Monday, May 30, 2011

How many runners in the WSOP Main Event?

The latest press release from Unibet Poker:

The WSOP is here again! A time for optimism, a time for pain, a time for pretty much any emotion in your entire repertoire. Whether you come back from Vegas a millionaire or a punch-drunk no-hoper (ho-noper?) who swears there’ll never play the game again, you can be sure of one thing. There will be plenty of attempts to put numbers to uncertain events.

That’s all poker is. Guessing with limited information on uncertain events. Should that tourist from Alabama be drawing to that flush? Nope. Should that internet kid be putting that UTG opener’s raise on a range of 88+, AJ+, KQs? Nope. If everyone always got the numbers right there’d be no money to make in the game – except perhaps for the house (see all the pit games for more details).

The timeless attraction of uncertainty and limited information is that we can bet on it. And whenever a new possibility comes alive, the denizens of the poker world start tweeting numbers like deranged stock traders.

The latest subject? Answering the question: How many runners will there be in the Main Event? Because of Black Friday there’s a special amount of uncertainty this year. The last time America didn’t have internet poker, the Main Event runners numbered only into the hundreds.

Of course, the playing field is slightly different now. While there is no doubt that the number will be smaller than last year’s 7319 (the highest figure was the pre-UIGEA 2006 of 8773), a hell of a lot of Americans, and indeed people from further afield, still see the Main Event as a must.

The big problem this year will be the lack of internet qualifiers from the US. The two other factors I can see are: (a) many US players cannot get hold of their funds in time; and (b) many non-US players might not come to the WSOP if they cannot grind on the internet while there.

So what have people said so far? Tom Dwan came up with an answer on day one (i.e. Black Friday): 5,144. Doyle Brunson recently tweeted that it would be 4,500 and Bluff Europe journalist Matt Perry reckons it will be 4,038.

I’m less pessimistic. I understand that getting on for half the people who entered the Main Event last year satellited online, but I can’t believe they were all from the US, and even so, that US players aren’t going to try a different way in this year.

The Rio runs satellites to the Main Event on an hourly basis, and I given the timing of Black Friday, a reckon lot of US pros will take their bankrolls to Vegas casino for one last hurrah and take a view on pro poker at the end of July.

A few people will already have qualified via those sites before Black Friday. Also, I’d reckon around 1,000 of the internet qualifiers are not actually from the US (but rather Europe, Asia, Canada, etc). Nothing’s changed for them.

Another problem is that maybe Stars and Tilt will be less concerned about getting people to the WSOP because there’s no point in them advertising in the US any more. It’ll be interesting to see, for example, how the November Niners fare sponsorship-wise given that the Big Two will not be interested.

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