WSOP Attendance Up in Wake of Black Friday

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The Amazon room is packed to the gills despite poker's Black Friday.

Coming on the heels of Black Friday and tough economic times worldwide, many people expected attendance at this year’s WSOP to plummet.

So far, those people have been proved wrong.

We’re 11 events into the 2011 WSOP and attendance has increased 2.6 percent from last year. This includes numbers from the Heads-Up Championship, which drew 128 entrants, exactly half of last year’s 256.

Out of the 11 events, this year’s Heads-Up Championship was the only event with an increased buy-in, up to $25,000 from $10,000 in 2010.

So despite hosting only half the entrants, this year’s $851,192 first prize was the largest ever awarded in a heads-up tournament. 

If you don’t include the Heads-Up Championship, attendance at this year’s WSOP has increased by 3.9 percent so far. The event that saw the largest increase was the Casino Employee’s Event, up 18 percent from one year ago.

Today’s $1,500 Six Handed No-Limit Hold’em event had the second biggest increase with 257 more registrants than last year, a 15.5 percent increase.

“The WSOP has already proven to be recession proof,” said WSOP Media Director Nolan Dalla.

And while online poker might have taken a big hit in the United States, the WSOP continues to attract hordes of players from around the globe.

Nolan Dalla
Nolan Dalla, an authority on all things WSOP.

“All over the world, it’s every poker player’s ultimate destination,” said Dalla. “There’s no chance that’s going to change this year or anytime soon.”

One of those international players lured to the WSOP is Canadian player, J.S. Bergeron. Bergeron, 23, is a poker dealer in Montreal’s Playground Poker Club who is playing in his first WSOP this year.

Bergeron, who’s had success in the Canadian poker arena, was attracted to the WSOP by the deep-stack and lower buy-in tournaments hosted alongside the bracelet events.

“I prefer deep-stacks, I play them all the time,” said Bergeron. “They’re a good deal moneywise.”

Bergeron also sees the WSOP as a learning experience unlike any other. “There are so many more people here, good players too. It’s a great place to play and learn,” said Bergeron. “I’ll be coming back every year.”

Several WSOP employees have taken notice of the increased attendance in the side events, cash games and satellites. Nolan Dalla reported that cash game attendance is up by 6 percent over 2010

“And that’s counting our ‘slow opening day’, when a lot of players didn’t even know we were running games,” said Dalla, who also mentioned that satellite attendance has increased by around the same percent.

Four events besides the $25,000 Heads-Up Championship have seen a drop in players, with three of them being non No-Limit Hold’em events.

Attendance for the $10,000 Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better Championship fell 4.7 percent, while the $10,000 Pot-Limit Hold’em Championship saw a 7.1 percent decrease in players.

But the event that saw the biggest drop in attendance was the $1,500 Seven Card Stud event. Entries dropped 12.5 percent from last year. This may be because U.S. based players, who can no longer play online poker, are being a bit more conservative with their money this year.

“I’m not chasing bracelets quite as much this year,” said professional poker player Matthew Stout. “I’m more worried about EV and what I think the best tournament is, moneywise, for the day.”

This is Stout’s sixth WSOP and he’s planning on playing a couple less events than he has in previous years.

“I’m cutting out things I’m not quite as great EV in, like PLO, 8-game and 10-game.” Instead, on those days, Stout will focus on larger No-Limit Hold’em tournaments at the Venetian.

But while Stout will stick to his strengths, some believe mixed-game event attendance will rise.

“I’ve seen a lot of people show a lot of enthusiasm for mixed games this year,” said Dalla.

The first scheduled mixed-game event will be the $1,500 H.O.R.S.E. on Friday, June 10th.

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