Last year, this event -- the $1,500 Limit Hold’em Shootout -- attracted 823 entrants. It was also one of the last events in 2008 (Event No. 53). So we’re looking at a precipitous drop here of 251 fewer runners, about 30% less than last year, and also well below the 905 that had been projected for this event (in that WSOP Staff Resource Media Guide back in early May).
Of course, the main buzz at the Rio yesterday -- aside from the surprise playing of the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” at Brit John Kabbaj’s bracelet ceremony (an attempt at a little cheekiness that sounds like it didn’t quite land) -- concerned a similar decline in entrants in the much more prestigious $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event (Event No. 49), which only drew 95 players. That’s also a huge drop from last year -- nearly 36% off of last year’s 148 -- and well below the projected 151.
Now folks are starting to wonder about the Main Event that starts this coming Friday (July 3), which drew 6,844 last year, and for which Harrah’s had projected 7,323. Will at least 7,000 players come out and plunk down $10,000 to chase that dream this time around? Some are saying that is starting to look increasingly less likely.
In some ways, neither the $1,500 Limit Hold’em Shootout nor the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. has much at all to do with the Main Event. A small percentage of the LHE crowd will play the Main Event, too, though I’d bet well over half probably won’t. I don’t think the dip in registrants for this year really tells us too much about what’s going to happen with the Main Event.
On the other side of the coin, I’d venture to guess that all 95 of those who entered the $50K H.O.R.S.E. will be in the Main Event as well, and the main reason why that number fell so far was the lack of television coverage of that event from ESPN this year. Sure, that $40,000 “Special 40th Annual No-Limit Hold’em” event probably took a few names out of the $50K H.O.R.S.E. mix, but the fact that ESPN is not televising it meant many players who would’ve gotten help from sponsors to enter were not put into the event this time around.
When we were about one-third of the way through the WSOP, I took a brief, comparative look at the numbers and said at that point that it didn’t appear there had been much of a change from last year. I’ll do another comparison like that later next week before the Main Event kicks off and see whether this sudden decline we saw yesterday in the two new events might be part of a larger end-of-series trend.
Meanwhile, I will be back over to the Rio in just a couple hours to follow Round 2 of the Shootout. As you might imagine, it wasn’t the most exciting night for me last night, with much of my work being more clerical than creative as I tallied up the winners to report. And, of course, match-ending hands in limit events tend to be more than a little anti-climactic, since usually one player is down to his or her last couple of big bets and is forced to go all in with any two cards.
There are a few folks left to help make Event No. 50 interesting, though. Jean-Robert Bellande -- who finished second in this same event last year after having an enormous 8-to-1 chip advantage over Matt Graham when heads up at the final table -- won his table yesterday and so will be there for Round 2. David Williams, Humberto Brenes, David Plastik, and Dan Heimiller won as well. And Tom Schneider, Juha Helppi, Brock Parker, Greg “FBT” Mueller, and “Crazy Mike” Thorpe are all going to be seated at the same table today.
Still, I’m aware I'll probably be experiencing a decline of my own when it comes to the number of eyeballs following my reporting this weekend, since most everyone who ends up over at PokerNews’ live reporting page will probably be following that $50K H.O.R.S.E. event. (Most of the field -- 91 of 95 -- is still alive in that one.) Hell, I’ll probably be looking in over there as well today.
I will also likely be keeping an eye on the entrants in Event No. 51, the next-to-last of the so-called “donkaments” (i.e., the $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em events). That figure will probably be a more significant indicator of things to come if that number turns out to be one-third below the projected number (2,800 entrants).
Then that Sex Pistols’ song -- and its predictions of “no future” -- might start sounding uncomfortably prophetic to some.