At WSOP Main Event, Some Crazy Roads Led to Mecca

Posted on July 14th, 2014 by Daniel Ryder
Anyone could win a 2014 Main Event seat at this year's World Series of Poker, if they were willing to invest over a grand for a one-in-ten coin flip.

One-hand coin-flip satellites were a fast and crazy way to win a WSOP Main Event seat this year. (Image: Jonathan Boncek/WSOP)

As this year’s WSOP Main Event starts ramping down, we wanted to take a look at one of the craziest way some players grabbed a seat and a chance to possibly win $10 million. While professional poker players or those with more cash than common sense might have simply paid the $10,000 entry fee, been staked, or won a traditional online or land satellite, some less confident and well-bankrolled players found a new system that required nothing but lots of moxie and pure luck.

As it got towards the final pre-Main Event hours, players’ options became more and more limited.  And as time wound down before registration was set to close, satellites got shorter and shorter, even as players become more and more desperate to land a seat. All of this eventually headed towards one inevitable conclusion: one-hand long “tournaments” that amounted to little more than coin flips that promised a seat into the Main Event.

No Skill Required

These events weren’t the kind of skill-based contests that the WSOP has become known for. In fact, there was absolutely no skill at all, which might have been a selling point for lesser players looking to avoid serious competitors. Instead, these tournaments only required ten people, each willing to let the fates decide who earned a seat into the world’s largest poker tournament.

Here’s how it worked:  each player put up $1,030 to get a seat at the one table in the Rio offering these unique satellites. Once an event fills, the players sat down, but they didn’t receive any chips. Instead, the dealer flipped up a card for each player, with the high card getting the button. That only really determined the order in which players received their two-card hands.

Most players didn’t even bother looking. Once they got their hands, the dealer immediately ran out the community cards, at which point most of the hands got flipped. Players called out what they had: a pair, trips, perhaps a straight or flush. The winner got $10,000 in tournament lammers, enough to pay for one seat in the Main Event.

The whole process, as documented in at least one YouTube video, took less than a minute to complete. And suddenly, there was another player with a ticket to the Main Event.

Fast Action Proved Popular

While the format may be so ridiculous as to seem like a parody of the game of poker, these satellites proved surprisingly popular at this year’s WSOP. Early reports said that at least ten had run, and some number more were fit in before the registration deadline hit during Day 1C of the Main Event. Each one that ran drew an impressive rail of onlookers who just wanted to see who would have their dreams come true in an instant.

Of course, not everyone in these tournaments was looking to keep their seat. Many players traded for cash to make sure they got a piece of the eventual winner’s action, while others were content to take the lammers and sell them. Buyers were plentiful in early action, though it was more difficult to find players willing to wait for the satellites to end as the registration deadline drew close.

For some players, the action itself was the draw, even if they couldn’t influence the outcome. Even some well-known players occasionally got into the act, if only to sell the seats they won.

“The whole table got excited when we saw the flips,” said professional player Eric Mizrachi, twin brother of Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi. “Then we got serious about it and did it. We pooled our money and entered.”

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