The argument posed by some members of the community is that if they are so easy to come by, WSOP bracelets will lose their value and appeal. But is this really the case? A couple of days ago, the World Series of Poker and GGPoker announced a brand new series called WSOP Paradise, letting the poker world know that there will be another 15 bracelets up for grabs in December.
More than 140 bracelets have already been awarded this year between the live series in Las Vegas and Europe and online events. If there are additional online bracelet events in the US in the fall (like last year), and if the GGPoker app runs a bracelet-awarding series for the rest of the world market (which it is expected to run next month), we are looking at a record-breaking number of bracelets this year that could easily exceed 250.
More poker is better for the overall ecosystem; nobody denies this. However, with the recent trend of awarding a couple of hundred bracelets each year via various events, some players have been concerned about “bracelet inflation.”
The newly announced series in the Bahamas has refueled that discussion once again, leading to a question — how many bracelets are too much?
And, more importantly, is this even a real argument and something that the poker community needs to worry about?
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An Explosion of Bracelet Events Over Recent Years
2022 was a record-breaking one in terms of total bracelets won, as 214 of them were distributed to their rightful owners. This is, indeed, a shocking number when compared to just two decades ago. In 2003, there were only 36 bracelets awarded.
Several factors contributed to this explosion, but the inclusion of online events where players could win actual WSOP gold bracelets was the biggest one. It started with regulated US sites, with WSOP NJ/NV leading the charge, then adding PA and MI to the fold. Then, GGPoker joined the party, adding another few dozen bracelets available to the rest-of-the-world players.
Of course, the WSOP schedule itself has grown significantly over the years. This year, there were 95 events in Las Vegas — almost three times as many as in 2003. The number of on-the-ground WSOP tournaments has grown steadily year-over-year, and after record-breaking results in 2023, this trend will likely continue.
So, plenty of bracelets are up for grabs each year in one way or another. The argument posed by some members of the community is that if they are so easy to come by, WSOP bracelets will lose their value and appeal. But is this really the case?
Winning Bracelets in 2023 Is Hard
Poker needs recreational players, and recreational players need a reason to play. Saying that a WSOP bracelet is now worth less because the average Joe has more chance of winning one sounds a bit elitist. In the last few years, there have been quite a few cheap bracelet events, allowing almost anybody to get involved and have their shot. However, this does not mean that winning bracelets has suddenly become easy.
If we are talking about cheap WSOP events, they have massive fields consisting of thousands, even tens of thousands, of entries. Claiming a victory in one of these tournaments is much harder than in small fields that were standard in the mid and late 2000s.
Perhaps the easiest way to win a bracelet today is by playing on one of the smaller WSOP sites, i.e. the ones in Pennsylvania and Michigan. Here, you can compete for a bracelet for just a few hundred bucks and only have to outlast a few hundred players, which is much easier than outlasting massive fields in live tournaments or paying a big amount to play in one of the smaller-filed events.
An argument could be made that these bracelets have been made very accessible, but they are available only to a very small portion of the overall poker-playing pool. Perhaps residents of these two states have it “easy,” but does that really devalue the prestige of a WSOP bracelet?
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A Different Perspective
An argument could be made that having more bracelets makes them more valuable, as it gives more hope to all the game fans out there they, too, could get their hands on one. For recreational players, winning a WSOP bracelet is still the dream. Many of them are not even aware of how many bracelets are available each year. They might only know about Las Vegas and the main World Series. But even if a few hundred of these are up for grabs, it is a drop in the bucket compared to the number of players trying to win one.
Just like with other similar discussions, it is important not to lose sight of the big picture. Poker needs recreational players, and recreational players need a reason to play. Saying that a WSOP bracelet is now worth less because the average Joe has more chance of winning one sounds a bit elitist. Even more, it is the kind of statement that the poker community does not want floating out there.
Professional players get countless shots at bracelets. They have many opportunities to play for them in live and online settings. Many recreational players only get a few tries in their lifetimes, and a few of them will get a trophy they will cherish for life and boast to their friends about.
An argument could be made that having more bracelets makes them more valuable, as it gives more hope to all the game fans out there they, too, could get their hands on one. And we all know how important it is to keep that poker dream alive.
All this is to say that we probably do not need to worry about “bracelet inflation.” The WSOP app adding a few extra baubles with the Paradise event can only be a positive thing, and no winner will be disappointed because “it is so easy to win a bracelet these days.”