Is Bigger Really Better in Poker?


If you’re a regular reader of, then you know that Full Tilt Poker recently announced the formation of the Onyx Cup, a series of six live tournaments with buy-ins ranging from $100,000 to $300,000. Don’t do a double take; every single tournament in the Onyx Cup series has a six-figure buy-in. But, is bigger really better in poker? Will we actually see the world’s top players battle it out for high-stakes supremacy? Or is it all just a front?

Full Tilt Poker has scheduled Onyx Cup events in direct competition to both the PokerStars-backed European Poker Tour’s (EPT) Grand Final and the first two starting days of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event. Whoa. As one poster on TwoPlusTwo put rather bluntly, “Tilt doing this is unnecessary and stupid. Whoever came up with this should be sacked. It is always better to run your moneymaking events when you’re not competing against other operators. It’s simple business strategy.”

The rumor is that Full Tilt Poker sponsored pros won’t be able to compete in non-Onyx Cup events if one is going on simultaneously. Therefore, instead of the Onyx Cup tournaments getting the “best” players in the game, it’ll simply be a field loaded with affluent Full Tilt pros. This artificially pumps each Full Tilt player up poker’s all-time money list and amounts to nothing more than a home game with pros from the second largest online poker site.

There’s even an Onyx Cup event planned in October in Europe that could go head-to-head with WSOP Europe, which will emanate from Cannes for the first time. Another member of TwoPlusTwo lamented, “Terrible idea. While Stars is embracing the poker community and establishing tours in every part of the world that everyone can play in, FTP has come up with a way of alienating 99.99% of poker players.”

Two Onyx Cup tournaments in Asia seem to be the most controversial ones on the schedule. A member of the poker community explained the fuss: “I think they can round up a few of the businessmen from Macau to take a shot.” Is it really the industry’s “elite,” as an ad from Full Tilt Poker put it, if amateur businessmen from Macau with some money to blow decide to play against Phil Ivey and Tom Dwan?

To that end, a TwoPlusTwo poster charged, “I just really hope the attending businessmen run hotter then the sun and take down all the events so Full Tilt and their players get screwed with this marketing stunt/hustle.”

Several brand name pros weighed in on the TwoPlusTwo thread about the Onyx Cup. Luke “IWEARGGOGLES” Staudenmaier opined, “I don’t see the point. Doesn’t look interesting. Seems pretentious.” Thinking the opposite way was Andrew “godo2cu” Robl, who typed, “This is super awesome.” To play in each of the six Onyx Cup events is expected to cost around $1 million.

Dwan defended the concept on TwoPlusTwo, focusing on its appeal down the road: “Surprised by all the hate this is getting. I think it’s a pretty sweet idea with a decent trajectory (meaning it has the potential to be awesome 5 years from now).”

Moreover, there will be online qualifiers in the field, which would seem to dilute each event’s quality even further. We suppose, however, that only time will tell. Visit Full Tilt, which offers a fully downloadable Mac client, for more details about the Onyx Cup.


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