The World Series of Poker is often used as a barometer for the overall health of the poker economy. Based on this year’s attendance numbers, the poker economy appears to be firing on all cylinders.
The 2018 WSOP produced a record 123,865 entries across 78 events. And for the first time in its history, the WSOP handed out over a quarter-billion-dollars in prize-money: $266,889,193 to put an exact number on it.
The Main Event wasn’t a record-setter, but it was close.
A total of 7,874 players entered the $10,000 buy-in tournament, the second highest total in the tournament’s 49 year history.
The United States accounted for 73 percent (5,758) of the 7,874 participants in the 2018 World Series of Poker Main Event, and thanks to data from the WSOP, we can see where these players are coming from.
No surprises at the top
The five states that sent the most players to the 2018 WSOP Main Event were:
- California: 1,009
- Nevada: 626
- Florida: 519
- New York: 456
- Texas: 390
1,635 of the 5,758 participants (more than 28 percent of the US field) hail from just two states, California and Nevada.
California is the most populous state in the country, so it’s not surprising that that over 1,000 WSOP Main Event participants reside in the Golden State. In the same vein, Florida, New York, and Texas rank third, fourth, and second in population respectively.
The outlier in the group (but not really) is Nevada. The state ranks just 33rd in population.
Of course, Nevada is the gambling capital of the world and the home of the WSOP, so even though it’s punching way above its population weight class with 626 entries, the Silver State’s #2 ranking isn’t a surprise.
But Nevada wasn’t the only state that overperformed its population.
The states that overperformed
In addition to Nevada, 22 states had more participants in the WSOP Main Event than their population dictated.
Some of the states that overperformed their populations are unsurprising.
What’s in the water in New England?
The strong showings by other states are harder to quantify.
That’s particularly true for several New England states: Maine (+9), Connecticut (+9), Massachusetts (+7), Vermont (+4), and New Hampshire (+2). The only New England state that didn’t exceed expectations was Rhode Island.
There are several legal poker rooms in New England, but the region isn’t exactly known as a hotbed of poker activity.
Connecticut boasts two legal poker rooms, one at Mohegan Sun and the other at Foxwoods. The latter is one of the biggest poker rooms in the country.
Twin River in Rhode Island is the only other full-scale poker room in the region (MGM Springfield will boast a poker room when it opens in August, as will Encore Boston Harbor when it opens next year).
Beyond that it’s slim pickings. Hollywood Casino in Bangor, Maine has a small poker room, and charity rooms are available in New Hampshire.
What the region does possess poker-wise is a thriving underground and home game scene, as well as one of the most popular bar poker leagues in the country, The Eastern Poker Tour.
New England also has a lot of disposable income.
According to the Tax Foundation, when it comes to “real” disposable income, Connecticut ranks 4th, Massachusetts ranks 6th, New Hampshire ranks 13th, and Rhode Island ranks 14th. Rounding out New England, Vermont is 25th and Maine is 35th.
The states that underperformed
Things are even more convoluted when it comes to the states that underperformed.
What you don’t find is a lot of disposable income in these states. Virginia tops the list at 15th, with almost every underperforming state falling in the bottom half of the Tax Foundation’s disposable income rankings.
More than access to poker, the economic climate in a state will give you a good idea of what states will be overrepresented and underrepresented in the WSOP Main Event.