Is it worth having a losing WSOP if you win a bracelet?

With the WSOP right around the corner, Barry Carter asks if you would prefer the bracelet or the money at the end of the series?

// is a stock question I tend to ask tournament pros in interviews around this time of the year, which never ceases to amaze me when they answer. That question is “would you take winning a bracelet if it meant you lost money overall during that WSOP?”

What amazes me is how many pros say yes. I haven’t kept count, but most of the big tournament players I have interviewed or spoke to would agree that they would be happier with a WSOP that cost them money, but awarded them a bracelet, than a profitable series that didn’t include a first place.

It amazes me simply because in all other areas of this game, profit is king. This is a game where profit is a way of keeping score. By definition a bracelet winning series that ended in a loss means you are losing the game.

The long term EV of a bracelet?

// was once a time when I think ending the series as a bracelet winner was still the best financial outcome, and that was the early days of the poker boom.

Sponsorships were easy to come by and being able to claim that you were part of the poker elite with a gold band around your wrist to prove it could easily parlay into an endorsement deal that was worth more than the tournament buy-ins that led to it.

However, those days are long gone. Sponsorships are few and far between, meanwhile bracelets are becoming rarer with every series. Nobody is getting sponsored on the merit of one bracelet win, nor are most multiple bracelet winners for that matter. So rationalising that a bracelet win will prove a fruitful investment in itself would only really make sense if you were perhaps selling a product like a book off the back of it.

An experience like no other

// why is that bracelet win worth it, even during a losing series? First and foremost, I have to think peer pressure is a crucial part of it. Most high profile bracelet winners I speak to tend to express their relief, rather than their joy, at winning a bracelet.

The fact that they have become so numerous in the last decade probably draws more attention to the elite players who haven’t won one yet, rather than the many who already have. A bracelet win is more a monkey off their back than anything else. 

However, I think GeorgeDanzer summed it up best when I interviewed him at the end of the WSOP last year, he told me:

“Yes I would happily be down a little money if I come out with a bracelet next year. It just feels so good to win a tournament when you get beat up and feel down every tournament you bust. Also, I value experiences and memories much more than money.”

Money comes and goes, but nobody can take those memories away from you. Winning a bracelet must be one of the most incredible feelings in poker.

Who here hasn’t dreamed about being the one having their picture taken at the end of the tournament? Or imagined what it would be like to have a rail of your friends cheering your name as you win? How many of us can’t say they have rehearsed their winner’s interview in their head?

And that is perhaps the best reason of all. The WSOP is a special event, and maybe it’s fine to discard the usual common sense notions about profit being the only metric that matters for just a few months a year. 

Which would you prefer? A winning series with no bracelet, or a losing series but a WSOP tournament win? Let me know why in the comments box. 

// Carter is the editor of and the co-author of The Mental Game of Poker 1 & 2. He has been working in the poker industry for nine years and in 2013 won the APAT Award for Best Poker Media Provider. You can learn more about his work here

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Comments (7)

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  • Alficor1


    It really depends how much would I be down. Say you´re someone like Mercier, you ship a 7-2 bracelet for 100k, but bust the One drop and everything else. That would be a no for me. But being breakeven of slightly down (few k) would probably be ok with me.
  • Swish29


    Would it be worth losing money to have something worthless? Huh... no.
  • acerbikas


    Personally I follow the line profit is king, but when you have a streak of 2-3rd place finishes it begins to annoy you that you dont cross a tourney win off your list. Hence, I'd suspect I'd still value a bracelet win a lot, but I would definitely not trade a winning series for it.
  • unshpe


    What a question. If you are the type who plays for "glory" then yes. If you are a normal person, no.
  • JimC6


    It depends on the person, if it was me and the losses were huge but I got a bracelet it would not be worth it.

    But for say Hellmuth, of course it would be.
  • MJPerry


    Depends totally on the money involved. If I were playing $100k worth of tournaments (and this was well within my bankroll to do so), then sure I'd take a $5k loss to be a bracelet-winner.

    If I were playing $20k worth of tournaments and it was a bit of a big deal for me, then I'd much rather have a couple of deep runs and come back five or six figures richer.
  • Pyronetic5


    Like everyone has said already, it depends on the person and what the money means to them.
    If you have invest a lot of your bankroll then yeah moneys matter especially if you're a new regular.
    If you're a long standing professional then the money means less and the status of a bracelet winner means more.