I have only played about five tournaments this year, most notably the PCA Main Event, The Aussie Millions Main Event, the WPT Main Events at the Commerce Casino and Bay 101, and the EPT Monte Carlo Main Event. I didn't cash in any of those events and although there have been several other major tournaments on the east cost of the U.S. and in Europe, I chose to stay closer to home and play a lot of live cash games. So many main events these days have unlimited re-entries and I am not as excited to play in those. I'm not claiming these re-entry tournaments aren't good for tournament poker because they allow people to play at different price points, but I just don't like them from a competitive standpoint.
In a sense, re-entry tournaments aren't true poker. I think of a poker tournament as a competition where the playing field is level. However, in re-entry events, players with deeper pockets are able to fire off a bunch of bullets and have a better shot to make the final table than those who can only afford to buy in once. If I wanted an uneven playing field, I'd sit in a cash game, where some players are comfortable with the stakes and others are taking a shot. In tournaments, I always hoped that everyone would have access. Players with small bankrolls could satellite into big buy-in events and still feel like they had the same chance of winning the tournament. It's one of the things I really like about poker and what makes it every man's game. Everyone has the opportunity to play against the best players in the world and sometimes come out ahead of them.
If I decided to play a re-entry tournament and wanted to compete with everyone and try to win, I'd better have five or even ten bullets to fire. If the money didn't matter to me, I suppose I would fire off like that, but money does matter to me at this point. And even if I could do it, it also makes me think--is this the right way to play poker? What am I doing just firing off, playing a way I wouldn't normally play just to try and get a hold of a lot of chips? That's not playing poker in the most effective way; it's trying to get my name on the leader board in the most effective way.
Another thought I had about tournaments is that I don't really consider it a tournament if the field has fewer than 100 entries. I always thought of tournaments as a way to take a small amount of money and turn it into a very large amount of money, maybe 50 or 100 times your buy-in. If a tournament has fewer than 100 entries, the amount you can potentially make compared to the buy-in isn't that great. It will always be an amount you could attain in a cash game with the same skill level or run of cards. A tournament score should be something you can't accomplish in a cash game. I also believe that the overall tournament money list shouldn't include events with fewer than 100 players. It's not a selfish move-- it would actually come at the expense of my own standing on the list. I have won events that had fewer than 100 players, most notably a million-dollar, winner-take-all seven-card stud tournament where the buy-in was $125,000.
I had a good time at the EPT Monte Carlo but I'm back in Los Angeles now, playing cash games until I leave for the World Series of Poker. The WSOP is only a week away and I intend to play about 20-25 events this year. I hope to see you there.
Barry Greenstein is a member of Team PokerStars Pro