so to speak, rather than make further innovations. What he’s looking to do is go back to the “old school” poker tournament schedule…and why not? It may be just the innovation that some people are looking for.

It All Started with a Tweet(s)…

While he’s been looking to take down his third World Series of Poker Player of the Year title, Negreanu has been pondering if a poker tournament series that embraces the elements from tournaments past would be worth doing. He Tweeted:

Negreanu didn’t stop there, he continued Tweeting:

Even to the point of putting buy-ins on the tournaments that would make up his “Negreanu Poker Tour” events:

Negreanu has been getting plenty of support from those in the poker world for this endeavor. Although some wanted the late registration put back in the mix (including Ben Lamb, Jordan Cristos and Brett Richey, to name a few), Negreanu held to the “old school” idea of the event schedule. “I want to avoid the typical tournament that is (supposed to be) 8-9 handed and starts 3-4 handed at all tables. It’s silly,” Negreanu noted. For the most part, however, everyone agreed that it would be a well-received development in tournament poker.

Sometimes Innovation Isn’t Necessary

Recent developments in the tournament poker world haven’t necessarily been for the players’ advantage. The advent of the “reentry” tournament has drastically shifted the balance towards deep-pocketed (or deeply backed) tournament professionals rather than those amateurs that are limited to taking one shot at tournaments. These “reentry” tournaments – basically rebuy tournaments that allow players to keep firing until their play gets them deep into tournaments (think of Mattias Eibinger’s recent five buy-ins in the €100,000 Diamond High Roller at the World Series of Poker Europe) rather than having only one shot and making appropriate decisions – have become something that is driving away newcomers to the game; if a player can only take one shot at an event but they have to beat some players multiple times to get anywhere, then is said player even going to bother with playing the tournament? Bringing back the “freezeout” nature of poker is a throwback that would be welcomed by many.

The other callbacks that Negreanu is discussing also would be great. By having guarantees on the tournaments, players would know immediately the minimum amount that they would be playing for (and not in a Venetian sense of the word). Having all formats of poker involved in the series would be a distinct break from the past decade-plus predominance of Texas Hold’em. And reducing the schedule to the point where there is a maximum of two events going on – one tournament finishing while the other is starting – is something that many players have talked about (at some points during the WSOP, as many as five or six tournaments could be in action – it isn’t helpful for the game when peoples attention is torn too many directions).

This isn’t saying that some of the innovations in tournament poker today aren’t useful. Negreanu has said that the shot clock – the 30-second clock that forces players to make their moves in an appropriate amount of time rather than taking 10 minutes to fold 7-3 off suit – would be a part of the proceedings. He didn’t sound off on whether the big blind ante would be used or not, but it’s hard to see that it wouldn’t be…the change has quickened the game as only one person has to pony up the ante for the table rather than depend on the dealer to make sure that everyone has put the appropriate amount in.

Will It Happen?

It’s unknown if the discussions by Negreanu on Twitter have gone any further than that…discussion. Negreanu has stated that the tournament would be a perfect fit for Las Vegas, but he didn’t say (and none of the “powers that be” in the casino industry responded to “Kid Poker”) whether any casinos have reached out about hosting such a series. Considering that the tournament poker schedule is already chock-full of options for players to pick from, finding the space for a two- or three-week series that doesn’t have the backing of the World Poker Tour, the World Series of Poker or another prominent tournament circuit will be difficult. Hopefully Negreanu is serious about this because, if there’s anyone who could bring something back like Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker or maybe even the spirit of Benny Binion’s original WSOP, it would be him.