Although the World Series of Poker won’t technically be over until the November Nine have played out their final table, that’s still a long way off. By that point, the rest of the series will be a distant memory. So, rather than wait for November, I think now is the time to take a look at some numbers relating to final tables and wins.
I’ve gone through the results for all open-field tournaments, minus the Main Event, of course. Aside from the ME, only the Casino Employees’, Ladies, Seniors and Super-Seniors are excluded, seeing as their entry restrictions would obviously skew the results.
I looked at number of pre-2014 WSOP cashes and bracelets owned by each of the players involved, plus their gender and nationality. My reason for excluding other results from the current WSOP is twofold: on the one hand, if we’re looking at whether past success predicts future success, it makes no sense to include results from events later in the series. On the other hand, since many casual players only show up for one or two years, and tend only to play a lot of tournaments if they make a big score in an early event, including results which came earlier in the current series, but not those which came later would tend to skew the bracelet and cash count upwards for players making final tables later in the series. Since neither option made sense to me, I decided to omit 2015 results altogether.
Unfortunately, the WSOP website only provides the ages of event winners, and not even consistently at that, but I collected the ages of the winners where it was available.
78.1% of players who made a final table this year had never won a bracelet before, but only 69.8% of bracelets were a player’s first. Or, put the other way, only 21.9% of final table players already had a bracelet going in, but 30.2% of the bracelets were won by those players, indicating that players who have won a tournament in the past are more likely, on average, to win another. That’s as we’d expect, seeing as poker is at least partially a game of skill.
Non-bracelet holders at final table were only 11.2% likely to walk away with their first this year, while single-bracelet winners were 15.4% likely to win a second, and those with multiple bracelets won their final tables 20% of the time. This, too, is as we’d expect, since it’s easy enough for any given tournament to be won by a losing player, but much harder for the same losing player to win multiple tournament; thus, two or more bracelets are a considerably stronger indicator of a player’s strength than a single one.
In contrast to the bracelet statistics, it’s hard to discern much of a pattern in the cashing stats. 17.7% at this year’s final tables had never cashed in a WSOP event before, but at the other extreme, 19.5% had over 20 cashes under their belt.
Interestingly, those with no cashes actually did slightly better on average than those who had lots, winning 15.73% of their final tables compared to only 13.27% for the veterans; one likely explanation for this is simply that rookie players are more likely to enter tournaments with soft fields, but you could also argue that talented young internet professionals and circuit grinders showing up for their first WSOP is also likely to have played a role.
Players with only one to three cashes were quite common, making up just over 20% of the final tables, but performed slightly below average, winning only 11.88% of the time. Players with seven to 15 cashes did very well, but weirdly, those with between 16 and 20 did very badly, winning only 5.9%, which makes it hard to say there’s much correlation between number of cashes and likelihood of winning a final table; all of this could just as easily be random noise.
The U.S. being the host nation of the WSOP, you’d expect that to be where most of the players came from, and indeed, nearly two-thirds (65.4%) of the players at final tables were American. The United Kingdom, Canada and Russia were all represented about equally at around 4% apiece, followed by Austria, Germany and France with just over a 2% share each. All told, final tables were on average about 70% North American, 20% European, and 10% from other continents.
The U.S. players performed just slightly better than the statistical average, winning 13.1% of their games (average 12.1%). Other countries’ sample sizes were far too small to be meaningful, so it’s hard to say whether certain countries produce better players than others. That said, Ireland and Israel each managed to get seven players to a final table; given their tiny populations (about 5 and 7 million respectively) and the traveling distance for players to attend the WSOP, you’d have to say those two were punching above their weight this year.
Well, what can we say about this? It is what it is. If there was any doubt that poker is still a boy’s club, only 1.6% of players at a final table this year were women. This is nothing to do with the skill of the players involved, mind you; of the eight women who made a final table, we saw a winner, a runner-up and an even mixture of other finishes, all very much the average. It’s just an unfortunate fact that there are still not very many women playing live poker in general and particularly not at the WSOP. Hopefully that will change in the coming years.
A whopping 43.1% of bracelet winners this year for whom an age was reported were within the relatively narrow bracket of 26-30. This isn’t that surprising, as this is the demographic that would have been college-aged right at the peak of the boom years. Although a number of younger players won bracelets as well, it’s likely that many players under 25 are still gaining experience, building their bankrolls, or sticking to the online game for the time being.
Meanwhile, there’s a huge slump in bracelets right after age 30. This might be explained by the fact that 31-35 is currently quite a popular age for people to have kids; the stress and financial instability of poker playing may convince a lot of new parents to take a break for a bit. The slump is short-lived, however, with a plenty of 36-40 year-olds winning events this year, and a decent number of middle-aged players as well.
All told, the stats tell very much the story that you’d expect: it’s mostly American men in their mid-20s who are playing at the WSOP, plus a smattering of Canadians and Europeans, and the people who’ve won bracelets in the past are favored to win more of them in the future. The most surprising revelation is perhaps that number of cashes doesn’t seem to mean much, but that makes sense too when you think about it: many players of the younger generation already have a lot of experience before showing up for their first WSOP, after all, while many players who’ve been around for a long time still cash a fair bit, but may no longer have the edge to win in the modern game.
Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is a freelance writer, game designer and semipro poker player from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
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