2016 WSOP Main Event Numbers Are Strongest in Half a Decade

After the UIGEA passed in the fall of 2006, many people thought that the World Series of Poker would die. The fear made sense: the poker boom and the insane growth of the fields at the WSOP were due largely in part to the internet poker explosion and with sites bailing from the United States, it was assumed that lower online poker traffic would result in fewer online WSOP qualifiers. And then, after Black Friday in 2011, it was again thought that with the death/exit from the U.S. market of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker, and UltimateBet, online qualifiers from the States would be virtually non-existent, taking a chunk out of WSOP registrations. To paraphrase Samuel Clemens, the report of the WSOP’s death was an exaggeration and the Main Event is doing just fine.

The WSOP Main Event peaked in 2006, three years after Chris Moneymaker won, setting off the poker boom. The following year was the first in the post-UIGEA era and naturally numbers were down as the online poker industry was reshuffling. Since then, though, aside from one major uptick in 2010, Main Even registrations have been solidly in the 6,000’s. There are fluctuations year to year, of course – up a couple hundred here, down a couple hundred there – but for the most part, the Main Event, and really the WSOP in general, has been quite healthy.

2016WSOPChampionshipBracelet2016 WSOP Main Event Numbers

This year, there were 764 players on Day 1A of the Main Event, 1,733 on Day 1B, and an eye-bulging 4,240 on Day 1C to bring the overall total to 6,737, making the 2016 WSOP Main Event the largest since 2011, the same year Black Friday rocked the poker world. Day 1C in and of itself was the biggest field to show up on a single day in WSOP history. And to think that there was some doubt after Days 1A and 1B as to whether or not the field would be larger than last year’s number of 6,420. No problem in that regard.

The official prize pool is $63,327,800, which still seems nuts to me, even after more than a decade in this industry. A total of 1,011 players will make the money, the most ever, and the winner will receive $8,000,000. Every member of the November Nine is guaranteed at least a million dollars.

WSOP After the Big Bang

As mentioned, these incredible numbers started after Chris Moneymaker won in 2003, when the Main Event field was just 839 players. We say “just” because that is nothing compared to today, but at the time, THAT was the largest field in Main Event history, crushing the previous year’s record by a third. But the combination of improved television coverage and the exposure people got to internet poker in 2003 (Moneymaker won his seat via a satellite on PokerStars) set things off. People wanted to watch more poker, the Google machine was probably being bombarded with searches for “poker” and “online poker.” Affiliates started figuring out how to attract customers to poker sites. The next year, the Main Event field jumped to 2,576 players. Then 5,619. Then 8,774.

Here is a look at the Main Event figures, including champion and first place prize money, since the Chris Moneymaker effect took…er…effect?

2004 – 2,576 (Greg Raymer, $5,000,000)
2005 – 5,619 (Joe Hachem, $7,500,000)
2006 – 8,774 (Jamie Gold, $12,000,000)
2007 – 6,358 (Jerry Yang, $8,250,000)
2008 – 6,844 (Peter Eastgate, $9,152,416)
2009 – 6,494 (Joe Cada, $8,547,042)
2010 – 7,319 (Jonathan Duhamel, $8,944,310)
2011 – 6,865 (Pius Heinz, $8,715,638)
2012 – 6,598 (Greg Merson, $8,531,853)
2013 – 6,352 (Ryan Reiss, $8,361,570)
2014 – 6,683 (Martin Jacobson, $10,000,000)
2015 – 6,420 (Joe McKeehen, $7,683,346)
2016 – 6,737 (TBD, $8,000,000)

As you can see, while all but one of the Main Events since 2006 have seen registration numbers in the 6,000’s, there was a nice bump this year, creating the most sizable field since 2011. In fact, there have only been four Main Events (2006, 2008, 2010, 2011) that have been bigger than this one.

The Main Event has arguably lost a little luster as poker television is almost dead in the United States and other events, both WSOP and otherwise, have attracted more attention, but it is still undoubtedly the most popular live poker tournament on the calendar.

Because of the relative sizes of the starting flights, the survivors from Days 1A and 1B both played on Tuesday, while the survivors from the massive Day 1C played on Wednesday. Tuesday’s Days 2A and 2B, while contested on the same calendar day, were still kept separate. That is, players from one flight only played against players from that same flight. The remaining players from all Day 2 flights will now be in one unified field starting today on Day 3.

With all the separate flights in the rear view, 2,186 players still have chips out of the original 6,737. California’s Valentin Vornicu is the chip leader with 838,600.

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