Who’s Playing the Colossus, Other Than Everyone?
The Colossus is now entering its third day of play, with the field now having dwindled to a modest 506 players – or, put another way, a typical starting field for a more normal event. These five hundred players represent a mere 2.3% of the total entries, however, which reached a whopping 22,374 after four starting flights, easily fulfilling the tournament’s promise of being the largest live event in history.
If you want to know who played in the Colossus, the obvious answer is therefore “everyone.” I think it’s a question that deserves a somewhat more precise answer, however. It is, after all, an unprecedented event in poker history, so it’s worth taking a look at the sort of field it has produced.
Now, the tournament did allow players who busted one flight to enter another, so 22,374 entries does not equate to 22,374 unique players. There’s no information available about how many of the entries were re-entries, but surely not everyone who played was planning on firing multiple bullets, so I think it’s safe to say at least half of the entries correspond to unique individuals, and probably more.
The field on Day 3 is certainly sharkier than the starting field, because losing players are disproportionately likely to make an early exit. However, post-bubble field composition is more critical to a tournament’s profitability for winning players than the early stages, so let’s take a look at what a Day 3 player is up against.
The Top 10
Looking at the top 10 chip leaders to begin with, we see players who can be broken down into three rough categories: total unknowns, casual regulars and minor pros.
Chip leader Valentin Vornicu is a prototypical minor pro, with only two actual WSOP cashes to his name, but a long list of WSOP Circuit results, including six rings and a total of $180,469 in earnings. It turns out that there are quite a few circuit grinders in the Colossus, which makes sense since the $565 buy-in is pretty typical of WSOPC events and not of the series itself. The Colossus is a great opportunity for these guys to involve themselves in the series without violating their bankroll management.
Hot on Vornicu’s heels is Shahen Martirosian. Just looking at his stats on the WSOP website, he could be mistaken for a casual player, with only one WSOP and three WSOPC cashes. Those include a ring and a deep run in last year’s main event, however, and his Hendon Mob page suggests that he plays pretty regularly in events outside of the WSOP/WSOPC. Based on that, you’d have to classify him as a minor pro as well.
Third place player Travis Miller is our first total unknown, with no WSOP/WSOPC results listed and only three cashes to his name on Hendon Mob. The Colossus was marketed heavily to casual players, and you’d expect to see a lot of guys like Miller playing in it. The $565 price tag makes it a great option for everyone who has been dreaming of playing the Main Event but can’t afford (or stomach) the $10,000.
Moving down to 6th place, we find Anthony Miller, who we’ll use as our prototype for a casual regular. He has a handful of WSOP results, including a decent run in the 2011 Main Event, but his Hendon Mob stats suggest that he plays sporadically and doesn’t grind any particular series; although he plays a fair bit of poker, it seems more like an occasional flight of fancy for him than an important source of income.
In addition to the four we’ve mentioned, the top 10 includes another three first-timers and another three minor pros – including one WSOP bracelet holder, Will Givens, in 9th place.
The Top 20
In 19th place, we find our first recognizable name in Mike Leah, with $4.6 million in live cashes, including a million-dollar second-place finish in the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open Main Event last year. Leah is currently 32nd in the Global Poker Index world rankings.
Aside from Leah, spots 11 through 20 consist mostly of minor pros and casual regulars. In total, looking at the top 20, we have six first-timers (30%), five casual regulars (25%), eight minor pros (40%) and just the one big name (5%).
The Top 50
Continuing down the list, we find an increasing number of first-timers and casual regulars. By the time we’ve reached 50th place, we have a remarkably even three-way split between first-timers (34%), casual regulars (32%) and minor pros (32%), with Mike Leah still the only guy you’re likely to have heard of (2%).
The Top 100
Here we start to find a few more players that could arguably be considered big names: Ryan Laplante (51st), Tom McCormick (66th), Yuval Bronshtein (68th), Mark Dube (71st), Dan O’Brien (74th), Jordan Cristos (76th) and Matt Matros (98th). You many not have heard of all of them – Laplante, Dube and O’Brien were the only ones I recognized without looking them up – but they’re all top-1000 in the GPI and/or over $1 million in live cashes. Players to watch out for, in other words.
At the same time, the number of total unknowns increases as we move down the list. By the time we’ve counted the top 100 players, we find that the unknowns are far out in front as the most common player type at 38%, followed by casual regulars at 30%, minor pros at 24% and recognizable pros at 8%.
A typical Day 3 table
Although you would expect the player quality to continue to decline somewhat as you move down through the chip counts, the ratios between these categories for the top 100 seem to hold fairly consistent through the remainder of the Day 3 field. Based on these statistics, I would guess that if you picked ten players at random to form a Day 3 table, you would probably get something like this:
- Four bad-to-average recreational players with little or no experience playing for the amount of money currently on the line,
- Three reasonably solid recreational players who are probably playing tight and straightforwardly,
- Two competent and aggressive, but not particularly tricky young professionals, and
- If you’re unlucky, one WPT/WSOP bracelet-caliber professional
I don’t have a whole lot of live experience, but I have played a few WPT side events in the $100-300 range, and aside from the possibility of running into Mike Leah or Mark Dube, this sounds like quite a few of the tables I’ve seen – and I’m talking about Day 1 tables. Given that 97.7% of the field has been eliminated by this point, it looks like the Colossus really did succeed in pulling in an overwhelmingly casual crowd; if this event becomes a yearly occurrence, it might just turn out to be some of the greatest value in poker, albeit with a degree of variance that’s off the charts.
A possible knock-on effect
Aside from the size and casualness of the field, one thing that’s interesting (and controversial) about the Colossus is how flat its payout structure is. The first prize is only $638,880; that’s a lot for a $565 buy-in event, of course, but it’s only 5.7% of the total prize pool. Indeed, all nine final table spots put together only account for 16.5% of the payouts. By comparison, first place in most of the other events which have run so far has been around 20%, while even online events of comparable size to the Colossus tend to pay upwards of 10% for first.
Meanwhile, it’s not as if the Colossus is paying out an absurd number of seats; only about 10% of the field cashed, which is actually a little bit on the low side. Rather, where most of the money is going is to mid-range cashes. Almost everyone going into Day 3 is going to receive at least $5615 (the first few bust-outs will get $5000), or about a 10x cash. For most events with 1000 players or fewer, you need to make the final table to cash for that much.
What’s important about these mid-sized cashes is that they represent enough money to play multiple smaller events during the remainder of the series, which is clearly the plan behind this sort of structure. Although registration numbers for all the early events have been disappointing (except the Colossus itself, naturally), it seems that the WSOP is counting on a knock-on effect for later events. Once the Colossus finishes, there will be several hundred casual players in Vegas with a few thousand dollars in hand and the temptation of knowing that they could play another event, or two, or three, and still come out far enough ahead to pay for their trip.
Whether that effect will be felt throughout the series, I don’t know. But I do think that the coming week’s events, at least, will show a considerable bump relative to what we’ve been seeing so far. Events #12 ($1500 NLHE 6-Max) and #14 ($1500 NLHE Shootout) are the most likely beneficiaries, since their timing and price-point are just about right. I’d guess that each of those should get a maybe 100 or 200 entries from the “Colossus bump” over whatever they would have gotten otherwise. That might even be enough to overcome the overall yearly decline in attendance. Since the equivalent events in last year’s WSOP were also early in the series (Events #11 and #6 respectively), it will be possible and interesting to do a pretty direct comparison, once those events are underway.
Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.