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Author: Daniel Smyth

WSOP Main Event Stats: Attendance Dips but Spirits Remain High

The World Series of Poker (WSOP) has reached its climax. The $10,000 Main Event got underway last week, and, after six starting flights, 4,699 players were still in the hunt for poker’s most coveted prize.

The first cohort of Day 1 survivors returned on Wednesday to continue their quest for glory. However, even with hundreds of players biting the dust, it’s still too early to pick out potential winners. However, what is of interest is the number of entrants.

Beating recent records was always going to be a longshot. The US travel ban and COVID restrictions have caused numbers to fall across the board. The 2021 WSOP Main Event hasn’t bucked that trend. A total of 6,360 players had anted up by the close of play on Day 1F.

Registration remains open until all Day 2 sessions have started. This has helped push the running total towards the 6,500 mark. However, even with a bit more time left, we’re still look at one of the lowest turnouts since 2013.

COVID Can’t Keep WSOP Main Event Down Forever

We also know that downswing ends a four-year run of gains, but, importantly, the latest figure isn’t a major cause for concern. In fact, the opposite is true. Although a drop in real terms might not be a cause for celebration, the fact more than 6,500 players anted up is a triumph given the current conditions.

COVID-19 put the world on hold last year and the WSOP was forced to cancel its Vegas festival. An online alternative kept the momentum going, but it often takes a while for things to return to normal following a major disruption. This, coupled with the fact certain players have skipped the series due to health concerns and the WSOP’s COVID policy, means we’ve seen smaller fields than usual.

It’s also important to note that international players didn’t arrive in Las Vegas en masse until November 8. Certain pros played the system and spent two weeks in Mexico so they could enter the US before the travel ban was lifted. However, the majority of foreign travelers only had two days to join the Main Event.

These logistical issues have undoubtedly reduced the number of international players in this year’s event. What’s more, it meant things got off to a much slower start than usual.

2021 WSOP Main Event Attendance Figures

Starting FlightNumber of Entrants
Day 1A523
Day 1B845
Day 1C600
Day 1D2,550
Day 1E797
Day 1F1,045
Total6,360

However, taking everything into account, the situation could have been a lot worse. Indeed, there were times during the early poker boom and just after Black Friday that a Main Event with over 6,000 players would have been considered a huge win.

Now, of course, things are different. The 2006 WSOP Main Event (8,773 entrants) still stands as the biggest of all time, but 2019’s showdown still breached the 8,000-player mark. Had COVID-19 not got in the way last year, there was every expectation that a new record would have been set.

That hasn’t happened this year, but the statistics do show that the Main Event is still a draw. Even in the face of a global pandemic and logistical hurdles, players are still willing to ante up in poker’s biggest tournament. From amateurs to pros, this year’s field is filled with people aiming for a place in history.

Phil Hellmuth Makes a Grand Entrance

One player that certainly made his mark on Day 1F was Phil Hellmuth. The Poker Brat is known for making a grand entrance and he didn’t disappoint. Continuing his tradition of entering late and wearing an outrageous costume, Hellmuth appeared as Gandolf.

GGPoker was on hand to capture the show, which not only featured magical warriors and a troupe of models, but Dan Cates dressed at Sauron. It was a magical experience for some onlookers. For others it was a cringeworthy moment they wished they could vanish from their memory.

Whatever your take on the entrance, Hellmuth got people talking and he made it through the session. Only time will tell if he can use his powers to win the Main Event and pick up his 17th bracelet. One thing that’s for certain though, he’ll need to outlast more than 4,000 players if he’s going to do it. 

Even though numbers are down this year, the WSOP Main Event remains a tough test for anyone. Indeed, when a champion is crowned on November 19, they’ll have certainly earned their victory and top prize worth upwards of $7 million.

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