Increase the prize pools at the World Series of Poker; eliminate rake on the Main Event
This petition had 139 supporters
Please eliminate the “rake” (i.e., portion withheld for expenses) on player buy-ins into the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event poker tournament; and
Please start a revenue-sharing program to supplement the prize pools for the top WSOP poker tournaments with part of the revenue generated from TV contracts, sponsorships, licensing and other sources derived from the value of the WSOP brand.
The World Series of Poker began in 1970 when Horseshoe Casino owner Benny Binion invited a handful of the best-known poker players to play a series of games in an effort to determine the best overall player. The event has grown every year. In 2015, the WSOP included:
- A series of 68 poker tournaments, culminating in the Main Event. 6,420 players, representing 80 nations, entered the 2015 Main Event, each paying $10,000 as a buy-in to the tournament. A record 103,512 entries were spread across the 68 WSOP events, resulting in over $200 million in buy-ins paid by the players.
- WSOP-Europe – a 10-tournament series; the WSOP Circuit – a 12-tournament series at each of 21 casino stops (over 250 total tournaments); WSOP.com – featuring real money online poker games in Nevada and New Jersey
- Numerous satellite tournaments and extra cash games with a rake at each WSOP destination
- TV coverage on ESPN; sponsorships and brand licensing arrangements with 888poker and numerous other businesses;
- Sales of WSOP logo merchandise, snacks and other concessions to a captive audience throughout each WSOP event.
Participation in WSOP events has grown consistently since inception. Revenue from sources other than player entry fees has also grown dramatically in recent years.
WSOP Prize Pools
Poker is the only major global sports or gaming competition where the players themselves provide the funding for tournament prize pools and operating expenses. In addition, the players – including top professionals – are responsible for their own travel and out-of-pocket expenses necessary to participate at live events.
WSOP poker tournament structures follow a model whereby each player pays a fixed buy-in amount. From that buy-in, WSOP withholds a stated portion to offset its operating expenses (known as the “rake”), with the remainder forming the tournament prize pool. For example:
- At WSOP’s Main Event, the buy-in is $10,000. WSOP withholds 4.2% for “entry fees” and 1.8% for tournament dealers and staff. The remaining 94% of the buy-ins forms the prize pool.
- At a smaller WSOP event, such as a no limit hold’em tournament with a $1,000 buy-in, WSOP withholds 7% for entry fees and 3% for tournament dealers and staff.
- At a WSOP Circuit stop, there are tournaments with buy-ins as low as $365. For these events, WSOP withholds $65 (18.3%) for its operating expenses
Other Sports and Games
Most other major sports and game competitions use a revenue sharing model, where a portion of the organizer’s revenue is used to compensate the participants, either in the form of player salaries (as with team sports) or via prize pools (for individualized competitions). For example:
- Dota 2 Championships – The 2015 tournament prize pool of $18 million was created by the contribution of 25% of revenues from in-game purchases of its Compendium upgrade by Valve Corporation, organizers of this largest eSports competition and developers of the Dota 2 game.
- National Football League (NFL) – players receive 47% of football-related revenues
- National Basketball Association (NBA) – players receive 50% of basketball-related revenues
- National Hockey League (NHL) – players receive 50% of hockey-related revenues
- Major League Baseball (MLB) – players receive 43% of total league revenues
- Professional Golf Association (PGA) - Approximately 60% of each tournament’s purse comes from the PGA’s TV rights deals with multiple networks. The remaining 40% comes from each tournament’s title sponsor.
Poker Has Arrived as a Major Sport
When the WSOP began, it was a promotional ploy by the owner of one casino to get a few high-rollers to visit and stay awhile. Now the WSOP is the largest, most prestigious poker event in the world, with its Main Event winner being widely acknowledged as poker’s annual world champion.
Participation comes from all over the globe. Over 100 countries were represented in 2015. The WSOP generates revenue from TV contracts, sponsorships, licensing, merchandise and concession sales and a variety of other sources.
It is time for the prize pool composition to evolve, first by eliminating the rake on the top tournaments and second by supplementing the prize pool following a revenue sharing model that is common in other major international sports and gaming competitions. In doing so, the WSOP will continue to attract more participants, grow its appeal to TV and other media audiences, and increase the overall value of the WSOP brand.
For more commentary, see KKing David's poker blog.
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