The 6,495th Player

[Content Disclosure: a wee bit of math]

Monday Prologue: (An autographed copy of Check-Raising the Devil to the first reader who correctly identifies the seminal theme of this impending post. All intelligent guesses and most wild speculations should be made in the comment section below. Decision of the judges will be semi-final. Duplicate correct or partially correct answers will participate in a run-off drawing overseen by an intelligent female poker commentator, who does not show cleavage on camera. Full post with brilliant analysis and cogent quips will go up in twenty-four hours.)

(some fine guesses were submitted but none hit the mark.)

The 6,495th Player

I am going to go with some hard facts today. Hard from the perspective that they are grounded in solid, empirical mathematical theory and "hard" in that they may shake your faith in the list that reads: Eastgate, Yang, Gold, Hachem, Raymer . . . Moss, Moss.

Here is my thesis: If a 6,495th player had been allowed to register for the main event this year, the members of the November Nine who will be determined tomorrow night would be different. And the eventual WSOP champion would be someone else, not the name we will all remember following Peter Eastgate. You see with all the skill versus luck conversation that goes on around poker, the mathematical facts are that if you add one more player or allow one less entry you drastically change how the fourteen days of the tournament play out. 

This additional player need not have been the 2,810th entry on Day 1D, nope a 874th player on Day 1B would have had the same effect with a different result. We are talking "pebble in the pond" math here. One more player means their initial table plays differently, breaks differently and players move throughout the tournament differently. One more 30,000 stack of chips is distributed throughout the Day 1 and then the Day 2 and the ripples grow. 

Surely it's easy to see if say we remove Ivan Demidov from last year's tournament. Take Sammy Farha out of the Moneymaker 2003 win, or Eric Seidel that year or David Williams or Steve Dannenmann those years. But the math tells us that it need not be a final table figure who doesn't register or a big name player who was left out in this year's Day 1D shutdown. One more or one less player in such a large field must inevitably change the tournament and the longer you play it out the greater the change.

One more entrant in Day 1C would not effect Day 1A or 1B or 1D or 2A, the effects begin immediately for 1C and then for 2B but Days 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and November each have magnified implications based on the extra runner. In fact, just a bit of extrapolation would lead us to the conclusion that one more or one less player on each of the Day 1's would mean no amount of math or analysis could lead us to any conclusion except that the November Nine would be nine completely different players than what we will see tomorrow night.

So the next time you get involved in the Luck vs. Skill argument. Remember this. Once you start playing the game, It's All Skill; but leading up the the biggest tournament in the world, it's all the luck of the draw and the ineffable math of big numbers in the registration queue.