The History of WCOOP
Arguably one of the most sought-after online poker tournament series happens every year on PokerStars – the World Championship of Online Poker. Once all the bracelets are awarded at the World Series of Poker, players travel to a country that has legal, global online poker and settle in for a 2 ½ week grind to become a WCOOP champion. One of the longest running tournament series online, PokerStars has collected and awarded over $1 Billion in prize money to tens of thousands of players of the years and it continues to be a must play event every time it comes up on the calendar.
Two months after the 2002 World Series of Poker crowned Robert Varkonyi the World Champion, PokerStars launched the online version of the series, dubbed the World Championship of Online Poker. Initially launched as a nine-event series, the idea was to give players an opportunity to play for the same level of glory as the live players got in Las Vegas from the comfort of their own homes. The winners of the events even received a 14-karat gold bracelet from PokerStars to mimic the bracelets won in Las Vegas, although PokerStars retired this in 2015.
The first series drew over 2400 unique entries over the week plus series for a total combined prize pool of $799,000 USD, offering events in Limit and No Limit Texas Hold’em; Limit and Pot Limit Omaha; Seven Card Stud and a heads-up event. The $1,050 Main Event on July 28th drew 238 runners for a prize pool of $238k, won by Sweden’s “MultiMarine” for just over $65k.
The 2003 event saw 2 events added but the prize pools swelled to over $2.7 Million and over 6700 players participating, with the Main Event generating 891 people and awarding $222k to the champion, Joseph “DeOhGee” Cordi. The increases were partly attributed to Chris Moneymaker winning the WSOP Main Event after qualifying from a satellite on PokerStars and bringing many more eyes to the site and the series.
Prize pools and player interest continued to rise year over year, with WCOOP 2022 guaranteeing over $85 Million in the prize pools in the 300+ tournaments that comprised the series.
Initially the WCOOP was a one buy-in level per event geared for poker players with bigger bankrolls as the event buy-ins generally ranged from as low as $109 up to $10,300. In 2017 PokerStars expanded the series by adding a Low tournament to each event, giving players with smaller bankrolls the opportunity to chase the glory of winning a WCOOP tournament. Given the success they saw, this was expanded again in 2018 so events had three buy-in levels: Low ($2.20 to $215), Medium ($22 to $2100) and High ($215 to $25,000) and would run concurrently with each other.
Every popular variant of poker can be found among the 300+ tournaments played at the WCOOP. Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Seven Card Stud, HORSE, 8-game, and Badugi are among the variants offered with any number of players at the table. Most tournaments are played over multiple days, with at least one multi-flight tournament offered, and the main events are generally three-day tournaments.
WCOOP Main Event
The initial WCOOP Main Event in 2002 had 238 players pay $1,050, creating a prize pool of $238k. PokerStars upped the buy-in for the Main Event in 2004 to $2,600 and saw only a slight decrease in the entrants from the year before (891 to 843). This more than doubled the prize pool to $2.1 Million, awarding $424k to Edgar “Ragde” Skjervold of Norway. 2007 was a momentous year for the WCOOP Main as the first-place prize went north of $1 Million for the first time and had a record 2998 players – a number that is still intact today. That prompted changes one year later as 2008 saw the buy-in doubled to $5,200 and despite the drop in players from 2998 to 2185, the Main Event eclipsed the $10 Million prize pool for the first time, and only a slight decrease to the first-place prize of $1.27 Million that went to Carter “ckingusc” King.
Black Friday Impact
April 15th, 2011 still remains one of the most ominous days for the online poker world when the global player pool first started to shrink. The loss of players in the US severely hurt the industry initially and the WCOOP took a large step backwards. While both the 2010 and 2011 series offered 62 tournaments, PokerStars saw a drop of 20k entries across all events and a reduction of the overall prize pool by over $15 Million dollars. The Main Event was especially hit hard as 2010 broke records for the prize pool of $12.2 Million and the eventual champion Tyson “POTTERPOKER” Marks pocketing a col $2.278 Million for the victory. 2011 saw the prize pool shrink by a third, dropping to $8.1 Million and awarding Thomas “Kallllle” Pedersen $1.26M for his triumph over 1626 other players.
In the years that followed the WCOOP Main Event specifically has recovered, guaranteeing $10 Million in the overall prize pool, and missing that only three times (2015, 2020, 2021).
Many well-known poker pros have made their mark at the WCOOP over the years. Fedor “CrownUpGuy” Holz made his arrival on the high stakes poker scene in 2014 after capturing the WCOOP title for $1.3 Million. Two-time WSOP Bracelet Winner Dan Kelly was the original WCOOP Player of the Series winner when it was introduced in 2009, thanks to his 2 WCOOP bracelets won that year, one being the prestigious $10,300 HORSE Event for $252k.
Shaun Deeb is one off the record for most WCOOP titles with 8, although 7 of his 8 are in the High buy-in level and he also captured the Player of the Series in 2015 when he travelled to Mexico to take part in the event. Other well-known pros with at least two WCOOP titles on their Hendon Mob include: Adrian Mateos, Noah Boeken, Joao Vieira, Connor Drinan, Mike Leah, Benny Glaser, Darren Elias, Bertrand “Elky” Grospellier, George Danzer, Jason Mercer, Eugene Katchalov, Patrick Leonard, and Sam Greenwood.
PokerStars assembles a star-studded line-up to commentate their WCOOP final tables which happen on an almost daily basis. Broadcasting on both their YouTube and Twitch channels, James Hartigan and Joe Stapleton provide commentary and comedy along with well known poker pros as they lead viewers through the final table, and eventually to crown a champion. Generally, they will focus on the High events on that day but depending on who has made final tables they will feature the medium events as well. For the 2022 WCOOP Main Event, James and Joe were joined by Team PokerStars Pro Nick Walsh and 2011 #1 Online Poker Player Griffin Benger.