The 2011 World Series of Poker – smaller and better? [Editorial]

The 2011 World Series of Poker – smaller and better? [Editorial]

Monday, 23 May 2011

In 2010, the 41st annual World Series of Poker attracted a record field to the 57 events, including a near-record 7,319 players – the second largest ever Main Event field. In total, the prize pool for the series as a whole was $187,109,580; a new record that amounted to half of the total prize pool of the 1st to 36th WSOP series. At the beginning of this year you would have been hard-pressed to find a poker insider who didn’t expect big things from the 2011 WSOP.

Then the US Department of Justice went and ballsed it all up.

The online poker indictments of Black Friday have shut out PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker from the US market which will, let’s be honest, do some bad things to the field sizes of the tournaments at the World Series of Poker. Since Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 win the large majority of the burgeoning field sizes at the World Series of Poker have been online qualifiers.

Despite this, it seems to be business as usual – at least on paper. This year there will be 58 events including a new $25,000 Heads-Up High Roller Championship. In addition, ESPN will be streaming all 55 final tables live on ESPN3 as well as showing live coverage of the Main Event on an hour delay. Reading this one could be forgiven for thinking that there has been another poker boom instead of a poker apocalypse (different kind of boom, that).

Well, the Rapture didn’t happen on Saturday and it seems that poker isn’t dying so easily either. Of course, no one expected the Main Event to drop to 1994-era levels with a total of 20 bracelet events but it is still surprising that such extensive coverage is going on.

Or is it? Think of being the World Series of Poker right now. No, don’t imagine being a series of major tournaments, imagine being an executive at that company. When federal regulation of online poker kicks in (my guess: late 2012/early 2013) who is going to be the major site? Not PokerStars or Full Tilt, that’s for sure. Step up It seems inevitable that a well-known brick ‘n’ mortar poker establishment will become the dominant US online poker room and everyone knows the WSOP. If they don’t, they certainly will after the 2011 coverage.

Caesars aren’t thinking of the 2011 or 2012 WSOP, which will certainly be below the numbers we’re used to (the Main Event, anyway – more on that in a second). They want a good 2013 – 2020 WSOP and it’s one they will certainly get if becomes the US players’ go-to site for online poker. Imagine the field size at the 2014 Main Event if US regulation kicks in the year previous. We saw in France that as soon as regulation kicked in, sites could advertise everywhere and the traffic notably spiked. If is the US player’s online home AND they’re running the qualifiers to the WSOP then we could see a post-regulation Main Event field of over 10,000 quite conceivably. That’s a $100m prize pool. That’s a lot.

Of course, for now we need to take a decline. The line everyone seems to be taking on the Main Event field size is roughly 4,000 to 5,000 with Daniel Negreanu predicting a 2,500 strong 2004-esque field. Myself, I’m inclined to sit on the fence with a guess of 4,083. But what about the preliminary events, you cry?

Well, the events such as the $25,000 Heads-Up and the $10,000 Championship events are a mixed bag. The former will definitely attract less of a field than it would have done last year, largely dependent if the high-stakes heads-up specialists still have dollars tied up on Full Tilt by the end of the month. The $10,000 events may be smaller but many of them are fixed limit or mixed events; chum for the live pros who haven’t been so adversely affected by Black Friday.

As for the $1,000 to $5,000 events? If anything I think they will increase. Imagine being a US mid-stakes grinder right now – you’re gagging for a poker fix and if you have to fly to Vegas to get it you will. Your average $2/$4 player will have a bankroll of around $20k that they have hopefully got back from PokerStars or will be getting from Full Tilt. Many of them might decide to take $10k of it to the live tables and enter a few satellite events and smaller tournaments.

Of course, that’s a fairly optimistic guess and I could be totally wrong. But when you’re watching the 2015 Main Event champion walk away with an $11.4m prize after beating a field of 12,485 then remember this Editorial and think “damn, Matt Perry was right.”

Tags: World Series of Poker, WSOP, Matt Perry, Editorial, Black Friday