Another World Series of Poker Circuit is in the books, and if attendance at these events is an indication, it looks like there may be another poker boom coming. The circuit wrapped up its 19th and final U.S. stop this week at the Harrah’s New Orleans, where 785 players took their shot at the stop’s Main Event ring, the $1,650 buy-in NLHE tournament. The 785 runners were an increase of 42 percent from the 2015 Main Event at Harrah’s New Orleans and helped the venue see a 14 percent increase in attendance for all 12 ring events compared to last year.
The New Orleans stop was one of several that saw an increase in players in 2015-16. The last four stops in particular saw significantly higher numbers this year than last year. Horseshoe Baltimore drew 6,352 runners for its 12 events, compared to 4,999 in 2014-15, for an increase of 27.1 percent. Horseshoe Council Bluffs (Iowa) went from 1,959 to 2,518 for an increase of 28.5 percent, and Harrah’s Cherokee drew 8,521, up from 7,888 (8.1 percent), for its spring stop.
The 19 stops combined to draw more than 85,000 runners this year. Last year’s tour had 20 U.S. stops and drew more than 81,000 players, which means this year’s tour had an increase of 4,000 players with one less stop. On average, attendance was up about 10 percent at each stop.
The most popular event at each stop continues to be the re-entry tournament. Each of the 19 venues offered a re-entry event, most with a buy-in of $365. These events have multiple starting flights, allowing players to fire more than one bullet if they choose (and boy, do they choose). Those tournaments drew 29,948 runners, an average of 1,576 players. The re-entry event at Choctaw drew a circuit record 4,249 runners. The Horseshoe Baltimore spring stop drew 3,641 runners, and the Harrah’s Cherokee spring stop attracted 3,067 runners.
Of the 19 main events, nine drew enough players to reach a $1 million prize pool, compared to seven in 2014-15. The main events averaged 772 players this year, an increase of 33 percent from 2014-15, when the main events attracted an average field of 582 runners.
Eighteen of the tour stops offered a Monster Stack event (starting stack of 20,000 chips instead of the normal 10,000), and those events averaged 527 runners.
The most common event was a $365 buy-in, NLHE tournament. Every venue had at least two of these types of events on the schedule (except for Horseshoe Hammond, whose buy-in was $580), and some offered as many as six. These tournaments averaged 209 players. Of the different variations offered, the 6-max games averaged 225 players, while the turbo events averaged 206.
Both versions of Omaha (Hi-Low or Pot Limit) did not fare as well, averaging 120 players for nine hi-lo events and 138 for 12 pot-limit tourneys.
Three locations (Horseshoe Southern Indiana, the Bicycle in Los Angeles at both its fall and winter stops and Horseshoe Council Bluffs) offered Bounty tourneys, where players receive a bonus for each player they knock out, and those four events averaged 150 players.
It might not seem impressive, but the turbo events held at those four stops averaged just 128 runners and the standard $365 NLHE events averaged just 137 runners, meaning the Bounty tourneys were actually more popular than the standard and turbo events at those locations. The Bounty tourney at Southern Indiana outdrew every tournament at the stop except for the Main Event and the Re-Entry. I would love to see more venues, including Harrah’s Cherokee (hint, hint) add Bounty events to the mix next year.
All in all, it was another successful year for the Circuit and might even be a sign that poker is beginning to experience a resurgence.
Here is a look at some key numbers from the 2015-16 WSOP Circuit:
4,249 – Number of players who ponied up for the $365 NLHE Re-Entry event at Choctaw. It was the largest field for a tournament in the history of the circuit and it had more players than the total number of players in all 12 ring events at 10 stops on the circuit.
9 – The number of Main Events that drew enough runners to generate a $1 million prize pool.
7 – The number of tour stops that actually experienced a decline in attendance compared to 2014-15, including both the fall and spring stops at Palm Beach Kennel Club and the winter stop at Harrah’s Atlantic City, which had a 9.5 percent decline.
3 – Number of circuit rings won by Maurice Hawkins in a span of 16 days. He took down the main event at the Horseshoe Council Bluffs stop on April 8, two days after winning the Re-Entry event at the same venue. Two weeks later he took down the Main Event at the Harrah’s Cherokee stop. He nearly won a fourth ring during this torrid stretch, finishing second in Event No. 4 at Cherokee.