The Wrong Person Won the WSOP POY Last Year, So They Changed the Rules

Matakis beasted 2023

This summer, a banner depicting 25-year-old Minnesotan Ian Matakis will hang on a wall in the Horseshoe Grand Ballroom. The reigning World Series of Poker (WSOP) Player of the Year was relentless last year, cashing 22 times, 13 times in live tournaments and nine times on the virtual felt.

Matakis’ schedule, approach, and results mirrored previous winners who compete perennially for the accolade. He played as many events as he could. He played a variety of formats. He multi-tabled. He last minute late registered. He won a bracelet. He had six top-nine finishes, almost all of which were in big fields. In short, he beasted.

for many within poker’s cabal, he just wasn’t the right person to win

The problem, for some, was that too many of his results were in online events. Mike Matusow said that his winning was an embarrassment and when it comes to poker embarrassments, he would know. The simple truth is that, for many within poker’s cabal, he just wasn’t the right person to win. He doesn’t play the mixed games (when you think about it, that actually makes his victory more impressive). So, this year, to appease the coat-tugging elite, the WSOP has changed the rules.

WSOP announces POY rule change

The announcement was made in a press release yesterday. Under the heading “New 2024 POY rule,” it states: “Players will require a minimum of 5 results to qualify and be limited to their top 10 points results with a maximum of 1 online bracelet result.”

the nature of leaderboards is that they are a grind

Allen Kessler lauded the changes because they reward “quality over quantity,” a sentiment with which I don’t fully agree. Quality is of course important, but the nature of leaderboards is that they are a grind. The point of a leaderboard is that it recognizes a volume of results.

In reality, the changes make it harder for a big field No-Limit Hold’em/Pot-Limit Omaha grinder to ever win again, clearing the path for the big buy-in small field mixed game players. To win, the big field grinder needed to run super-hot in two or three tournaments, padding out their points tally with lots of min-cashes. Uncapped online results also gave them more shots at accumulating points in the No-Limit Hold’em and Pot-Limit Omaha variants.

Quality over quantity

A few months ago, Daniel Negreanu stated his intention to prioritize “quality over quantity,” both as a general principle and also specifically with regard to his approach to the WSOP. For 15 years, he has fired way more than anybody else at WSOP events in Las Vegas. Well over a thousand bullets have produced zero bracelets since his last win in 2008, so he has decided to take a more focused line as opposed to the scattergun method. It is certainly fortuitous timing that his decision has coincided with the timing of this WSOP rule change.

I should say that in and of themselves, I am not against the changes and they do seem generally popular. If one of Ali Imsirovic’s accounts took down WSOP POY from the comfort of his hotel room in Europe, I wouldn’t like it. I just don’t think that we would be seeing this rule change if Shaun Deeb or Negreanu won last year with the same results (the latter of whom also fired harder online than anyone).

Whether he likes the changes or not, Deeb was vocal last year, rightly criticising attempts to undermine Matakis’ achievement.

Right after winning, Matakis said that he was looking forward to defending his title in 2024. “I’m also going to learn some mixed games so I won’t just be playing No-Limit Hold’em and Pot-Limit Omaha next year,” he said. It would certainly appear that this will be necessary if he is to go back-to-back.

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