Matt Savage Guest Blog

Does poker need a “majors” system? Isn’t it time that the major entities offering poker tournaments around the world worked together for the benefit of all?

In the decade since the poker boom, poker tournaments have grown in size, scope, and location. There are always the smaller tournament series at casinos around the world, and now there are local tours that focus on particular countries or areas. There are so many that it would be nearly impossible to schedule all of them in any particular calendar order.

I realize that the idea of all of the casinos and card rooms in the world to work together is impossible and may not even make good business sense. Each one has to market their properties and special events to the best of their abilities and for the benefit of the majority of their primary customers.

On a bigger scale, though, there are the majors. The three biggest tours/ events are the World Series of Poker, World Poker Tour, and European Poker Tour. For the most part, these three entities work around each other and do not often overlap. But sometimes they do, and that is where I believe they could work together to prevent that from happening.

When Epic Poker came on the scene in 2011, the organizers took special care to work around other major poker tournaments. By the time the third event came about in December, it was scheduled perfectly and back-to-back with the WPT event at Bellagio, giving players extra incentive to stay in Las Vegas or travel to Las Vegas for both major tournaments. And in Europe, Prague recently had three consecutive events (EPT, WPT, and GSOP) in early December and all drew huge numbers; both are ideal examples of the way tours could work together.

Maybe it’s time to start a discussion of the majors in poker. Personally, I believe the formula to determine a “major” tournament should simply be 5 x 5: five consecutive years of tournaments with a $5 million prize pool or higher. Those which currently fit those criteria are:

While the WPT World Championship and Aussie Millions both fell about $300,000 short one year they are staples in the industry and should also qualify. The Partouche Poker Tour Main Event, EPT London, and EPT San Remo are also major events now that will likely fit the criteria in a short period of time. I am open to a formula that would work and include all nine of these tournaments. I invite those reading to discuss and debate the validity of my choices.

This is business, and I do realize that the tournament series and casinos are in competition with each other to attract the most players, biggest prize pools, and most media coverage. But without the players and their satisfaction, there is no longevity in that plan.

The players are the most important factor in the success of these poker tournaments, and it behooves the organizers to work together to make the events convenient and beneficial for them. When players can easily coordinate their travel schedules, money transfers, and even familial obligations around a set schedule, everyone will win, including the majors, which will see bigger turnouts and happier crowds. The level of competition among the majors will be more complex, but it only means that they will have to find other ways to entice players to invest their money in their particular tournament. There are satellites, locations, side events, and even parties that players can consider in their decision making processes.

As the Executive Tour Director of the World Poker Tour, I am happy to do my best to work with other poker entities to initiate this discussion and planning if others are willing.

With more poker tournaments around the world each and every year, I understand that the reality of this meeting of the minds is more difficult. However, considering there are still major players in the game -WSOP, WPT, EPT and even the upstart Epic Poker League, I believe there can be some consensus. If we can work together on the schedules each year, it will benefit the players and the tournaments themselves.

This may only be a dream, but I would very much like to see it become a reality.