The 2018 WSOP Main Event is officially the second-largest Main Event in history. Three flights of Day 1s yielded 7,874 participants in this year’s edition of the most famous poker tournament in the world.
That amount of runners eclipsed the previous silver medalist, the 2010 event, by almost 500 entries. However, the 2006 event and its 8,773 participants remains unchallenged as the largest WSOP Main Event ever.
This year’s group is competing for a prize pool of $74,15,600. The winner of the tournament will earn $8,800,000, and every final tablist will win at least $1 million.
Second-largest field doesn’t mean second-largest top prize
Interestingly, that first prize figure is only the fifth-largest in Main Event history. Obviously, Jamie Gold‘s 2006 win remains the largest at $12 million.
However, the 2nd highest payout went to 2014’s champion, Martin Jacobson. His $10 million prize came from only the eighth-largest field of all time.
The reason for the disparity in payouts is due to tinkering on the part of the WSOP management. For the 2014 event, the powers-that-be declared that they wanted first prize to be $10 million.
In order to achieve such a high payout, tournament officials only paid 10.3% of the field. Due to negative player reactions, management then changed the payout structure to the current incarnation.
As a result, the 10.3% payout flattened to just over 15% for this year’s event. Of the 7,874 entrants, 1,182 players will make the money, and take home at least $15,000.
Strikingly, that 15% payout structure is double the 2003 event’s payout percentage. When Chris Moneymaker won the championship and triggered the poker boom, only 63 of 839 players made the money.
Why the larger field this year?
No matter the prize, larger fields are a good sign for the health of poker in America. While the Main Event entered a different category of size after Moneymaker’s win, it seemed as though growth had mostly flatlined, with tournament fields in the 6000s.
However, the past two years have seen tremendous growth. Last year’s incarnation was the third-largest in history, only behind the 2006 and 2010 events.
The 2006 event was so large because it was the high-water mark of the boom. The 2010 event was the last before Black Friday, so players likely had the most online opportunities to qualify ever.
As far as the last two years of growth, there are really only two reasons.
Online gambling and poker is growing in the US
After Black Friday, the damage to the gambling market was incredible. The amount of revenue shrank to a fraction of its previous numbers almost overnight.
It’s the economy, stupid
There’s also no denying that the US economy has been improving in the last two years. Regardless of political reasons, the unemployment rate in the country has declined steadily and profoundly since 2010.
The stock market continues to soar to higher levels. GDP growth, though not to President Trump’s level of promise, has been steady and strong.
A better economy frees up discretionary spending and consumer confidence. Poker is, at its core, a luxury item, and the game tends to improve as the economy improves.
At any rate, massive Main Event fields generate publicity and renown for poker. Here’s hoping that this year’s winner becomes another celebrated ambassador for the game.