This year’s World Series of Poker Main Event never had a chance of being as big as 2019’s. But it also never had a chance of being as small as 2020’s.
The final entry count of 6,650, announced a few hours after the late-registration window closed on Wednesday afternoon, lands the 2021 edition at the Rio in Las Vegas in that sizable sweet spot between the two extremes.
— WSOP (@WSOP) November 11, 2021
The 2019 total of 8,569 was the second-largest Main Event field ever — just 204 entries shy of the record set in 2006 before the passage of UIGEA brought a premature end to the boom-iest part of the poker boom. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic rendered a massive in-person World Series impossible, so WSOP organizers settled for two online poker tournaments with live final tables and a head-to-head meeting of the winners, an affair that drew only 1,379 entrants, the smallest Main Event since the one Chris Moneymaker won at Binion’s Horseshoe in 2003.
COVID delayed the 2020 World Series from its typical May-July spot on the calendar to September-November, and the Delta variant impacted the live poker extravaganza in assorted ways. A vaccine mandate eased worries for some but kept others away, and travel restrictions limited the numbers as well.
The tournament was originally supposed to have four starting flights — Nov. 4-7 — but with some international travel restrictions expiring Nov. 8, organizers added a “Day 1E” and a “Day 1F” on Nov. 8 and 9, and succeeded in preventing this from being the smallest fully in-person Main Event since 2005 (5,619 entries) or possibly even since 2004 (2,576).
But attracting 6,550 entries at $10,000 a pop during a pandemic? Yeah, the WSOP, and the poker world, will take that as a positive sign about the health of the brand and the game.
Payouts skew top-heavy
If nice, round numbers are your thing, you’ll like the payout structure. If you’re the player who finished third in 2019 and 13th in 2013 and you like fair and logical pay jumps, not so much:
I'll always praise @WSOP when they get something right but the payout structure for the main is embarrassing. Jumping $415k from 10th to 9th & then $400k from 9th to 6th? Not to mention 2nd being almost half 1st. This wouldn't happen in any other tourney and it's a total gimmick
— Alex Livingston (@rumnchess) November 11, 2021
Here are the final-table payouts:
The $8,000,000 top prize represents 12.9% of the whole $62,011,250 prize pool, and the WSOP team made a point to make every spot at the final table worth seven figures. But this left a major drop-off from 9th to 10th ($585,000).
The top 1,000 places all get paid, with the minimum cash worth $15,000 (before taxes, of course).
A total of 2,355 players made it to the start of Thursday’s “Day 3” (the eighth day of play, thanks to all the starting flights). The most notable name near the top of the leaderboard belonged to 2003 champ Moneymaker, who finished the latter of two “Day 2” sessions in 11th place overall.
But there’s still a lot of poker to play. The tournament concludes next Wednesday night — or possibly early Thursday morning if the last few eliminations don’t come easily.
Photo: Courtesy of Caesars