2018 WSOP Main Event Field Second-Largest in History

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2018 WSOP Main Event Field Second-Largest in History

The 2018 World Series of Poker Main Event kicked-off on Monday, July 2, and drew a massive field of 7,874 players across its three starting flights, officially making it the second-largest tournament ever held in the competition’s 49-year history. In fact, only the 2006 Main Event, held at the peak of the poker boom and won by Jamie Gold for $12 million, attracted more entrants at 8,773.

Compared to the previous year, attendance was also higher by an impressive 10%, and commenting upon the hugely positive numbers, a delighted WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel explained:

“I think with the expanded coverage, the event falling earlier in the schedule, and with this being vacation time for a lot of people with it being a holiday week, I think it being a few days earlier helped bring a few more people.”

$74 Million Prize Pool

On Day 1A, 925 players paid the Main Event’s $10k buy-in, followed by 2,378 players on Day 1B, and a record 4,571 runners on Day 1C, resulting in a huge prize pool of $74,015,600. Consequently, 1,181 players or the top 15% of the field, can now look forward to receiving a minimum cash of at least $15,000. Anyone making it through to the final table, however, will automatically be guaranteed a $1 million prize, with the tournament’s ultimate champion awarded a staggering $8.8 million.

Despite attracting the second biggest turn out, however, this year’s first place prize is still only the 5th biggest in the tournament’s history. Nevertheless, the discrepancy is due to the way in which the organizer has tinkered with the payout structure over the years. When Chris Moneymaker won the Main Event in 2003, for instance, just 7.5% of the field got paid, rising to around 10% in 2014, and now 15% in 2018.

Global Phenomenon

Highlighting its enduring appeal, the 2018 WSOP Main Event drew players from 88 countries around the world. Of course the USA comprised the bulk of entrants, and boasted 5,758 representatives from all of its 50 states. Leading the way was California with 1,009 players, or around 13% of the entire field, followed by Nevada (519), Florida (456), and Texas (390).

Canadian constituted the next biggest group with 415 attendees, and then the UK (350), and France (136). Meanwhile, players from Asian countries making the journey across the Pacific Ocean included those from Japan (58), China (55), Hong Kong (14), Korea (8), Taiwan (8), Singapore (6), Vietnam (4), Philippines (4), Macau (2), Malaysia (2), