The record still stands — barely. It just may no longer deserve to be considered unbreakable.
The World Series of Poker Main Event fell just short of setting an all-time high in number of entrants this year, organizers announced after registration closed in the championship tournament Sunday afternoon. A total of 8,569 players ponied up the $10,000 to enter the event — the second-most ever and only 204 less than the record set in 2006.
It’s a momentous achievement for the World Series of Poker considering the 2006 total was long regarded as a number that would stay as an outlier with no other fields ever expected to come close. That was the last year players could buy-in directly from winning online satellite tournaments and stood as a testament to the popularity of poker post the, “Moneymaker boom.”
Poker still may never reach the mainstream visibility it did during the era, but the World Series’ registration numbers show that as many people as ever are playing the game. Last year set a record for total participation across all events, and this year was trending nearly 30 percent ahead going into the Main Event, the 73rd of 89 total tournaments.
Through 74 events currently, the World Series of Poker has attracted 166,575 entrants to create a total prize pool of just more than $249 million.
That’s largely because of the proliferation of small buy-in tournaments — players could chase a championship bracelet for as low as $400 for the first time — that officials have long justified as a way to get new customers in the doors at the Rio Convention Center. This year’s Main Event numbers might be the best evidence yet.
The eventual winner will take home a $10 million first-place prize, tied for the second-largest in Main Event history. Jamie Gold claimed $12 million for winning the landmark 2006 event, while Martin Jacobson won the 2014 Main Event when a $10 million prize was promised as part of a promotional strategy.
Making the final table will guarantee a $1 million payout, as has become customary. The nine compromising the final table are expected to emerge late Friday night or early Saturday morning.
The smallest prize is $15,000, which will begin being paid out to the player finishing in 1,286th place. The “money bubble” is expected to burst early on Tuesday’s Day 4, the second session where the entire field will be playing together.
The Main Event ran three starting flights beginning last Thursday, and a pair of Day 2s on Saturday and Sunday. For the first time, registration was allowed up to the start of play on Day 2.
A total of 444 players — including 1988 champion Phil Hellmuth — took advantage of the late-registration option. Hellmuth was featured heavily on ESPN’s coverage of the tournament Saturday.
Daily stretches of the action will continue to air on the network, or sister-station ESPN2, and through the PokerGo streaming app before ESPN airs the final table in its entirety.
The final table is scheduled for three straights, from Sunday July 14 to Tuesday July 16, at Rio.