WSOP Champion of Champions Tournament: A Million Dollar Idea?

Written By Steve Ruddock on September 23, 2014
WSOP main event champions tournament 2015

It’s hard to believe that 11 players have been crowned World Series of Poker Main Event Champion since Chris Moneymaker’s historic win in 2003, but that’s how long it’s been since the poker world was flipped on its head.

Remarkably, none of these champions have really gone on to become poker superstars (Joe Hachem is the closest) and in most cases aren’t even marketable. But as I’ve said privately, I think when it comes to WSOP Champions the sum is far greater than parts, and a collection of WSOP Champions is definitely marketable even if Jerry Yang or Pius Heinz aren’t on their own.

Considering’s recent signing of 2012 WSOP Champion Greg Merson as an ambassador I thought it would be a good time to detail one of my ideas for a promotion that would bring online and live poker together by capitalizing on the notoriety of the title of WSOP Main Event Champion.

My million-dollar idea is to host a Champion of Champions tournament at the 2015 World Series of Poker (this idea also works for Borgata / Party / WPT, using past Borgata Poker Open champions or former WPT $25k Champions) that pits all of these champions from the Internet era against one another in a special tournament, a televised tournament that will be filled with drama far beyond the amount of money these men who have won millions are playing for.

Let me start by saying this idea probably only works if ESPN airs the tournament due to the high-drama that should be created between the former champions and the online players they are representing, but more on that in a minute.

Here’s how the tournament itself would work.

The basic setup

First off, this would be a freeroll tournament to entice each former champion to participate, and to make sure they are giving the tournament the attention it deserves. Here is how I envision the payouts (assume 12 participate even though there are 13 including Moneymaker):

  1. $100k
  2. $50k
  3. $25k
  4. $10k
  5. $5k
  6. $3k
  7. $2k
  8. $1k
  9. $1k
  10. $1k
  11. $1k
  12. $1k

That’s $200,000 total (of Caesars’ Money).

You’re probably thinking this idea is somewhat similar to the forgettable 40th anniversary tournament the WSOP hosted back in 2009 that was won by Tom McEvoy (I think the prize-pool was a car at the time) but there is more to it than just 12 former champions facing off against one another.

In addition to upping the ante in terms of the prize-pool, there is another major twist that is the driving force behind the whole promotion, as I want to tie the tournament in to the company’s online poker site in a really big way.

Tying in

In the lead up, would host 12-13 satellite tournaments where each winner receives a 50% share of one of the former champion’s winnings.

These online satellite winners would all be flown out to Vegas for the tournament, which could take place during Day 1a or Day 1b of the Main Event, and would participate in a random draw the night before to see which former champion they are paired up with – which Champion they will have 50% of.

Additionally, these qualifiers will also play in a similar tournament at the same time as the WSOP Champions with a similar prize-structure (another $200k of Caesars’ money). This insures each satellite winner at least $1,500 (in addition to whatever prize-package they are awarded to be present at the WSOP) but they could win $50,000 from their piece of a Champion, $100,000 if they win their tournament, and perhaps even more.

How much more?

You could get real creative and award both the champion and his partner an extra $50k each if they somehow both win their respective tournaments. When all is said and done, would be on the hook for $400k-$500k in prize-money, as well as the expenses needed to get these players out to Vegas.

Borgata / partpoker hosted a somewhat similar tournament in New Jersey (where players qualified online) where they offered up $1 million, so I don’t think $500k is out of line.

Now obviously the money awarded can be adjusted based on the budget Caesars has, but the potential is there for a serious convergence of online and live poker (specifically the WSOP) as well as a way to take advantage of the recent WSOP Champions.

So how do you make Greg Raymer, Joe Hachem, Jamie Gold, Jerry Yang, Peter Eastgate, Joe Cada, Jonathan Duhamel, Pius Heinz, Greg Merson, Ryan Riess, and the 2014 champion more marketable than Daniel Negreanu or Phil Hellmuth? You pool them all together and make the tournament all about amateur online players playing for life changing money.

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Steve Ruddock

Steve is a well-recognized voice in the regulated U.S. online gambling industry. He writes for a number of online and print publications including, USA Today, and others, with a focus on the legal market.

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