2017 WSOP Main Event Third Largest In History, But Will Growth Continue?

Steve Ruddock July 11, 2017 234 Reads
WSOP Main Event

With a final head count of 7,221 players, the 2017 WSOP Main Event will go down as the third largest in the event’s long and storied history. And for the first time since 2010, the World Series of Poker Main Event eclipsed 7,000 entries; doing so with relative ease.

As I wrote in a previous column before the Main Event got underway, 7,000 entries would be a major win for the WSOP. Hitting 7,221 entries (less than 100 players away from being the second largest Main Event in WSOP history) is a real accomplishment, and the WSOP brass should be lauded for their handling of the event, which despite a 4,000-plus player Day 1c flight, went off without crisis or incident.

It’s also proof that there are still growth opportunities in poker. Imagine what the number of entries would have been if online poker was legal in more than three states and online sites could run direct satellites to the WSOP Main Event?

Bigger picture

WSOP Main Event attendance doesn’t always line up with attendance in preliminary events, and 2017 was no exception.

Attendance was down in many repeat events (including many of the series’ signature events), but at the same time the schedule was expanded by four events, and total attendance rose.

Furthermore, as Jessica Welman noted on Twitter, there are important numbers inside the numbers that need to be considered.

WSOP Main Event attendance over the years

Over the course of its first 37 years, attendance for the WSOP Main Event increased every single year, with only a single exception, 1992.

Since setting its high-water mark in 2006, at the apex of the poker boom, a different trend has emerged. Attendance dropped off significantly in 2007 (a byproduct of the passage of UIGEA) and has fluctuated ever since, with no real rhyme or reason behind the year-to-year changes other than variance.

  • 2006 — 8,773 entrants
  • 2007 — 6,358 entrants
  • 2008 — 6,844 entrants
  • 2009 — 6,494 entrants
  • 2010 — 7,319 entrants
  • 2011 — 6,865 entrants
  • 2012 — 6,598 entrants
  • 2013 — 6,352 entrants
  • 2014 — 6,683 entrants
  • 2015 — 6,420 entrants
  • 2016 — 6,737 entrants

Comparing 2017  vs. 2016

With 6,737 entries, 2016 was the fifth largest Main Event in WSOP history and was the largest WSOP Main Event since 2011.  Attendance rose by more than 300 players, or five percent, compared to 2015.

Somehow, and without any specific factor to point to, the 2017 WSOP Main Event attracted nearly 500 more players. 2017 bettered last year’s solid attendance number by a full seven percent.

Over the past two years, the number of entries in the World Series of Poker Main Event is up over 11 percent.

Let’s also look at 2017  vs. 2012-2016

Over the five-year period preceding the 2017 WSOP Main Event, attendance has been relatively consistent, with a low of 6,352 entries and a high of 6,737 entries. The average attendance over that span was 6,558 entries.

WSOP Main Event attendance in 2017 bested that five-year average by nine percent.

Final thoughts

Where did these players come from?

I’m sure the WSOP will crunch the numbers and see if there was a specific region or demographic that overperformed compared to previous years.

Then again, much like the jump in 2010 turned out to be, this year’s attendance bump could simply be an outlier. We hope not, though.