What is a WSOP Bracelet Actually Worth?

3 years ago
What is The Actual Worth of The WSOP Bracelet?
07 Jul

(Photo: Stevesoffa.com)

There are 69 of them up for grabs this summer, and it has been said that poker pros come in two types – those with a gold bracelet and those without! But what are they actually worth? Let’s take a detailed look at the most coveted prizes in the poker world…

Diamonds and Rubies and Sapphires and…

Jostens of Minneapolis have created the bracelets for the last two years and the Main Event jewellery features 40 uniquely-cast parts crafted with 427 grams of white and yellow gold.

The entire bracelet features 356 white diamonds totaling 25.5 carats, 626 black diamonds totaling 14.8 carats, and 194 rubies at an outstanding 3.8 carats and the basic value is considered to be around $500,000. But of course, such historical items can be worth so much more (or so much less as we’ll encounter later!) on the open market.

As Jostens describe their unique design - one which has changed from the early days of the bracelets as we will see:

Each link of the bracelet mimics a playing card, perfectly doubled down on both sides of the bracelet. This one-of-a kind design ups the ante by linking a diamond and ruby encrusted band to a show-stopping centerpiece featuring the acronym “WSOP” written in rubies that are set against a backdrop of rows of perfectly placed white diamonds.”

They continue:

The centerpiece is punctuated on all sides by a row of black diamonds. Opening like a locket, the stunning centerpiece bracelet top reveals a hidden compartment designed to house the two winning cards from the player’s final tournament, preserving the winning hand for all time.”

Joe McKeehen’s bracelet holds an Ace and a Ten, the hand with which he defeated Joshua Beckley to take down last year’s title and $7,683,346.

The bracelets celebrate a 45-year old competitive tradition”, said Miran Armutlu, VP of Jewelry”, adding, “Jostens is honored to be selected as the official bracelet manufacturer of the WSOP. In close collaboration with the WSOP we created a brilliant bracelet with an unparalleled custom design that’s as bold and dominating as the players themselves while honoring the symbolic significance of the Main Event bracelet.”

This has not always been the case, the earliest bracelets –not by Jostens –being somewhat unattractive “like gold nuggets kind of hammered flat” and even unwanted by many of the players!

You can keep your jewellery, just give me the money

Doyle Brunson rather famously didn’t even bother picking up two of his ten bracelets, and others were awarded based on a ‘player’s choice’ rather than for events actually won. Naturally the WSOP see things rather differently, ten years ago the Commissioner for the WSOP Jeffrey Pollack stating:

It's impossible to overstate the value of a World Series of Poker gold bracelet to anyone who takes the game seriously - it is the equivalent of winning the Stanley Cup in hockey or the Lombardi Trophy in football.”

For the Main Event bracelet, this is doubtless true, and in events such as the $10K or $50K H.O.R.S.E and many others, winning the bracelet is a massive achievement among peers. There are, of course, a lot of bracelets being handed out these days – 69 of them this year alone – so perhaps not everyone sees them as hugely merited across the board.

Some, however, value them so highly that they never see the light of day! Johnny Chan has 10 of them –placing him 3rd in the all-time bracelet list - and keeps them safely locked up in a vault, claiming that they are “worth millions”.

Others, however, are less tied to their hard-earned jewellery and have gone on to sell them either through financial need or for charitable reasons.

Hard to come by, easy to let go of?

Peter Eastgate, who took down the Main Event in 2008 and about whom I wrote in my Lost Champions of the WSOP article back in April, decided to auction his bracelet off for charity in 2010.

He listed it on eBay with a starting bid of $16,000, interest in securing the piece of poker memorabilia sparking 116 bids, including several from Antanas ‘Tony G’ Guoga who claimed, perhaps tongue in cheek, though it’s always hard to know with Tony G, that:

The plan is to get it adapted into a special collar for my trusted German shepherd, Zasko. The ultimate dog bling, as my gladiator and protector, he deserves to be kitted out in such style.”

He was unlucky though, and the winning bid of $147,500 was placed by a bidder known only at the time as “7***l” –who later turned out to be Glasgow-based businessman William Haughey.

Haughey, it transpired when he went public two years later, didn’t want to keep it for himself – explaining later that:

I've never had it on and I never have my picture taken with it. It has been in a safe, and what I would like to do is maybe protect the integrity and the worthiness of the bracelet. I would like to discuss with the World Series of Poker if they would take the bracelet as a gift from me and keep it in the Hall of Fame.

Haughey had some ideas including a tournament which might “raise like $400,000 or $500,000” for a charity.

