The World Series of Poker Circuit National Championship tournament was held recently at Harrah’s Casino in Cherokee, N.C., wrapping up the 2014-15 season. How did this year’s circuit compare to recent seasons, and what can we look forward to for the 2015-16 campaign?
Main Event Participation Drops
The 2014-15 series was the first time in a few years that the number of tour stops actually declined, dropping from 22 in 2013-14 to 20 in 2014-15. Comparing data from this season to the past two seasons shows some mixed numbers.
The 2012-13 WSOP Circuit featured 20 stops at 20 different casinos, the most stops in the event’s history and an increase of four stops from the previous season. Each location hosted a main event, a $1,675 buy-in tournament with $1,500 going to the prize pool. Eight of the 20 locations exceeded the 667 entries needed to guarantee a $1 million prize pool (Horseshoe Tunica missed being the ninth with 666 runners). The 20 tournaments averaged 640 players.
The next year’s circuit grew again and featured 22 stops at 22 different casinos. The Main Events drew an average of 604 players per stop, a drop of 5.6%, and only six exceeded a $1 million prize pool (Harrah’s Cherokee just missed with 665 entries).
The just completed 2014-15 circuit dropped back to 20 stops at 17 different casinos. The Main Events drew an average of 583 runners, a decrease of 3.5% from the previous year and 8.9% from 2012-13. These numbers show a decrease in participation, both in terms of the number of players and the number of locations. But do they tell the whole story?
Other Events See Participation Increase
Each of the tour stops features a series of events, including 12 official ring events, with buy-ins ranging from $250 to $1,675 in a variety of formats (six-handed, Omaha, etc.). Each stop on the tour usually begins with a one- or two-day NLHE event with a $365 buy-in. During the 2012-13 circuit, the opening tournament at each stop averaged 607 players. In 2013-14, that number dropped to 553, but in the most recent season, the average surged to 704 players for an increase of 18.9% since 2012-13 and a 27.3% increase over 2013-14.
Delving deeper into the numbers showed that the gain was caused by two factors – an explosion of interest at the Bicycle Casino in LA (which drew 1,177 runners in 2015 compared to just 245 in 2014) and at Choctaw Casino in Oklahoma, which increased from 533 to 990 from 2014 to 2015 and a couple of new stops that did very well. Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas (1,3897 runners) and the new fall stop at Harrah’s Cherokee (1,930) also helped account for the huge increase. On the other side of the ledger, the remaining 10 locations that also hosted events in 2014 saw a decrease in participation in this event.
There were other good signs. The April tour stop in Cherokee featured a two-day, $365 buy-in NLHE event that drew a whopping 2,937 entries. Players reported waiting an hour to get into the tourney once they had signed up simply because there were no more tables/dealers available. A similar event at the new Horseshoe Baltimore drew 2,403 runners to crush the $250,000 guaranteed prize pool.
While the decrease over the last two seasons in the number of players participating in the Main Event has to be concerning, it does appear that there is a growing number of new players coming out for the chance to turn a tourney entry fee into a significant cash and a WSOP ring.