Top 10 prop bets to make on this year's WSOP
By Aaron Todd
But, my friends, I'm afraid I must be the bearer of bad news. Poker is dying — or more accurately, prop betting on poker is dying. Sure, the Colossus will likely once again break records, the Main Event will almost certainly eclipse the 6,000 player mark for the 11th year in a row, and the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino will be hopping nearly 24 hours a day for six straight weeks starting on May 31. But if I can't find an online sportsbook to offer a prop bet on whether Chris Ferguson or Howard Lederer will cash in the Main Event, then I say poker is dead.
In all seriousness, the approaching WSOP is bittersweet for me this year, as for the first time since 2009, I won't be in Las Vegas to cover the festivities. Casino City's Gary Trask will be covering the event and our editorial staff will still be keeping tabs on the action from our offices just outside of Boston, but I personally am going to miss all but the first couple of days, as my last day at Casino City is fast approaching. I recently accepted a job directing the communications and marketing efforts for the athletic department at my alma mater, and while I'm thrilled at the opportunity to return to my hometown and take on new challenges, I'd be lying if I didn't admit I'm sad about the timing. Covering the WSOP has always been a highlight of my year. (For the last four years, I've spent the week before my trip out to Las Vegas listening to SrslySirius' "I CAN'T WAIT TO GO!" on repeat.) I'm just glad I got to cross "Play in a WSOP event" off my bucket list before leaving.
Since I can't seem to find any WSOP-related prop bets offered by online sportsbooks, I once again have to make up bets of my own. And just like two years ago, the person who does the best betting on my props will get a prize package. I'm not promising much — honestly, I have a lot of stuff lying around the office that I'm looking to unload. Hopefully the winner will get a kick out of what I pick out for them.
Here are the rules, ladies and gentlemen! You have a $5,000 bankroll and must make at least three bets, each a minimum of $500 and a maximum of $2,500. The person with the greatest ROI will be the winner. Entries will be accepted via Twitter until 5 p.m. PT on June 1, and you can enter simply by filling out the form at the bottom of this column.
So without further ado, here are 10 great prop bets for the 2016 WSOP.
NOTE: One entry per person. Any user who submits more than one entry will only have their first entry count towards the competition.
10. Will Howard Lederer play in any WSOP bracelet events this summer?
If you follow poker Twitter, you likely know that Lederer made a long-overdue apology for his role in the collapse of Full Tilt Poker last week. Many said it was too little, too late. Others said it sounded heartfelt. Most people seemed to say "meh, whatever."
Lederer has been showing up at high-stakes cash games in Las Vegas for a while now, so it stands to reason that he'd like to start playing in the WSOP again. This seems like an odds-on favorite to happen.
While Lederer has started to emerge from the shadows, Chris Ferguson has shown no indication that he'd like to return to tournament poker.
Personally, I think this is a shame. I know Full Tilt was a mess, but from what I understand, that really lies on the shoulders of Lederer and Ray Bitar. I loved Ferguson's persona and what it did for the game. I mean, forget everything you know about Chris Ferguson and then look at him in the early 2000s at the poker table. Have you ever seen anyone so intimidating?
But when he started to talk, he made no illusions about who he really was. He's basically a gigantic math geek who would cowboy up at the poker table. He was always true to himself and friendly to everyone at the table . . . until you got in a hand with him; then he was stoic and silent. If I played a hand against him, I'm 100% positive I would give away everything in my mannerisms, because I'd be terrified. It was brilliant.
Despite my selfish desire to see Ferguson back in the game, this seems like a long shot.
8. Over/under Colossus II registrations
Last year, the Colossus drew 22,374 entries. This year, the tournament will expand to three starting days with six opening flights, up from four flights over two days. The registration process will likely be much smoother, and with the winner guaranteed at least $1 million, the hype is growing once again. Capacity, according to WSOP officials, could be as high as 10,000 entries each day.
I doubt this year's event will get that close to the 30,000-entry mark, but I do expect it to smash last year's record, especially with two more starting flights. So I'm going to set the over/under right between last year's entry number and the cap.
7. Will there be multiple double-bracelet winners at the 2016 WSOP?
Back when online sportsbooks offered WSOP prop bets, the easiest money you could make all year was Bovada Sportsbook's "Will there be a multiple bracelet winner?" prop. It seemed like every year this bet opened with odds of -120 on Yes. They started to get smart and open at -140, but the Yes bet was still a no-brainer. In each of the last 16 years, there has been at least one multiple bracelet winner, and with the number of events expanding each year, it just doesn't make sense to offer this bet, even with 10/1 odds on No.
