45 Percent Spike for PokerStars’ Sunday Million as Coronavirus Changes Industry

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Another attempt to capitalize on the latest industry upswing has paid off for PokerStars and its weekly flagship MTT, the Sunday Million.

PokerStars Sunday Million
PokerStars’ Sunday Million has enjoyed another spike as coronavirus lockdowns continue. (Image: PokerStars)

With coronavirus lockdowns still in force around the world, the tournament’s guarantee was increased to $3 million.

The decision to up the ante comes after recent incarnations of the $109 event surpassed all expectations.

Sunday Million Surge Benefits More than PokerStars

The latest Sunday Million attracted 24,686 unique buy-ins and 8,998 re-entries for a total of 33,684 entries. That level of interest pushed the prize pool to $3,368,400, which means the winner stands to bank $237,093 when the action concludes on Monday.

In a vacuum, the stats make for positive reading. However, from a macroscopic perspective, the number of entrants stands as a testament to impact coronavirus is having on poker.

Lockdown laws have forced millions of people to stay indoors since March. This dynamic has steadily increased the number of players anteing up online and the resulting upswing has caused Sunday Million entry figures to increase by 45.6%

In the wake of its record-breaking 14th-Anniversary Sunday Million, PokerStars collected 23,134 buy-ins for its March 29 event. Fast-forward three weeks and the MTT attracted over 10,000 more buy-ins.

That spike in interest is significant and one that’s been mirrored at other poker sites. The Irish Poker Open, in association with Partypoker, broke records this year by moving online. The long-running event was forced to break tradition due to coronavirus, but that didn’t stop 2,945 players from anteing up.

The festival has been trending upward for the last two years. However, with Partypoker’s software making the $1,185 main event more accessible, last year’s target of 1,807 entries was easily surpassed.

In the UK, Grosvenor Poker has reported similar upswings, as has 888poker. Elsewhere, traffic is up 12% at Adda52, while New Jersey’s online poker economy generated record revenue of $3.6 million in March.

Coronavirus Could Change Poker Forever

Talk within the mainstream media is that the fabric of society will be forever changed by the coronavirus. These changes won’t be known until the pandemic subsides. However, in poker at least, changes might prompt a move from offline to online dominance.

Poker has been gradually shifting toward online activity for the past two decades. But, over the last two months, this process has sped up dramatically.

Now that operators can see the value of running major events online, it may change the game for good. We’ve already seen the World Series of Poker (WSOP) adopt a hybrid format that combines live and online MTTs.

Other operators could now follow suit. Some may even take things further and abandon all live ventures in favor of virtual tournaments.

Naturally, a major shift like this would need careful consideration. Does an online WSOP bracelet mean as much as one picked up in Las Vegas? Is the Irish Open as much of a “social event” when it’s held online?

These are questions operators and players will have to answer in time. One thing that’s clear though is that numbers don’t lie. Turning live tournaments into digital offerings has resulted in larger fields and bigger prize pools.

This could be enough to prompt major changes in the coming years. Or, players may develop a greater appreciation for live poker once the coronavirus crisis is over.

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