It’s that time again – WSOP 2011 Main Event [Editorial]

It’s that time again – WSOP 2011 Main Event [Editorial]

Friday, 8 July 2011

I don’t know whether or not to blame the November Nine, the World Series of Poker Europe or the sheer fact that I’m in the process of becoming an old man for this but the Main Event seems to come around faster and faster each year. It seems as though the tournament series has scarcely begun and already we’ve had 57 events played out and tens of millions of dollars awarded to thousands of players.

Now, we have one event where hundreds of millions of dollars will be awarded to hundreds of players as the $10,000 No Limit Hold ‘em Championship, the Main Event, began last night with the first of four opening flights. The tournament will play through four Day 1s before the survivors come together for a pair of Day 2s. Finally, a week from now, the players will be merged into one field for Day 3 as they play down to the November Nine and the biggest final table in the poker calendar.

Last night, a total of 897 players entered Day 1a – traditionally the smallest of the four Day 1s. WSOP staff estimate that Day 1a usually makes up 15% of the total Main Event field, meaning that by the law of averages we can expect a field of around 5,400... incidentally that’s pretty much bang on what I predicted for the 2011 post-Black Friday Main Event. That said, though, I would actually like to raise my guess – it wouldn’t surprise me now if the Main Event of this year attracted as many players as the post-Gold WSOP era, around 6,500 or so.

Numbers have been up universally for this WSOP which came as a surprise to many. When the opening events attracted record fields I wasn’t surprised, imagining young American kids taking the last of their non-frozen online bankrolls and attempting to spin it up in Vegas. When the middle events attracted record fields I was a little bemused, wondering just how much money PokerStars had given back to US players to allow the WSOP to carry on not just as normal but bigger and better.

Then the final few events kept attracting record fields and I was flat out perplexed. The rumour mills have the total sum of US player accounts frozen on Full Tilt and CEREUS as over $200,000,000. Even with that, we’ve had hundreds of players in the $5,000 events and thousands in the smaller events including the second-largest field ever seen at the World Series of Poker when 4,576 players entered the $1,000 NL event last week.

If there is one event that won’t be breaking records, though, it’s the Main Event. It’s the only $10,000 event in the world to attract a field of thousands year after year but for 2011 we’ll have to settle for a drop. It peaked, as you know, in 2006 when Jamie Gold won the richest prize in sports history after beating a field of more than 8,000 players to the first prize of $12,000,000. From 2007-9 we saw huge but not record-breaking fields until last year when we saw an upturn to 7,319 players – the second-largest Main Event ever.

I can’t honestly say I believe that the upswing in numbers continues after Black Friday. Then again, the fact that the Main Event isn’t on the Independence Day weekend this year should be a decent boost – hangovers and waking up surrounded by traffic cones and spent fireworks in Siberia tend to put a dampener on numbers. My renewed prediction for the 2011 WSOP Main Event field size is 6,394 players. The winner (it’s going to be the Midstakes Grinder on a Huge Heater, see the last Editorial for details) will still take home a good seven or eight million dollars and the first prize is what attracts the attention.

And what of the 2012 WSOP? Well, that really depends on US lawmakers. If they see sense and regulate online poker in time for next summer then expect a record field. If Zynga Poker co-op with casinos to introduce real money online poker then expect a frankly stupid amount of players. My prediction for the 2012 WSOP Main Event field size (is a number pulled out of my bum) is best represented as a bell curve.

On one end of the scale we could have a 2012 WSOP where US citizens still can’t play online poker and the former grinders have no longer got viable bankrolls. Then we may see a field size as low as three or four thousand. On the other, a 2012 WSOP with regulated US online poker and a renewed emergence of interest in the game better than even 2003-4. Then we may see a field size of more than ten thousand.

Realistically, it’s likely to be somewhere in the middle – hence the bell curve – but let’s see what the 2011 Main Event is saying first before we get too far ahead of ourselves.

Tags: WSOP 2011, Matt Perry, Editorial, Black Friday