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Recent Large Tourney Fields Ease Fear of Poker Bust

After the WPT Cyprus event became the latest big field MTT to miss its guarantee, there was a lot of fear that poker was on the decline, as it had been a rough couple of months for poker in Europe and around the world with missed guarantees at the ISPT Main Event, the UKIPT Galway, the WPT Cyprus, and even the EPT Grand Final last April.  That fear has been put to bed as of late with some large fields in North America and Europe in different events the past couple of weeks.  These big fields also provide some hope to online sites which have been feeling the pinch lately, as I chronicled in a recent piece.

Two tournaments going on currently are showing impressive field sizes with 716 entries in the WPT Legends event in Los Angeles and well over 1,200 people for the EPT Barcelona.  These numbers are exceptionally impressive and come on the heels of the 51 entries for the €50,000 Super High Roller in Barcelona.  The EPT Main Event’s performance is even more stellar when you consider that there are no re-entries into the tournament, meaning that all of the players are unique and give a more accurate picture of how many players were wanting to play the event.  Even with the re-entries into the WPT event, it’s a good result after the missed guarantee in Cyprus and some fear that the North American market might be growing out of poker.

Providing even more hope is that Europe and America are coming off huge tournaments in the previous two weeks that set different types of records. The Seminole Hard Rock tournament in Florida set a record for the largest field and prize pool in a non-WSOP event in the U.S. by crushing the $10 million guarantee with a prize pool of nearly $12 million.  While the inaugural WPT Alpha-8 tournament at the end of the series might have been a bit of a disappointment with only 21 players, that isn’t terrible considering that it was a $100,000 buy-in.  It’s clear that poker at the right price is healthy in America with the Main Event only carrying a $5k price tag.

Europe had its own record when the UKIPT Goliath event attracted the largest field ever for a land-based European event.  With 2,570 total entries for a £120 tournament, it is clear that it is exceptionally impressive and should put to rest some of the fears that tournaments are not something that Europeans are as interested in.  The fact that it happened on the UKIPT is also an added bonus after they missed their last guarantee and overall it is generally seen as a smaller and more regional tour, not attracting the big names and faces that we are used to seeing.

Like many things in the business world, poker is maturing and with that comes some growing pains.  The lessons that can be taken from this recent string of tournaments are clear though.  If you are going to host a tournament, you need to have a proper buy-in level for what you are trying to accomplish.  For a more regional tour, having a smaller buy-in, especially in a region that has been hit hard by the economic crisis, is going to help a lot with attracting a lot of players.  The other way to attract players is to have a large guarantee because it’s too great an opportunity to miss like the Seminole Hard Rock demonstrated recently.  Either solution is suitable; tournaments just need to realize where they fall on the pendulum.

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Andrew Schupick