The success of those tournaments demonstrate that the online portion is likely to continue be a major part of the WSOP’s tournament series moving forward.
A look back at the WSOP online bracelet events
The move to three bracelets was a rather big change for a tournament series that is often cautious with making changes. After holding just one online bracelet event in both 2015 and 2016, WSOP NV decided to triple that number in 2017.
WSOP.com Head of Online Poker Bill Rini said that he and the rest of the team behind putting on the tournament series were pleased with the results of hosting more online events:
- The $333 no-limit hold’em tourney generated a prize pool of more than $750,000, with 1,780 players and a total 2,509 entries
- The $1,000 no-limit hold’em event featured a prize pool of more than $1.2 million created by 951 players accounting for 1,312 entries.
- The $3,333 no-limit hold’em event had more than $1,335,600 in prizes, with a total of 424 entries.
“They all proved to be successful for us,” Rini told US Poker. “This year proved that the things that we focused on last year really paid off for us. We recognized that people wanted more online events.”
That’s a relief for Rini and the WSOP, which has slowly been increasing its online presence alongside the biggest poker tournament series in the world.
“I feel like there’s a bigger spotlight put on the online bracelet events because they’re new, they’re so far outside of what the WSOP has been doing since the 1970s,” Rini said. “I feel like there’s a responsibility to get it right when we do it. So the team puts more pressure on itself to make sure the events go well and that the entire organization can be proud of them.”
Taking a chance on a bigger WSOP online event
Rini said that the $3,333 and its big prize pool was the most impressive part of the WSOP online offering this year.
“We’ve been curious about what the maximum price point to be able to hold a successful tournament online,” Rini said. “There’s not a lot of examples of really high buy-in events and no real examples in the US regulated markets, where you have more limited liquidity.”
The decision was to go lower than $5,000, but well above the $1,000 buy-in of the single events the past two years. That decision paid off with a robust turnout given the pricetag.
“The $3,333 event showed there was a demand for it,” Rini said. “We heard a lot of players commenting on it before the event happened, and they were really excited about it.”
Rini downplayed the idea that a $10,000 online buy-in event could be on the way, but a slightly higher price point in future years could be possible.
More big tournaments going on concurrently
Rini also said the WSOP learned more about its audience in hosting larger online tournaments alongside the bracelet events.
“Originally, the thinking had been, ‘Well we’ll just split the traffic if we have a $500 event while there’s a $1000 event going on, people are just gonna play one or the other,’ ” Rini said. “And we found out that most people were playing both.”
While that might seem like an obvious connection to make, Rini said he and the WSOP want to make sure each bracelet event is given the best chance to do well, for the players and the company.
“We want these bracelet events to be successful, so we’re really cautious about doing anything that you could look back on and kick yourself for,” Rini said.
What will change for the WSOP online?
Rini wouldn’t say what might change for next year’s online bracelet offerings, mostly because no decisions had been made. But given the success of the three different events — with more than $3 million in prizes awarded — it seems unlikely the WSOP would scale back to one or two online tournaments.
“Every year after the WSOP we sit down as a team and we take a look at what worked, what didn’t work, what did we hear, general feedback,” Rini said. “We try to make some sort of improvement every year. It’s always nice to think you can make a lot of changes, but if you change too many variables, you don’t know what worked and what didn’t.”
And, as Rini noted, the WSOP only gets one crack at running online bracelet events in a calendar year, so they aren’t likely to reinvent the wheel from one year to next.
The bread and butter will always be the land-based tournament series. But its clear the online portion is here to stay and is only going to become more prominent moving forward.
“We’re becoming less and less concerned how is the market going to accept this, we can start looking at how we can optimize it,” Rini said. “Every year we get a little more confidence that we’re on the right track.”