His reasons? Well, as he explained in his 2012 Pokernews interview:

Unfortunately, in the last year or so, the poker reputation has been tarnished. I think the people in the poker community should step up to the plate and try and do something to rectify that so that people out there don't just think it's a big community of gamblers and that we can also do something for less fortunate people.”

Others who have parted ways with their WSOP jewellery include Jamie Gold, the 2006 Main Event winner and a controversial player ever-since.

In August 2013, Jamie Gold’s WSOP bracelet was up for auction - described on the The Heritage Auctions site as having "259 stones including over seven carats of diamonds and 120 grams of white and yellow gold. Rubies are inset to create the red of the heart and diamond suits, while a sapphire represents the spade and three black diamonds the clubs."

Not a Jostens creation as we had last year and this, but rather a Frederick Goldman, Inc. design.

The reason why Gold decided to sell has never been made explicitly clear, with most people believing it was because he was broke, while some more charitable souls were inclined to believe he was doing it for one of the charities he supports. It finally went for $65,725, likely a lot less than it was worth.

Gold himself explained to CardPlayer magazine:

It’s a legal issue that I can’t talk about, but what I can say is that I am not selling it," he said. "I would never do that. It’s really unfortunate what has been happening. It is out of my hands, but it’s not something I wish was happening. I’m not purposefully selling - I’m not involved in the auction and will not be making $1 if it does end up being sold. I got myself into an odd situation,” stated Gold, adding that “The laws do not exist for cash games and taxes, but somehow they believe if you play at a high enough level, you should be taxed on your winnings and not on your losses. And not allowed to take your losses against it.”

When poker writer Chad Holloway wrote about WSOP bracelwts for Predictem.com, he stated that:

What a player chooses to do with his or her bracelet is totally up to them. As you can see, WSOP bracelets are not always shown the appreciation you might expect. All I know for sure is that if I were ever to win a WSOP bracelet, I would cherish it my entire life.”

Holloway related that:

Phil Hellmuth has given many of his eleven bracelets to various family members” and “Robert Varkonyi, the 2002 Main Event champ, took some extra links from his bracelet (it was silver that year) and had them made into a pair of earrings for his wife. All of these decisions are demonstrative of the player’s appreciation for the bracelet and are really understandable, if not touching.”

However, he added that:

On the other end of the spectrum, there are those players who don’t value their bracelet in the quite the same way. Hamid Datshmalchi, winner of three WSOP bracelets and the 1992 World Champion, once had a disagreement with Binion’s and claimed his bracelet wasn’t worth the $5,000 he was told."

“They say it’s worth $5,000” Dastmalchi said during a poker game, “but I’d take $1,500 for it.” Ted Forrest, who was sitting at the table, replied "Sold" and tossed him three $500 chips. Although it’s not an official bracelet win for Forrest, he still picked up a nice piece of poker memorabilia.”

Jeff Shulman, who final-tabled the 2009 Main Event. apparently claimed that if he were to win the Main Event bracelet he “would toss it in the trash.” Shulan explained that this was a response to his “disappointment in how the World Series is run. It used to be run by people who loved and really cared about poker, and had the players in mind, first and foremost."

It transpired that Shulman didn’t win the bracelet, finishing 5th and picking up almost $2million but no jewellery, and he has never come close again so we’ll never know if he was seriously going to bin the bracelet or not.

Another famous pro to see their bracelet up for grabs on the internet is T.J. Cloutier, who, back in 2010, was the subject of several articles, one entitled: ‘What is the price of a WSOP bracelet?’

The answer, apparently, for Cloutier’s 2005 bracelet from the $5K NLHE even,t was less than his buy-in for the event! $4,006 to be exact. Depreciation or desperation?

Cloutier’s reasons for the sale were unknown, but according to HighStakesNews, “people are saying that he has lost more money playing craps than he ever made from playing poker". For example, a fellow poker pro, Terrance Chan, wrote in his blog in 2006, that:

T.J. has lost more money at craps than possibly any human being alive. Obviously he’s just a poor craps player and one should bet against him, not with him.”

So we have a beautiful piece of jewellery, which in the case of the Main Event version is worth about half a million dollars nowadays, and which many players would chop their right hand off just to be able to wear.

Some covet the diamond and ruby encrusted gold bands, others lock them away for posterity and safe-keeping, others still donate them to charity and the most desperate flog them off to escape the debts and despair which gambling and poker occassionally bring along with them.

The question now is, what would YOU do with your bracelet? Answers below please!

Articles 1859

Andrew from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professional journalist, international-titled chess master, and avid poker player.Read more


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