Let me expand on that ridiculously short post I made:
I won't try to define what a "sport" is here, because that argument could go on forever, but let's just assume that poker is a sport and move from there.
The reason that "amateur" is such a fuzzy concept in poker is that poker, unlike most other sports, is a game where everyone wins or loses money. I can play golf for 30 years and not win a single dime off of it. I can play floor hockey with coworkers, no money involved. For all traditional sports, it's specifically making money off of it that defines a professional; someone who earns a living off of the sport. But not so with poker; there are hundreds of thousands of winners in poker, and they all make money. The majority, however, don't make enough money off of poker that they could realistically live off of it, so perhaps we could draw the line for a professional as someone who lives off of his poker earnings alone. That seems decently fair to me.
Looking over the money I win, it's plausible that I could live off of poker if I played 8 hours a day. I'd probably have enough to pay rent and groceries and maybe also enough to save up for the inevitable rainy days. I'm sure there are many like me who could
, in theory, live off of it, but they simply make more money off of their day jobs than they would playing poker and/or they don't really want that kind of life. But I could. I could play 2000 hands of $2/$4 limit hold 'em a day, and with a sustained win-rate of 2BB/100, that would net me $160 a day on average, or $3200 a month. Less than I make at my dayjob, but fully live-able. But a guy grinding out $2/$4 tables usually doesn't fit into people's conception of "a pro." But, by most reasonable definitions, he would be.
Okay, so with that in mind, let's look at the perceived problem with the WSOP main event:
With 8,000 people entering the tournament, the likelyhood of any individual player to win is small. For the very experienced players, it's maybe 800-to-1, for the really bad players, it may be 80,000-to-1. But with the sheer number of "amateurs", whatever that means, entering the tournament, they collectively have a big chance of one of them winning, due to sheer numbers. And this is the perceived problem. But why is it a problem?
I think the problem lies in the prestige that this event brings with it. It is, or at the very least was, the "creme de la creme" of poker tournaments, The Big One, the one everyone wants to win to prove themselves. With huge number of people joining up, some of the luster seems to fade since it's simply so likely that someone we've never heard of takes home first prize. But is this really a problem? Does it matter? I don't think it does. There are plenty of tournaments for "the pros", and here I mean the established tournament players, Dan Harrington, Phil Ivey, etc., to win that they will still be recognized for their skill. So if we need heroes, we will still know where to find them. And if some lucky schmuck we've never heard of goes and wins $10,000,000 at the WSOP main event, congratulations!
I think the perceived problems boil down to how we want the "world champion" to be someone we can truly believe to be one of the most skilled players around, the 99th percentile, but the Main Event doesn't really work that way anymore. Perhaps we, the poker community, need to re-evaluate how we identify our champions and live with the fact that the WSOP ME nowadays is simply the biggest tournament with the biggest prize, and not a trophy in absolute skill.
PS. According to Greg Raymer, Chris Moneymaker played up to $40/$80 limit games live before he won the WSOP, for what it's worth. I think a lot of people have an idea of him being a $.25/$.50 PokerStars
donk who miraculously kept going all-in with 7-2o and against all the odds
picking up the title. I don't think that's really fair.