As a lot of us surely noticed on our Twitter feeds yesterday, PokerStars’ World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) kicked off on Sunday. This marks the 10th year of the WCOOP, which began as a modest nine-event series of tourneys back in July 2002 and has grown to a three-plus week, 62-tourney spectacle.
Saw numerous instances of pros I follow talking about how they’d joined the exodus and moved to Canada or elsewhere to play the WCOOP. “First Sunday back, kind of surreal,” tweeted Shane “Shaniac” Schleger early yesterday, having newly settled in Vancouver in order to play. “Feels really weird that my friends can't play because they are in America.”
Since its inception, the WCOOP has consistently remained the largest online tournament series in poker. And while the numbers will surely be down this fall from last year thanks to the non-involvement of U.S. players, yesterday’s turnouts prove that PokerStars and online poker is doing just fine without America.
Last year the WCOOP had the same number of events (62), with pretty much the same schedule of buy-ins and games being offered again this time around, although the guarantees have all been lowered.
Those events in 2010 saw a total of 141,126 entrants, with 48,978 of them (34.7%) from the United States. U.S. players won 33 of the 62 tournaments, and overall players from America claimed just over $28 million of the $63,157,150 in prize money that was awarded. Canada was the next closest in terms of total cashes with about $3.93 million.
The first three events of the 2011 WCOOP began yesterday, featuring the same stakes/games as the ones offered on Day 1 of the 2010 WCOOP.
Event No. 1, a $215 buy-in, six-handed no-limit hold’em event attracted an even 7,500 entrants yesterday. Last year the same event drew 9,001 players, meaning a dip of 16.7%.
Event No. 2, the $10,300 NLHE “High Roller” event, saw exactly 200 sign up on Sunday. That’s down a bit from last year’s 313 (36.1%).
And Event No. 3, a $215 full-ring NLHE tourney, had 10,107 turn out yesterday, compared to last year’s 12,066, a decline of 16.2% (similar to Event No. 1).
The majority of the events on the WCOOP schedule are in the $215-$530 buy-in range, and I’m going to guess the numbers for those will probably remain similar throughout the three weeks, with around a 15-20% drop in participation those events from 2010.
So while Americans comprised a little over a third of the entrants a year ago, it looks like for many events about half of those missing U.S. players were made up for with players from other countries. Or Full Tilt Poker players who’ve secured other funds with which to play.
Or folks like Schleger who’ve moved on.
Daniel Negreanu -- another player who has relocated from Las Vegas to Canada to play the WCOOP -- played in all three events yesterday. He tweeted early on regarding the turnout in Event No. 3.
“Poker is flourishing all over the globe,” he wrote. “10,107 entries in the $215 PokerStars tournament If you love online poker and can do it #MoveoutofUS.”
A pretty huge “if” there at the end. For most, anyway. Still, for the serious online tourney grinder, it isn’t hard to see why they’re making the move.