The 2019 World Series of Poker got off to a roaring start. Several tournaments were up in year-over-year attendance, the Big 50 set a record as the largest live poker tournament ever held, and the first of the new Deepstack tournaments drew a wall-bursting 6,150 entries.
“It’s been an exceptional start to the WSOP in terms of attendance,” Seth Palansky, WSOP Vice President of Corporate Communications, told PocketFives. “The confluence of our 50th edition, the overhaul in structures to add more starting chips, and slower-structured events are certainly key factors. Along with a few scheduling changes like moving back to a Friday-Saturday multi-flight start, while offering a Sunday morning event for those not fortunate enough to make the Day 2 of the big weekend event, are all likely contributors to the growth.”
Among the events that have drawn booming numbers are all of the new “Deepstack” tournaments, the two $1,000 Double Stack events that have taken place, the $400 Colossus, and most recently the $888 Crazy Eights.
Of course, we can’t forget about the $500 Big 50, the tournament that drew a whopping 28,371 entries and a set a new record for a live poker tournament. Although not apples to apples, that attendance absolutely crushed last year’s turnout for the $565 Colossus that drew 13,070 entries in a similar spot on the schedule. Plenty players from the Big 50 fired in Event #9: $600 Deeptack, too, causing that tournament to absolutely shatter its $500 guarantee with a $3.228 million prize pool, and then Event #22: $1,000 Double Stack No-Limit Hold’em drew a field of 3,253 entries.
This year’s $400 Colossus drew 13,109 entries and bested last year’s $565 Colossus that drew 13,070 entries. Yes, the buy-in was less, but the event in 2019 had four fewer starting flights with just two compared to 2018’s six.
Also in the mix in the early part of the 2019 WSOP schedule was the $1,500 Millionaire Maker. Guess what? That tournament had a record turnout as well, with 8,809 entries.
“It’s fair to say the turnouts have exceeded our expectations,” Palansky said. “We were tracking well in pre-registration and more people have found our online registration system and are taking advantage of that, but it is very hard to predict who is going to show up and when they are going to show up. We are seeing a nice uptick in participation from China. We brought in a record number of unique bodies (17,970) to the Big 50, and the goal was get an influx of new players into our event early and hope that would continue to drive the series forward, this year and in the future.”
Palansky emphasized how having a rake-free first entry on the Big 50 helped its turnout, plus an added volume of tables available inside the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino.
“The other factor leading to increase is just the sheer number of tables we have in play this year – 520,” Palansky said. “That’s the most we’ve ever had. We’ve had demand in previous years but we just couldn’t make the puzzle work to accommodate everyone with all the events we spread concurrently. While we were certainly challenged with the Big 50, since then, despite large starting events and some big restarts, our increased capacity has helped us.”
If you add up the field sizes from the Big 50, Millionaire Maker, two Double Stack events, six Deepstack events, Colossus, and Crazy Eights, more than 93,000 entries were generated. To help put that number into perspective, the entire 2018 WSOP attracted 123,865 entries.
To date, the 2019 WSOP has attracted 147,334 entries. That’s 33% above the 2018 pace and a new all-time record.
What Does Early Turnout Mean for the WSOP Main Event?
The big question on everyone’s mind now is what’s in store for the WSOP Main Event?
In 2006, the WSOP Main Event attracted 8,773 entries. That’s where the record stands. Attendance in the big one has increased for three consecutive years and many signs point to 2019 being the fourth consecutive year attendance rises. In 2018, the WSOP Main Event drew 7,874, which was the second largest turnout in WSOP Main Event history.
“In terms of the Main Event, this year is a big one,” Palansky said. “It’s the 50th running of the Main Event. We’ve got great coverage plans between ESPN and PokerGO, so things are set up to be successful. We’re pretty bad at predicting what the number will actually be. We don’t tend to see a correlation between $500 or $1,500 buy-in events and the $10,000 price point, but we hit a 12-year high in the Main Event last year, so we are optimistic we’ll be in that ballpark again this year. We have plenty of satellites being offered on WSOP.com where folks can win their way in cheap, 888poker is doing the same outside the U.S., and we’ve got increased satellite events planned for the Rio in late June and early July that will certainly give everyone their fair shot to participate. We also are allowing registration up to the start of Level 6 this year.”
If you ask the PocketFives staff, we’re all bullish on the WSOP Main Event turnout. Although Palansky didn’t pin down a number, it’s easy to see that officials are positive with what they’ve seen so far in 2019 and are hopeful the rush carries over. Everyone on the PocketFives staff predicts more than 8,000 entries in the 2019 WSOP Main Event, which would be the second time it’s eclipsed 8,000 in history.
“One thing for players to be aware of, particularly the recreational ones, are the dates of the Main Event,” Palansky added. “For the first time, they are on weekdays. July 3-5 are Wednesday through Friday. Typically, we get weekend flights to kick things off, so we’ve got weekday and holiday this year as factors. We are hopeful that it plays into players’ favor by them taking July 4 and July 5 off work and then playing through their Day 2s on the weekend. Thus, if they are still in for Day 3 and beyond, it is a good problem to have work-wise.”
Day 1a of the 2019 WSOP Main Event is on Wednesday, July 3, with Day 1b and Day 1c to follow on Thursday and Friday, respectively. If players plan on coming out to play and need to take off work, the holiday and weekend should benefit them, as Palansky alluded to. Thursday, July 4, is a holiday and then many places of work will allow for Friday, July 5, to be a holiday, too. Saturday and Sunday are the weekend and then you’ll likely only need to take off Monday, July 8, for Day 3 and Tuesday, July 9, for Day 4. If you make it past Day 5 and need to adjust your plans, well, that’s just awesome and a very, very good problem to have.
A couple of years ago, the turnout for the WSOP Main Event was so large that capacity was reached on the final starting flight. With lengthy registration lines and long waiting periods in some of the early events on the 2019 schedule, officials have become more aware of what this could mean for the WSOP Main Event.
“We will be prepared for the Main Event,” Palansky said. “Hopefully, players who play earlier in the summer are using the online and FasTrac systems or the WSOP Tournament Account option to keep themselves from any in-person registration lines. Players get a 60,000 starting stack and we’ll use big blind ante for the first time in Main Event this year, so it should be a fun, memorable event once again.”
The 2019 WSOP Main Event starts Wednesday, July 3, 2019 at 12 p.m. PT.