The $10 million guaranteed Wynn Millions in Las Vegas, a $10,000 buy-in poker tournament, attracted more than 1,300 entrants, and it could be a sign of big things to come for the World Series of Poker, which takes place in the fall this year.
Poker tournaments at the $10,000 and above price point rarely ever have more than a couple hundred players. In most cases, the field sizes don’t even reach triple digits. The recently completed US Poker Open, a 12-event high-roller series with buy-ins mostly at $10,000 ($50,000 finale), had 99 or fewer entries in every event.
The exceptions to this rule are, of course, the WSOP Main Event and a few WPT events (LA Poker Classic, Five Diamond World Poker Classic, and Gardens Poker Championship).
Take the Main Event, for example. If a casino in Las Vegas hosted a random $10,000 buy-in tournament with no guaranteed prize pool, much like the Main Event, maybe 20-30 players would sign-up. But because of the prestige that comes with winning and playing in the WSOP Main Event, more than 6,500 players register every year. And, in many cases since 2006, the turnout has exceeded 7,000 all the way up to 8,773 (2006).
Inaugural event outperforms expectations
The Wynn Millions, however, isn’t a prestigious event, as the tournament is only in its first year of existence. Still, it generated more than 1,300 entries at an expensive price point. That’s very rare for $10,000 buy-in events. Even the WSOP’s $10Ks, outside of the Main Event, don’t have nearly as many entries.
Even more impressive for the Wynn Millions is that its high attendance came without most of the international pros in the mix. Travel to the United States from most foreign nations, including Canada and the United Kingdom, is currently banned except for special circumstances. Most of the non-American players in attendance at the Wynn Millions, and at other US tournaments this year, are those who never left the country to return home after COVID-19 struck.
Tournaments in Florida made it abundantly clear that grinders were starved for major events one year into the pandemic. More than 2,400 players registered for the $3,500 buy-in WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open in South Florida back in January, for example, a World Poker Tour record that obliterated the event’s $2 million guarantee. Last week, the WPT event at the Seminole Hard Rock in Tampa surpassed 1,100 entries, easily beating the promised $2 million prize pool.
Positive sign for 2021 WSOP?
With the action shifting back to Vegas, the $10 million guaranteed Wynn Millions showed that there’s demand for large poker events across the country. If some countries lift their travel restrictions to the US before the fall, many players and observers anticipate the American turnout at the WSOP will be the highest of all time this year
Matt Berkey said on the Solve for Why podcast he expects the fall WSOP to be the biggest ever if international travel is possible. Those predictions don’t seem so crazy when you consider the massive field sizes in so many major events around the country over the past six months.