The more things change, the more they stay the same.
While the online poker world has changed drastically over the last few years, Barcelona remains a centerpiece of the PokerStars Live Tour.
In fact it could easily be construed that the latest PSC in the city is proof that PokerStars is edging further away from the competition in the live arena.
The numbers are, quite simply, staggering.
It hasn’t been easy lately for poker’s biggest operator. Several measures that PokerStars has taken in online poker have raised the eyebrows of more than a handful of players in the last couple years and the re-branding of the EPT didn’t have the desired effect either.
Barcelona, however, remains a success story for the company. And things are once again looking up.
Numbers Climb to Record Heights
Pundits have been predicting the demise of poker and big live festivals over the last few years but the number of new players taking up the game is nothing to scoff at.
The PokerStars National Championship is an example of a tournament that just continues to grow no matter what expectations you throw at it.
The first National Championship was played in 2012 and it attracted a huge field of 1,037 players. The number exceeded expectations at the time.
In the following years the numbers not only went up: they exploded. The field over the last five years:
2012: 1037 players; €1,004,940 prize pool
2013: 1798 players; €1,744,060 prize pool
2014: 2560 players; €2,483,200 prize pool
2015: 3292 players; €3,193,240 prize pool
2016: 3447 players; €3,343,590 prize pool
In 2017 PokerStars guaranteed €4 million in the prize pool for the first time ever and expectations were at an all-time high.
Somehow the tournament continue to smash estimates. By the time the smoke had cleared the event claimed 4,557 entries, of which about 1,000 were re-entries. It was enough to qualify as the biggest PokerStars live tournament ever.
The National Championship is slowly catching up with some of the bigger events at the WSOP. The prize pool tipped the scales at €4,420,290 with €575,000 for the winner. That’s more than 50% of the inaugural event’s full prize pool.
The National Championship isn’t the only tournament that’s drawing big, however. The new PokerStars Cup, a €330 buy-in tournament, attracted nearly 2,400 runners this year.
A Trend Towards Lower Buy-ins
PokerStars also offers a slightly bigger version of the National Championship at a buy-in of €2,200 and that event attracted 1,470 players this year. That’s almost 300 players more than last year.
On the high end of the scale the €50k Super High Roller event shrunk from 102 to 86 entries.
Of course the number of players in these events is so small that this doesn’t really give us enough information to call it a trend but the growth in lower buy-in player fields is significant.
Meanwhile the Main Event started earlier today and in the first couple of hours the numbers looked similar to last year’s event.
With its buy-in of €5,300 the Main Event could signify the threshold between the lower and higher buy-in tournaments regarding attendance.
Last year 1,785 players entered the Main Event, which was a record high. Actually, it was a record high for the seventh year in a row as the field in Barcelona has been growing every year since the inaugural one in 2004, except once in 2009.
The final numbers for the PSC Main Event will be released in the early afternoon on Wednesday. It’s unclear if the tournament will top last year’s attendance but it’s going to be a big one, regardless.
Could this be the year that the PSC Barcelona hits 2,000 players? It certainly seems more possible than ever before.