The Colossus Bump: an Early Look

Alex Weldon : June 5th, 2015
2015 WSOP


As I reported last week, registration numbers for the early WSOP events were looking disappointing. In particular, for Event #2: $5000 No-Limit Hold’em appeared to bode poorly for the series as a whole, underperforming even once various factors such as year-on-year contraction were accounted for.

I speculated, however, that the Colossus payouts might have a knock-on effect on later tournaments; this possibility became even more likely when the tournament’s rather flat structure was announced. Although many players expressed disappointment at the smaller-than-expected final table payouts, the structure meant that the payouts for many other seats were increased, with nearly 600 players receiving at least $5000. Although that’s a relatively small amount of money by WSOP standards, it represents enough for a recreational player to buy into an additional event or two, plus pay for their trip.

Below are all the registration numbers we have so far, ignoring the Casino Employees’ event (#1), events which weren’t on the schedule last year (#5, #6, #7), and the $10,000 Championships (#10, #15). I’ve elected to ignore the latter because they’re really aimed at a very different type of player than the Colossus; a recreational player would be unlikely to play in a $10k Championship even if they had cashed the Colossus for enough to afford it, due to the caliber of competition.

For each, I have listed the actual number of entries and then the percentage change over last year’s number in the equivalent event.

  • #2 $5000 NLHE – 422 (-39.4%)
  • #3 $1500 Omaha 8 – 918 (-11.4%)
  • #4 $3000 NLHE Shootout – 308 (-20.8%)
  • Colossus bubble bursts
  • #8 $1500 PLHE – 639 (+14.7%)
  • #9 $1500 Razz – 462 (+31.3%)
  • #11 $1500 LHE – 660 (+0.5%)
  • #12 $1500 6-Max – 1651 (+4.0%)
  • #13 $2500 Omaha 8 – 474 (+0.9%)
  • #14 $1500 NLHE Shootout – 1000 (+5.5%)

Pre-Colossus slump

As you can see, all the events before the start of the Colossus suffer from much lower numbers than last year, suggesting that many players were holding off on playing anything which might preclude playing the Colossus, while those not planning on playing it were waiting until after the inevitable circus died down before attempting to play anything else.

Bubble boom

The next few events on our list began while the Colossus was still running, but soon after the money bubble burst. The bubble burst early in the day on Monday, in time for the min-cashers to jump into Event #8: $1500 Pot-Limit Hold’em if they weren’t ready to call it a day. Presumably some Colossus-goers who had failed to make the money would likewise have been tempted to try their luck again. All told, the event showed nearly a 15% increase in registration over last year’s equivalent.

An even larger beneficiary was Event #9: $1500 Razz, which got over 30% more entries than last year. This is a little surprising, because many casual Hold’em players aren’t familiar with other games. The major advantage the Razz event had over Pot-Limit Hold’em was that it started four hours later, so the early-money finishers from the Colossus could have entered in a much earlier level and some might not have even needed to late-register at all. It’s also a smaller event in general, so a few extra signups make for a much bigger percentile difference: in raw numbers, the bump that the Razz event received was only 28 players more than the PLHE.

Longer-lasting effects

The fields for the next two days have likewise been consistently higher than last year’s equivalent events, but only slightly. Event #11: $1500 Limit Hold’em and #13: $2500 Limit Omaha Hi/Lo both have essentially identical fields to last year: the difference in registrants in each case can be counted on two hands.

On the other hand, neither of those are No-Limit Hold’em events, in which you’d expect to see the biggest differences. By contrast, both of the NLHE events show bumps on the order of 5%, which is probably significant, although nowhere near as large as the boosts enjoyed by the bubble day events.

Competing effects from the Millionaire Maker

The drop-off between the bubble day events and then next few might initially seem worrying to those who were counting on the Colossus to revitalize the series, but there’s a competing effect which makes these numbers quite hard to interpret: the Millionaire Maker, which kicks off today. Despite running at three times the buy-in, this is very much an event aimed at the same type of player as the Colossus, so you would expect a lot of overlap between the players. Indeed, with that higher price tag, it’s not hard to imagine many Colossus players having come to Vegas with the explicit plan of playing the Colossus and, if they cashed, using the winnings to try the Millionaire Maker.

At the same time, tournament poker can be quite gruelling even for top professionals; not many amateurs relish the idea of playing for ten or twelve hours a day for a week without a few days off. Slipping in an extra event between the Colossus and the Millionaire Maker if possible is something a pro thinks about; recreational players are trying to maximize enjoyment, not value, so even those who busted early in the money are probably more inclined to take it easy for a few days, see some shows, play some cash or some pit games, etc.

It’s clear that the expected knock-on effect from the Colossus has happened, particularly on bubble day, but we’ll have to wait until after the Millionaire Maker to see whether it persists throughout the series or tails off quickly.

Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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