What is Causing the Uptick in Poker Tournament Demand this Year?

The poker tournament scene in the US is booming, and there is a reason (or multiple reasons) for that, including pent up demand. But the definitive answer for why live tournaments are jam-packed like never before is a bit more complex.

wpt seminole poker showdown

Poker tournament rooms are packed during just about every live event these days. (Image: WPT.com)

Even with face mask requirements and glass partitions in place at the poker tables, the players aren’t shying away. The current WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown in South Florida set a World Poker Tour record with 2,482 entries. The event, which is currently on Day 3, was so successful that it surpassed Matt Savage’s projection of 2,112 players by nearly 18%.

Even FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, a professional poker player many years ago, traveled to compete. The tournament guaranteed at least $2 million in the prize pool. That guarantee was surpassed before a single card was dealt. After registration closed, nearly $8 million were in the pot. Beating a guarantee by almost 400% happens almost never.

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino boasts one of the top poker rooms in the US. But that isn’t the only reason for the huge turnout this past weekend. The WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown had 1,360 players the last time the $3,500 buy-in event ran (2019), which means it nearly doubled in attendance this year.

In January, the $3,500 buy-in WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open, at the same casino, attracted 1,573 entries, a record for the event. Florida isn’t the only poker hotspot seeing an uptick in poker tournament attendance since the casinos reopened.

Las Vegas poker tournaments are also crushing it. The World Poker Tour’s stop at the Venetian in March had 937 entries, which is even more incredible when you consider the COVID-19 50% room capacity restrictions that were in place.

There’s a Reason for Everything

Savage, the executive tour director for the World Poker Tour, told CardsChat News the record turnout at the Seminole Poker Showdown wasn’t due to just one reason. He gave us 10 reasons why he believes the poker tournament had nearly 2,500 players, setting a 19-year WPT record.

He first credits the host property, which he says, “does an amazing job” running events such as this. Next, he gave props to Bill Mason, Seminole’s Director of Poker, whom Savage claims is the “main reason for SHR’s success.”

Third on his list is pent up demand. After nearly a full year without any major poker events due to the pandemic, thousands of poker players are ready to get some action.

“People feel comfortable coming to Seminole Hard Rock because of their (health safety) procedures,” Savage said.

Savage then attributed the quality of the property and the gorgeous spring weather in South Florida as to why attendance was so high for the WPT event. Other reasons he gave included the mix of pros and recreational players, the rise of cryptocurrency providing more disposable income for poker players, and the unmatched player-friendly atmosphere created by the World Poker Tour.

“People saw how great of a job (Seminole Hard Rock) did during the Lucky Hearts tournament,” Savage said.

Lastly, he admitted that there simply isn’t much competition right now. In the pre-pandemic world, there were numerous options for major poker events, and not just in the United States. But events such as the Aussie Millions, multiple WPT events, and virtually every live high roller has been canceled this year. The WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown, as Savage said, may have benefited from the limited available options.

Written by
Jon Sofen
Semi-pro poker player with 17 years experience on the felt and more than five years working as professional poker media.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Did you know about our poker forum?

Discuss all the latest poker news in the CardsChat forum