Monday, July 06, 2009

2009 WSOP, Day 40: By the Numbers

Counting for dummiesFeeling much better today. Spent yesterday resting, writing, reading, and drinking tea (per doctor’s orders). And, of course, following some of the coverage over on PokerNews of the World Series of Poker Main Event.

Yesterday’s Day 1c saw 1,697 players register to play, a big boost from Days 1a (1,116) and 1b (873). And today should bring even more out for the final Day 1d. Everyone’s going to be eyeing that overall total of entrants to see where it ends up today.

Thought now would be as good a time as any to finish that business of comparing last year’s numbers with this year’s. It goes without saying all errors in math or transcribing here are my own. Here’s how the first 56 events stacked up, followed by a few comments:

Comparing 2008 and 2009

Of the first 56 bracelet events, only 40 perfectly match events from last year in terms of the game and buy-in being identical. There were a lot of “tweaks” whereby a buy-in was slightly changed, or perhaps the format altered (e.g., there were no rebuys this year). For those tourneys I didn’t bother to try to match the 2009 event with one that was close but not the same as last year.

Of those 40 events that were brought back, it looks like 23 attracted fewer entrants in 2009, 15 attracted more entrants than last year, and two brought in exactly the same, planned-for number of players -- the $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em Shootout and the $10,000 World Championship Heads-Up No-Limit, both of which were capped and drew the maximum number of players allowed.

There were a couple of big dips, the most dramatic of which was probably the nearly 36% drop in participants in the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. (Event No. 49). I’d toss out that 1,000-plus player drop in the first of the $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em events (Event No. 7) as being all that significant, since there we are comparing this year’s event to last year’s Event No. 2 -- the first $1,500 event of the summer last year. Besides, I think Event No. 4, the $1,000 No-Limit Hold’em “Stimulus Special,” more than made up for that difference.

By the NumbersIt is perhaps worth noting that the total number of player registrations for the seven $1,500 NLHE events (the so-called “donkaments”) was not that far off from last year, with 19,517 entering them last year and 18,347 this year (a decline of 1,170). But again, that’s with over 6,000 entering the “Stimulus Special,” so no worries about continuing to attract players to enter these relatively low buy-in no-limit hold’em events.

Also, of the 11 events with buy-ins of $3,000 or more that were brought back this year, most were down in terms of entrants, some markedly so. Seven had fewer entrants, three had more (though only one, Event No. 56, significantly more), and one was the same (the $10,000 World Championship Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em event capped at 256).

Taken together, these 40 events we’re comparing here drew a total of 1,486 fewer players than in 2008. Not that meaningful of a number, mainly because we’re talking about only a little over two-thirds of the total events here. Looks pretty likely that the overall number of player registrations is going to exceed last year’s total of 58,720. Through the first 56 events, there were a total of 54,387 player registrations, so whatever the 2009 Main Event total ends up being, it will carry that total beyond last year’s mark and set yet another WSOP record for total player registrations.

The Projections

Looking at the projected fields for the first 56 events, 22 events drew more entrants than were projected, 32 drew fewer than were projected, and two drew exactly what was projected (again, both were capped and met the max.). In all, there were a total of 1,707 fewer players playing the first 56 events than had been projected. (It looks fairly certain the 7,323 number projected for the Main Event ain’t gonna happen.)

Most of the projections were relatively close, as it turned out, although there were a few that were quite a bit off the mark from the actual numbers. The estimate for the “Stimulus Special” turned out to be somewhat low (the projection was 5,305, and 6,012 came). Meanwhile, figures for a few other events (e.g., Events Nos. 13, 34, 36, and 50) were much more optimistic than turned out to be the case.


I think it is safe to say that despite the economic downturn since last summer, the WSOP is doing just fine. It looks as though the overall total of entrants for Main Event will be coming up short of the 6,844 who came out last year, and some will take that dip as a significant indicator of the relative health of the WSOP and the poker industry, generally speaking.

But I think that figure, despite the symbolic significance that traditionally gets attached to it, often isn’t really all that significant in terms of the big picture (unless, say, one year’s total is less than half or significantly higher than that of the previous year).

Looking at these first 56 events, then, it appears the WSOP is holding steady, despite the various forces currently in play that might well have caused a more significant decline.

You can head over to PokerNews’ live reporting page today to find out what that final total for the 2009 Main Event happens to be, as well as to follow all the action from Day 1d.

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