Monday, July 07, 2014

On Starting Flights; or, The Main Event Takes Off

So the Main Event is on and it sounds like today’s final Day 1 flight is going to be huge. Like mechagodzilla huge.

They’ve drawn 2,915 players so far through the first two of three Day 1 flights. The WSOP tweeted last night that the Day 1c field will be bigger than both Day 1a and 1b combined, while WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart earlier tweeted that they were preparing for “our biggest Main Event start ever.”

The largest ever starting day for a Main Event was last year’s Day 1c when 3,467 players came out. If they top that today, that’ll carry the overall total field size over the 6,352 who played the 2013 Main Event. Before the WSOP started I was asked to predict the total for this year’s ME and guessed 7,039, thinking that added satellites, a few qualifiers, and that big $10 milly first prize might help boost the total. Will be kind of a reach to get there today, but we’ll see.

All this about Day 1 flights and field sizes got me thinking about the last decade’s worth of WSOP Main Events and the history of the multiple Day 1s. There had always only been a single Day 1 until 2004, the year Binion’s Horseshoe was overrun with players wanting to follow Chris Moneymaker’s footsteps to fame and fortune.

Some that year had been predicting an increase in the number of participants from the 839 who played the Main Event in 2003, although few were guessing the jump would be so dramatic. As the preliminary events played out in 2004, predictions of an increase were bandied about, but few it seemed had an idea what was about to happen.

In their history of the WSOP, All In: The (Almost) Entirely True Story of the World Series of Poker, Jonathan Grotenstein and Storms Reback talk about how Amarillo Slim Preston made a couple of $50K bets during the days leading up to the 2004 ME starting -- one that the field would break 1,000, then another that it would exceed 1,200.

As they got closer to the first scheduled day of play, it became obvious Preston would be winning both of those bets easily. PokerPages’ Day 1 report from the 2004 WSOP Main Event talks about how “projections were raised upwards to ‘1800’ then ‘1900,’” then eventually “tournament executives and organizers began preparing for a near mythical number -- two thousand players.”

Of course, they’d end up with a total field of 2,576, a number well above what Binion’s could reasonably accommodate, and so a decision was made on the fly to divide that group into two Day 1 flights. After a lot of digging around I couldn’t put my finger on the exact number of entrants on each of those two Day 1s, although anecdotal accounts suggest there were more seated on the second day than the first.

Totals for the Day 1 starting flights from subsequent WSOP Main Events were a little easier to pinpoint, although some of the info is scattered pretty widely, especially when looking back more than five years ago. But I think I found the answers in all cases, and so decided to compile it all here to have it in one place.

2004: 2,576 total entrants (1,108 made Day 2)
Day 1a -- approx. 1,200
Day 1b -- approx. 1,350

2005: 5,619 total entrants (1,864 made Day 2)
Day 1a -- 1,885
Day 1b -- 1,857
Day 1c -- 1,877

2006: 8,773 total entrants (3,373 made Day 2)
Day 1a -- 2,138
Day 1b -- 2,176
Day 1c -- 2,160
Day 1d -- 2,299

2007: 6,358 total entrants (2,235 made Day 2)
Day 1a -- 1,287
Day 1b -- 1,545
Day 1c -- 1,743
Day 1d -- 1,783

2008: 6,844 total entrants (3,629 made Day 2)
Day 1a -- 1,297
Day 1b -- 1,158
Day 1c -- 1,928
Day 1d -- 2,461

2009: 6,494 total entrants (4,398 made Day 2)
Day 1a -- 1,116
Day 1b -- 873
Day 1c -- 1,696
Day 1d -- 2,809

2010: 7,319 total entrants (5,146 made Day 2)
Day 1a -- 1,125
Day 1b -- 1,489
Day 1c -- 2,314
Day 1d -- 2,391

2011: 6,865 total entrants (4,521 made Day 2)
Day 1a -- 897
Day 1b -- 978
Day 1c -- 2,181
Day 1d -- 2,809

2012: 6,598 total entrants (4,344 made Day 2)
Day 1a -- 1,066
Day 1b -- 2,114
Day 1c -- 3,418

2013: 6,352 total entrants (4,186 made Day 2)
Day 1a -- 943
Day 1b -- 1,942
Day 1c -- 3,467

Day 1a -- 771
Day 1b -- 2,144
Day 1c -- ???
I additionally tracked down the number of survivors from each individual Day 1 flight, although in a couple of cases I wasn’t too confident in the accuracy of the numbers and so decided not to include them here.

Looking back over these totals, a couple of things stick out. One is how the fields for the Day 1 starting flights were approximately even back when the idea was first introduced. I seem to remember that players weren’t necessarily able to choose their starting days back then, which is how the WSOP was able to keep the fields roughly the same from flight to flight.

Once players were able to select their preferred starting day, you see how the last starting day traditionally saw the largest field come out. Of those figures the 2,809 who played on Day 1d in 2009 stands out most starkly, as that was the year hundreds of players were actually turned away from the Main Event because of a lack of space.

I remember that day well and the fallout afterwards, writing about it here at the time. (Day 1b that year fell on the Fourth of July, which helps explain the relatively small turnout that day.)

It sounds possible they could run into a space issue today. During the small Day 1a, WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel told BLUFF “I’m confident that I won’t shut anybody out” from a packed Day 1c today. But WSOP VP of Corporate Communications Seth Palansky added “I have some doubts that we can accommodate everyone.”

So how many do you think will be playing Day 1c today?

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Blogger Eddie said...

Given the experience they dealt with for the monster stack tournament, I'd say there's a good chance they'll follow those ideas:

1) They closed almost every table in the place to allocate it for the tourney

2) They created late registration flights extending into the 4th, then 5th, then 6th levels.

If they were able to seat 7800 for a single day start for the monster stack, they'll be able to seat everybody who wants in today for the ME.

7/07/2014 11:47 AM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

I agree that unless something strange happens, there seems little chance they won't be able to accommodate everyone today.

7/07/2014 2:53 PM  

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