Zimba Blog: WSOP Bracelet - What is it worth anyways?

Posted by Bill "zimba" Seibert at 02 June 2011 02:04
The latest installment of my Zimba blog discusses why many established poker pros value winning a World Series of Poker bracelet more than the accompanying cash prize. I discuss how to evaluate the worth of a World Series of Poker bracelet and why so many pros value it above all. What questions should you ask about a bracelet's value?
Zimba Blog:

Yesterday, seeing the Twitter picture that Daniel Negreanu posted of his six previous World Series of Poker bracelets got me to thinking about the value of the coveted WSOP bracelet. So many poker players dream of winning a WSOP bracelet, often elevating its worth above the prize money won. Why do they do so?

Determining the value of anything is not an easy subject. How do you attribute a monetary worth to something? One needs to ask many questions to arrive at its worth. How rare is it? How important? How special? How useful is it? Lastly, how important it is to your values as a person?

How rare is it?

Since 1976 a bracelet has been awarded to the winner of every sanctioned WSOP event. That first year eight bracelets were awarded, including to Doyle Brunson who won two that year including the main event. At the time he almost forgot to collect them as he considered them nearly worthless in comparison to the prize money.

In 1990, there were just 14 bracelet events.

By 2000, that number increased to 24.

By 2005, that number was up to 45.

In 2010, there were 57 bracelets awarded in Las Vegas and four at the World Series of Poker Europe.

For this year's WSOP, there will be 58 bracelet events, with six more at the World Series of Poker Europe.

Roughly 800 WSOP bracelets have been won over the last 35 years.

How important is it?

The World Series of Poker has been the world's top poker tournament series for decades. It is considered the most prestigious, especially the $10,000 Main Event.

For most poker pros, the WSOP bracelet symbolizes what they strive for in poker; success, victory, glory, and validation.

For experienced poker pros, the question isn't whether you have won a bracelet but how many that determines your success. We all know the top bracelet winners...

Bracelets Player
11 Phil Hellmuth
10 Johnny Chan
10 Doyle Brunson
9 Johnny Moss
8 Erik Seidel
8 Phil Ivey

It's impossible to overstate the value of a World Series of Poker gold bracelet to anyone who takes the game seriously," stated former World Series of Poker Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack "It is the equivalent of winning the Stanley Cup in hockey or the Lombardi Trophy in football.

How special is it?

The materials used in making the bracelet have mainly been gold with some other metals and jewels to accent it. Starting from the first bracelet in 1976 that cost roughly $500 and looked like gold nuggets kind of hammered flat, WSOP bracelet has seen many versions over the years. Special attention is given to the Main Event bracelet to distinguish its important, often adding many small diamonds.

In an economic sense, supply and demand are the classic intersecting economic indices that help us determine value. But there haven't been many WSOP bracelets put on the market and the few that have sold for a few thousand dollars at most. The one notable case of a Main Event winner selling their bracelet had 2008 WSOP Main Event winner Peter Eastgate donate the winning bid of $147,500 to charity after he retired briefly and saw little personal value for the bracelet.

How useful is it?

Frankly, not very. It is rare for any poker player to wear their bracelet in public, except for the occasional promotional event or special poker tournament where they want to get noticed or send an intimidating message to opponents. The bracelets typically aren't considered fashionable as an everyday jewelry item, and seen as gaudy by many. So the reality is the bracelets are either kept away for safe-keeping or occasionally on display as a sign of prior achievement.

How important it is to your values as a person?

If you talk to many established long time poker pros, winning a WSOP bracelet is prized above all else. The WSOP bracelets give each player a lasting legacy. They have climbed the heights that poker provides and claimed the prize. Whereas money won and lost can be tough to compare, bracelets won serve as a strong measuring stick. Winning multiple bracelets confirms your strength as a player, whereas winning just one bracelet ever may be diminished as you could luckbox your way to a lone victory.

Each player and the poker community as a whole values WSOP bracelets differently. Smaller buy-in events bracelets (e.g. $1k-$1,500) may be valued less than big buy in events. There is a different view of large No Limit Hold'em events versus smaller field non-NLHE events. But without a doubt, the Main Event bracelet holds the greatest prestige of all.

When Steve Lipscomb, founder of the WPT, introduced bracelets for WPT winners modeled after the success of the WSOP bracelet, he said "the championship bracelet has become synonymous with poker as a symbol of achievement and respect."

Many poker players struggle for meaning when faced solely with playing a card game that involves just winning and losing money. The value of money becomes diminished and there lacks any long lasting legacy to consider. Add in the prospect of a WSOP bracelet, with the accompanying fame and glory and suddenly the poker player is inspired. The WSOP bracelet acts as a symbolic form of validation for each poker player's hard work and struggles.

Suitably inspired? Go out and win one this summer!

First Zimba Blog: I Want That Feeling, One Time!
Second Zimba Blog: Sunday Poker Diatribe
Third Zimba Blog: Thoughts and Experiences with Cheating in Poker
Fourth Zimba Blog: The Myth of Money Won in Poker
Fifth Zimba Blog: Poker Super Powers - The Cloak of Invincibility
Sixth Zimba Blog: The Good News About The Portuguese Prodigy
Seventh Zimba Blog: Finding Your Place In Poker
Eighth Zimba Blog: Poker Empathy
Ninth Zimba Blog: Poker - A Global Game
Tenth Zimba Blog: 10 Things I Learned From My First Week Not Playing Poker
Eleventh Zimba Blog: The Blame Game
Twelfth Zimba Blog: Commentary On FSG 218 Pros List
Thirteenth Zimba Blog: Poker News or Perspective?
Fourteenth Zimba Blog: WSOP Memories Redux
Fifteenth Zimba Blog: WSOP Memories Redux, pt. 2
Sixteenth Zimba Blog: Grandfathered In
Seventeenth Zimba Blog: Full Tilt Poker and the $60 Million Cost of Business


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