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Best of Aaron Todd
Here's a list of the top-10 WSOP prop bets I would make, if betting on sports online were legal where I live.
10. Will a player win two or more bracelets?
While the odds on taking yes here aren't great (-350, so you have to lay $350 to win $100), I'll say yes. There has been a double-bracelet winner at the World Series of Poker in each series for more than 10 years. This year, I'm predicting that fields will be somewhat smaller, and with 61 events (up from 57 last year), I think this is pretty close to a sure thing. Yes, the price on it not happening (+225) is more attractive, but I think the real odds against a double-winner is more like 10/1, so I'll bet that there is a double-bracelet winner again this year.
9. Esfandiari vs. Laak
Bodog/Bovada is fond of setting up heads-up matches asking which player will win more cash at the series. And is there a duo in poker more likely to bet on this themselves than Antonio Esfandiari and Phil Laak? You get both players at -120, and I'm going to take Esfandiari. Sure, Laak had a better series than Esfandiari last year (three cashes with one final table for nearly $200,000, compared to one cash for $58K for Esfandiari), but the career numbers favor Esfandiari. Prior to last year's run, Laak hadn't cashed in a WSOP event in Las Vegas since 2008, while Esfandiari has consistently cashed year after year. I also think Esfandiari has a better chance at making a deep run in the Main Event, which can mean a six- or seven-figure score.
8. Lederer vs. Ferguson
I think it's pretty unlikely that either Howard Lederer or Chris Ferguson will show up to play a single event at the WSOP. Neither of them played any events last year in the wake of Black Friday and Full Tilt Poker's inability to pay players their balances. And I don't think anything will change in that regard in the next seven weeks. That said, I'm going to take Ferguson here. Let's be clear, I expect this bet to be a push, as I don't think we'll see either one of them at the Rio this year, and therefore neither one will cash in any events. But while both of them are reviled by the poker community, Lederer is the one that the public has focused most of their rage on. I'd say there's a 1-in-10,000 chance that Lederer shows his face at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, and a 1-in-500 chance that Ferguson does, so I'll take Ferguson at -120.
7. Event 6 vs. Event 28 prize pool
This bet asks you to pick which one of these two new events will generate a bigger prize pool, the $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em Mixed Max tournament (Event 6), which will feature a different number of players at the table on each day, or the $2,500 No-Limit Hold'em Four Handed event (Event 28). I think both will be popular events, and given the buy-in amounts, it's very likely that the four-handed tournament will draw more players. But I don't think it will draw more than twice as many, which is what it would need to do in order to surpass the mixed-max event's prize pool. Looking at last year's registration numbers, the $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em event drew 865 players for a $4,065,000 prize pool, while the $2,500 No-Limit Hold'em Six Handed tournament drew 1,378 for $3,134,950. I think the turnout for these new events will be similar, so I'll take Event 6 at -160.
6. Which player will win the most money at the WSOP?
This bet includes four options (Jason Mercier at +175, Bertrand "ElkY" Grospellier at +225, David "Doc" Sands at +250 and Shawn Buchanan at +300). All four players had great years last year at the WSOP, with Mercier winning a bracelet and making three final tables, ElkY winning a bracelet and making two final tables, Sands making one final table and a deep run in the Main Event, while Buchanan finished as the runner-up in the $10,000 H.O.R.S.E. event before going on to make two final tables at WSOP Europe.
I'm going to take Buchanan here as the best value. He's not as well known as Mercier and ElkY, but he showed just how well he can play a number of games in the H.O.R.S.E. event, and I think he'll make at least two final tables this year and might even nail down his first WSOP bracelet.
5. How many players in the Main Event?
Bodog/Bovada has set the line on the number of players in the 2012 WSOP Main Event at 6864.5. Last year, there were 6865, meaning that if you bet the over, you think there will be at least as many people in the event this year compared to last year, and if you bet the under, you think there will be fewer people this year. I hate to be a pessimist, but I'm going to pick the under. On American soil, I think that there's been a drop in the number of professional poker players, beyond those that have moved overseas to continue playing. While the game has continued to grow internationally, I think the debt crisis and rising unemployment in Europe, as well as hefty ticket prices for international flights and an increased availability of quality poker tournaments overseas available to international players, will mean fewer people overall will play in the Main Event this year. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm picking the under at -120.
4. Which $1,500 event will draw a bigger field?
One of the new events this year is a $1,500 Ante Only No-Limit Hold'em event. In an ante-only event, there are no blinds. It's a unique event that the WSOP tested at the Caesars Palace Circuit stop in January. Bodog/Bovada is pitting the field in this event against the field in the $1,500 H.O.R.S.E. event.
The $350 ante-only event at Caesars Palace drew 203 players, or about half of the average field in the other $350 No-Limit Hold'em events held during the Caesars Palace Circuit stop. Last year's $1,500 H.O.R.S.E. event drew an impressive 963 players, but the seven $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em events held last year averaged more than 2,800 players. If the same formula holds true, you can expect about 1,400 players in the ante-only event, and I don't see any way the H.O.R.S.E. event gets to that many players. I'll take the ante-only event at -120.
3. Will a male player cash in the Ladies Event?
Last year, a male player not only cashed, but one (Jonathan Epstein) made the final table. Epstein wasn't the only male player to play in the event, either, and three made it deep into Day 1. WSOP officials said during a conference call that their legal team advised them that they would be best off not barring men from entering the tournament, so they said they would encourage men not to register for it, but wouldn't stop a man who was determined to play. I'm surprised that the odds are set so high against it happening, so I'm going to say yes, a man will cash in the Ladies Event at +300.
2. When will The Big One for One Drop end?
I love poker tournament structure math, so this is one of my favorite bets on the board. WSOP officials have capped the field at 48 players, so if the tournament sells out, there will be 144 million chips in play. No-Limit Hold'em tournaments generally end when there are somewhere between 50 and 100 big blinds left in play. Once again, assuming a sold-out field, at level 25, there will be 90 big blinds in play. When level 26 begins, there will be 72 big blinds in play, and there will be 60 big blinds in play at level 27, while there will only be 48 big blinds in play at level 28. I don't see the tournament getting to level 28, but with so much money on the line, it's hard to see it ending during level 25. I'm going to take levels 26 and 27 at +300.
1. How many players will register for the $10K Heads-up Event?*
Last year, the Heads-up No-Limit Hold'em Championship featured a $25,000 buy-in and drew 128 players. This year, the buy-in for the tournament dropped to $10,000, and that may increase the overall field size. In order to run a bracket/heads-up event, you need a number equal to 2x. So you can have 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, etc. The WSOP has put a max of 512 on the tournament, meaning that the tournament will most likely have 128, 256 or 512 people.
Bodog/Bovada has set the over/under for the tournament at 256.5, so in order to hit the over, the tournament will need 512 entries. I just don't think that's going to happen. Last year, the $10,000 No-Limit Hold'em Six Handed event drew 474 people, and I don't think everyone who played the six-handed event would play the heads-up event. In fact, the only event with a buy-in of $10,000 or more that drew more than 500 players last year was the Main Event. I'm going to take the under at -110. Frankly, I can't believe this bet is even available, at least not at the current odds being offered.
*NOTE: After seeing that the $3,000 Heads-up No-Limit Hold'em/Pot-Limit Omaha reached 317 players, I tweeted WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel to see if they planned on running a perfect bracket (i.e., no byes) in the $10,000 Heads-up No-Limit Hold'em event. Turns out there will most likely be byes. I still think they're going to have a hard time reaching 256, but buyer beware!