Direct Qualifiers Fuel Attendance At PokerStars Championship Barcelona

August 24, 2017
Direct Qualifiers Fuel Attendance At PokerStars Championship Barcelona


PokerStars Championship Barcelona has become one of the flagship tournament series poker players mark on their schedule every year. 2017 was no exception.

Despite the heinous act that occurred just 15 minutes away in the popular Las Ramblas area of the city on August 17, PokerStars Championship Barcelona was extremely well-attended, and one of the biggest tournament series in PokerStars’ live event history.

A big reason for the success is the number of online and live qualifiers in the field.

PokerStars National Championship

One tournament that could have easily been affected by the attack was the much ballyhooed PokerStars National Championship. The tournament got underway on August 16, with subsequent Day 1 flights on the day of, and the day after the attack.

Despite the extenuating circumstances, the National Championship produced the largest field in PokerStars’ history. The event easily eclipsed the very ambitious €4 million guarantee PokerStars slapped on the €1,100 event.

With 4,557 entries the tournament bested last year’s turnout by nearly 25 percent.

  • 2012: 1,037 players, €1,004,940 prize-pool
  • 2013: 1,798 players, €1,744,060 prize-pool
  • 2014: 2,560 players, €2,483,200 prize-pool
  • 2015: 3,292 players, €3,193,240 prize-pool
  • 2016: 3,447 players, €3,343,590 prize-pool
  • 2017: 4,557* players, $4,420,290 prize-pool

However, that number requires an asterisk as this was the first year reentry was offered.

That being said, even factoring in the 931 re-entries, the tournament still bested 2016’s numbers, with a total of 3,626 unique entries.

Any way you slice it, this was the best-attended live tournament PokerStars has ever hosted.

PokerStars Championship Barcelona

It wasn’t a record-setter, but the €5,300 PokerStars Championship Barcelona Main Event was really big, as the prize-pool eclipsed €8 million for the third consecutive year.

  • 2004: 229 players, €229,000 prize-pool
  • 2005: 327 players, €1,300,000 prize-pool
  • 2006: 480 players, €2,304,000 prize-pool
  • 2007: 543 players, €4,181,100 prize-pool
  • 2008: 619 players, €4,952,000 prize-pool
  • 2009: 479 players, €3,832,000 prize-pool
  • 2010: 758 players, €3,790,000 prize-pool
  • 2011: 811 players, €4,055,000 prize-pool
  • 2012: 1,082 players, €5,247,700 prize-pool
  • 2013: 1,234 players, €5,984,900 prize-pool
  • 2014: 1,496 players, €7,255,600 prize-pool
  • 2015: 1,694 players, €8,215,900 prize-pool
  • 2016: 1,785 players, €8,657,250 prize-pool
  • 2017: 1,682 players, €8,157,700 prize-pool

Direct buy-in satellites fuel Barcelona attendance

Both tournaments got a big assist from the huge number of players who won their way to Barcelona through satellite tournaments. In the end, the number of qualifiers is perhaps even more impressive than the overall turnout.

National Championship guarantee likely influenced by qualifiers

Take the National Championship and it’s unprecedented €4 million guarantee. Nearly a quarter of the field was made up of satellite winners.

According to PokerStars, there were 80 qualifiers from live satellites (mostly held at Casino Barcelona) over the course of the last 12 months. There were another 750 online qualifiers from PokerStars, many of whom, but not all, were local players who play on the official host of the PokerStars Championship Barcelona.

If they properly estimated the number of qualifiers, PokerStars knew they would have around €1 million of the guarantee covered by qualifiers, which likely made slapping a €4 million guarantee on the tournament a bit easier.

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One-third of the Main Event field were qualifiers

The percentage of players who won satellites into the Main Event was even higher.

PokerStars sent around 450 online qualifiers to the Main Event, and another 117 Main Event players qualified via a live satellite tournament.

All told, over a third of the players in the PokerStars Championship Barcelona Main Event won their entry in a live or online satellite.

The key to live event success?

Barcelona and several other destination locales with thriving online poker and live poker markets are great places to hold big events.

A market like New Jersey?  Not so much.

In October 2016 PokerStars brought a Festival event to Atlantic City, but with no live satellites (Resorts, the host casino and PokerStars partner for online poker doesn’t have a brick & mortar poker room) and a small online poker market, there simply weren’t enough qualifiers, and attendance suffered.

The series was sparsely attended, and PokerStars has rightly downgraded Atlantic City from a Festival to a MegaStack event this year.

If online poker was available in more US states, or a thriving poker room at Resorts Casino is built, a PokerStars Festival, or even a PokerStars Championship could take place in Atlantic City. But until that day, there simply aren’t enough online and live qualifiers.

PCA: A poker destination

That said, a strong regional online poker market isn’t a requisite for a major series. It can be done.

The trick is to hold tournaments in places that are easy to travel to and people want to visit, like the Bahamas.

After several failed efforts to stimulate interest for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) held every January at Atlantis in the Bahamas, PokerStars is going back-to-basics.

For many years, the PCA was one of the most prestigious tournaments in poker, but in the current poker economy, the cost to attend the event is a burden few poker players can bear. That’s led to several years of declining attendance and declining interest in the tournament. Some wonder if the PCA’s days are numbered.

Over the past few years, PokerStars has tried everything to stem the bleeding:

  • They slashed the Main Event buy-in in half.
  • Added a slew of tournaments at all kinds of price-points nearly tripling the series’ schedule,
  • They even tried a rebrand to bring the PCA under its new global tour’s umbrella.

None of it worked.

This year PokerStars has rolled-back all of these initiatives. The PCA brand is back; the schedule has been reduced to around 30 events, and the Main Event buy-in is back to $10k.

Further, PokerStars said it plans on sending at least 400 online qualifiers to the PCA. And people from all over the globe are clamoring for these satellites.


Direct qualifier satellite tournaments cannot be overstated. They have a massive impact.

Not only does it swell the ranks of the series, it also allows the tour to better gauge the guarantee amounts for certain tournaments. This, in turn, could attract even more players to the event.

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