For the past three years, the World Series of Poker has been adding specially-promoted events at the low end of the buy-in range, intended to draw in large fields of casual players. First there was the Millionaire Maker, introduced in 2013, followed by the Monster Stack, introduced last year. This year’s additions are of course the Colossus, which proved to be the largest live event in poker history, and the Lucky 7s, which will be held towards the end of the series.
As the number of these events increases, the series organizers are left with the question of how they will interact with one another. On the one hand, they’re priced to draw in players who lack the bankroll to play many other events, so they might end up competing against one another. That seems to have been the thinking in the scheduling of last year’s series; the Millionaire Maker was held very early and the Monster Stack quite late in the series, presumably so that the two wouldn’t poach one another’s entries.
On the other hand, it’s possible to imagine a synergy between these events; for players who do have the money, the trip to Vegas might seem more worthwhile if there were several appealing events in a row. Others might play the first event with the plan of buying into the next one if they succeed in cashing. This seems to have been the thinking this year, with the Colossus, Millionaire Maker and Monster Stack all being held early in the series with their starts spaced about a week apart, and only the Lucky 7s held back towards the end of the series.
If that was the plan, though, the numbers for the Millionaire Maker and Monster Stack don’t indicate that things have played out as expected. Both events show a small but significant decline in entries relative to last year: 8.8% and 8.5%, respectively.
Of course, overall attendance at the World Series of Poker has been dropping for the past several years, and these numbers don’t represent a decrease of more than you would expect simply from the contraction of the poker industry as a whole. It may not be the case, then, that the Colossus has actually taken players away from these events. But if the organizers were counting on it to reverse the trend and bump attendance for the other big-field events, it seems not to have worked.
The effect that these three events have had on the rest of the early series is unclear. As I reported shortly after the Colossus wrapped up, it seemed that it had reduced entries in the events preceding it, but bumped up those which started soon after its bubble burst. Since then, attendance figures relative to last year have been all over the place, with no clear trend. $1000 Turbo NLHE and $1000 Pot-Limit Omaha are up significantly in attendance since last year, for instance, while $1500 Triple Draw and some of the No-Limit Hold’em events are down.
So far, considering only open field events with buy-ins under $10,000, and ignoring events which have no direct equivalent in the 2014 series, attendance is down around 4% from last year. This is perhaps less of a drop than expected, but a drop nonetheless. The changes to this year’s schedule may therefore be helping a little, but it seems likely that the series still has a bit more contraction to go through to correct for the boom before regular growth can resume.
Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
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