The WSOP Colossus was a Failure and a Success

Steve Ruddock : June 7th, 2016

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After last year’s tournament exceeded all expectations, pulling in over 14,000 players and tallying over 23,000 total entries, big things were expected from the sequel, Colossus II. The World Series of Poker was hyping this sequel as bigger and better than the original, but like most sequels, Colossus II fell a bit flat.

Or did it?

In my opinion, Colossus II was simply a victim of its own hype.  It may not have exceeded last year’s inaugural Colossus tournament, but it wasn’t a full blown failure. It wasn’t even slightly disappointing. Colossus II was less Caddyshack II and more Godfather Part II, a nearly equal follow up to one of the best films of all time. Colossus II was the second largest tournament ever held.

The overall numbers for the tournament were really strong:

Unfortunately, the World Series of Poker did nothing to tamp down anyone’s expectations – many were predicting attendance as high as the 25,000-30,000 range – and in fact, the WSOP was largely responsible for stoking the fires, touting the number of online satellites they were running, as well as their capacity to handle large crowds in the lead up to the tournament.

“We can get 9,000, 10,000 players in a day,” WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel told the Las Vegas Review-Journal days before the WSOP began. “Thirty-thousand has been my number all along to be able to handle over the course of the three days and six flights.”

Tamp down expectations

After the first two flights of Colossus I had a bad feeling the tournament was going to have a hard time besting last year’s 22,000 total entries. After four flights I figured it would be impossible to best last year’s numbers. And now, with all six flights in the books, the WSOP’s worst-case scenario for Colossus has come to pass. They fell short of last year’s total number of entries.

2016’s tally was 21,613 entries, falling short of 2015’s record-setting 22,374 entries by 761 entries.

Since it was announced the poker world, led by the WSOP has been ramping up expectations, and now that the final attendance number has fallen short of last year the WSOP is probably wishing it had tamped down expectations for this event.

Setting the bar low

The WSOP should have taken a page out of the playbook of online gambling supporters. If they had, they wouldn’t have to explain why this year’s Colossus fell short of last year’s tally, or rebut claims of the tournament being a failure.

A better way to have handled this would have been to say, “Last year’s tournament exceeded all expectations and shattered the previous record. If we could get anywhere near that number again I’d be thrilled.”

In this way you can’t lose. If you fall short, no big deal since you made it clear you thought last year’s total was untouchable – and Colossus attendance was only down 3% year-over-year. And if you eclipse last year’s mark, even by a single player, you can really sell the tournament’s success.

Contrast this to what the WSOP (and poker media) actually did, intimating Colossus II was not only going to beat last year’s tally, but it was going to absolutely crush it. In this environment, even if the tournament beat last year’s tally by 100 players a lot of people would still characterize it as a disappointment, as expectations were raised to the point that nothing short of double-digit year-over-year growth would have been seen as a success.

Upshot

Far from a failure, Colossus II was a rousing success. Consider for a moment that the original Colossus had novelty on its side, and in some ways benefited from people not knowing there would be so many players. It’s quite likely that people stayed away from the Rio during Colossus, fearing the long lines and waits, and choosing a different event to play this year.

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