Instead, I'm going to post odds on whether or not there will be more than one double-bracelet winner this year. In 11 of the last 16 years, there have been more than one, and with up to 72 bracelets up for grabs (69 events, and up to four players can earn a bracelet in the team event), I'm betting there will be more than one this year.
6. Over/under number of tweets for WSOP Twitter account
The most prolific tweeter in poker, @Kevmath, will be manning the WSOP's official Twitter account during this year's WSOP. The @WSOP Twitter account has averaged about 45 tweets a week over the life of its account, dating back to January 2009. That, however, is a very basic analysis — there was far less activity in early years, and it definitely sees an uptick in activity during the WSOP.
Kevmath (aka Kevin Mathers), on the other hand, has averaged 203 tweets a week over the life of his account, and again, there's generally an uptick during the WSOP.
I'm basically taking a wild guess here, but I'm setting the line at 2,400, or about 400 a week. For the record, the number will be measured starting at 12:01 a.m. PT on June 1 and ending three hours after the determination of the November Nine, or 12:00 a.m. PT on July 18, whichever comes second.
Phil Hellmuth continues to be on a tear, as he picked up the $10,000 Razz title last year to bring his total haul to 14 bracelets — four clear of his nearest competitors Phil Ivey, Johnny Chan and Doyle Brunson. Jonathan Duhamel picked up a bracelet in October in a €25,600 WSOP Europe High Roller. And last year's champ, Joe McKeehen, hasn't slowed down, winning the $25,000 WPT Bay 101 Shooting Star High Roller and making six final tables since his November Nine win, so the odds seem to be in favor of a former Main Event champion winning another bracelet this year.
I also offered this as a prop in 2014 and listed a slew of former Main Event champs who might win an event as justification for my favoring Yes at -150 odds. One player I didn't mention when I gave those odds? Joe Cada, who won the $10,000 No Limit Hold'em Six Handed event.
So, with all those factors taken into consideration, I'm going to make the odds even longer on No this year.
4. Number of players to win a bracelet in the tag team event
For the first time in its 47-year history, the WSOP will offer a "Tag Team" event this year. Teams of 2-4 players will be able to tag in and out as they please (think WrestleMania) to sit at the tables and play. The only stipulation is that each player must play at least one round of blinds.
If I weren't leaving Casino City, this is the event I would have wanted to cover. It's a great chance for a group of friends to take a shot at a WSOP bracelet at a very low price point (as low as $250 each!) while still having a great experience in Las Vegas.
The only question here is whether to set the line at 2.5 or 3.5, and I'm going to set it at 2.5 because I think the ideal "team" is going to consist of two players, though I could certainly be wrong. That said, I think 70-80% of the teams will consist of three or more players, so I'm going to tilt the odds in favor of the over.
3. Number of Main Event entries
Too many people look at the Main Event as a bellwether of the future of the poker industry. The truth of the matter is that, while the Main Event is still the biggest poker tournament of the year, its importance is declining a bit. Obviously it's still far and away the one tournament players would pick if told they could win one event each year, but with the added value of winning the event diminishing (see online poker rooms dropping sponsorship agreements with former Main Event winners and the lack of any deals at all for some of the most recent winners), it's just not as important as it used to be.
That said, I do expect numbers to go up a bit from last year's 6,420 entries, so I'm setting the line at 6,499.5.
2. Main Event winner's home country
Americans have won three of the last four Main Events, with McKeehen returning America to the winner's circle after Sweden's Martin Jacobson won in 2014. Americans are the odds-on favorites to win, but Europeans have also done well in recent years, with Jacobson, Pius Heinz (Germany, 2011) and Peter Eastgate (Denmark, 2008) also winning titles in the last nine years. And you can't leave out Canada, with lots of very good, aggressive players like Jonathan Duhamel, who won the title in 2010.
For the record, this bet will be determined by the flag that appears next to the winner's name in the final results on WSOP.com.
1. WSOP Player of the Year
This year's WSOP Player of the Year will likely be someone that I haven't included on this list. But that doesn't mean it isn't fun to guess! And if you're the only person that picks the winner from this list, you're probably going to win the whole contest, because it's almost impossible to predict who will win this award.