The job of a public relations specialist is to put a positive spin on everything. The press release about the 2016 World Series of Poker attendance and other statistics did it well. Of course, some of the claimed records are technically correct, and there was some genuine growth such as in the attendance of the WSOP Main Event, but differentiating between true results versus spin can be difficult.
“It was another record-breaking year at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas,” the press release began, “where the 47th annual event continued to shatter records in 2016 during the seven-week, 69-event poker festival that ran from May 31 and concludes on July 19.”
Let’s get past the PR-speak and look at the real facts.
Real Growth of WSOP from 2015 to 2016
The $10K buy-in NLHE Main Event is a tournament that did not change from year to year regarding its buy-in. These stats, then, are signs of positive and proven growth:
2015 Main Event: 6,420 entries
2016 Main Event: 6,737 entries (a five percent increase)
2015 Main Event prize pool: $60,348,000
2016 Main Event prize pool: $63,327,800
2015 largest starting flight in Main Event history: 3,963 players
2016 largest starting flight in Main Event history: 4,240 players
Largest Seniors Event in WSOP history in 2016: 4,499 players (eclipses 2014 record of 4,425 players)
Largest online WSOP gold bracelet ever: 1,247 entries (up 38% from last year but only second year of event)
Largest $100K buy-in or larger field size in poker history: 183 entries in $111,111 One Drop High Roller
Largest $25K PLO field size in poker history: 184 entries in $25K PLO High Roller
Growth with Spin of WSOP from 2015 to 2016
The 2016 WSOP offered one more event than the previous year’s series, meaning most of the stats cannot be substantiated. In addition, this summer’s tournaments paid out a larger percentage of players in each event, a conscious choice that also skews those numbers.
These changes must be considered when noting new “records” of the WSOP:
2015: 68 gold bracelet events
2016: 69 gold bracelet events
2015: average of 10% payout fields
2016: average of 15% payout fields
Due to those increases, these other “records” were set by the WSOP:
2015 WSOP paid players: 11,638
2016 WSOP paid players: 15,767
2015 total payouts: $210,379,285
2016 total payouts: $221,211,336
Total 2015 entries: 103,512
Total 2016 entries: 107,833
Largest first place prize in 2015: $7,680,021 in Main Event
Largest first place prize in 2016: $8,000,000 in Main Event (amount was guaranteed)
2015 largest non-Hold’em field size: 1,293 players in $1K PLO
2016 largest non-Hold’em field size: 2,483 players in $565 PLO (smaller buy-in)
2015 largest first place for $500 buy-in: $638,880
2016 largest first place for $500 buy-in: $1 million (amount was guaranteed)
Player 2016 Stats
Some of the most interesting stats to watch each year are the average age and gender of WSOP participants.
The average age of the WSOP player increased very slightly from 41.04 to 41.12, which really only means that the players at the WSOP are aging and everything else nearly balances out. Even the breakdown of male age versus female age remained virtually the same: 40.82 for males and 44.86 for females in 2015, up to 40.91 for males and 44.71 for females this year.
As for the overall participation of males and females, the trend took a downward turn:
2015 male participation: 94.56% with 97,887 male entries
2016 male participation: 94.87% with 102,311 male entries
2015 female participation: 5.43% with 5,625 female entries
2016 female participation: 5.12% with 5,522 female entries
However slight the dip might be, the fact is that the WSOP is attracting fewer women to the tables. For many years, the average number of women in poker tournaments has remained stagnant between three and five percent, though most tournament organizers do not track the numbers consistently.
It can also be noted that the 2015 series brought players from 111 nations, which dipped to 107 this year.