wsop 2018

2018 World Series of Poker Main Event Second Largest Ever

One of the top three most exciting stages of the World Series of Poker Main Event* is now complete, as the three starting flights are now in the books. I was going to refer to it as Day 1, but I always feel awkward about calling three calendar days “Day 1.” That’s just how I am and is likely how I will always be. And this year’s Main Event opening gauntlet was even more exciting than usual because of the surprising strong turnout.

World Series of PokerLast year’s WSOP Main Event drew 7,221 entries, making it the third largest Main Event of all time and the most substantial since 2010. Through the first two starting flights this week, the tournament was well ahead of last year’s pace. Day 1A – always the smallest – had 925 entries and Day 1B had 2,378, already putting the 2018 Main Event 344 players ahead of the 2017 version at the same point.

Then Wednesday’s Day 1C came along. The final starting flight of the WSOP (and most major tournaments) is always the largest, as players want to have as few days off as possible early in the event. Some certainly enjoy have a day off to rest after a grueling day of poker (provided they don’t bust out), but having those extra days off, especially for those making it through Day 1A means paying for more hotel night and more food, needing to take more vacation days from work for those who aren’t poker pros, and spending more days away from family. Playing in Day 1C minimizes those concerns.

So we knew Day 1C would be massive, but very few expected the Main Event to post a final flight figure of 4,571 players. That made Day 1C the largest single starting flight since the World Series of Poker began splitting up Day 1 in 2008. And it broke the record easily, eclipsing last year’s Day 1C by more than 300 players.

The 2018 WSOP Main Event – with 7,874 total entries – is now also the second largest Main Event of all time, behind only the 2006 Main Event, which drew an astounding 8,773 players.

The thing is, many in the poker community (ugh…that sounds like Trump and his “many are saying” bullshit line) criticized WSOP organizers for scheduling the Main Event when it did, putting Day 1C on Independence Day, a national holiday in the United States. It was thought that people might not turn out because they didn’t want to miss family events.

It actually looked like Day 1C could possibly experience a downtick, as it was reasonable to think the increase in participants on Days 1A and 1B was because people wanted the 4th of July free.

Looking at it now, though, it makes sense that the scheduling worked out. Most recreational players – of which there are tons at the Main Event – had Wednesday off of work already, so there was no conflict there. Those who made it through have Thursday to rest or, through the magic of internet and phones, possibly work remotely so as not to perturb the boss. Day 2C is on Friday, which can just be made into a three-day weekend.

If the beginning of the WSOP Main Event was on Thanksgiving or something, then yeah, I would probably expect a lower turnout. But let’s face it, the 4th of July is basically just an excuse to grill hot dogs and explode fingers for most Americans. And let’s not forget, poker players not from American don’t give a flying shit about our English Treason Day.

It is interesting, too, to look at which years produced the most robust Main Events before 2018. 2006, with 8,773 players, was at the peak of the poker boom, just before the UIGEA passed in the United States. Before this week, 2010 was the second largest Main Event with 7,319 competitors. Online poker took a hit because of the UIGEA and, in turn, so did the number of people qualifying via online satellite, but as the industry recovered, so did the WSOP (not that it was doing poorly in the interim). And 2010 was the last WSOP before Black Friday, an event which caused a drop in poker traffic and resulted in many casual players quitting poker altogether.

The 7,874 players created a total prize pool of $74,015,600, obviously also the second largest prize pool in World Series of Poker Main Event history. The winner will receive $8.8 million; this is only the fifth largest first prize in the tournament’s history because of changes in the payout structure. Payouts will go down to 1,182nd place, with a min-cash of $15,000.

*Main Event stage excitement, ranked: 1) Final table, 2) Money bubble, 3) Day 1 starting flights, 4) Final table bubble, 5) Day 6, 6) Day 2 flights, 7) Day 5, 8) Day 4

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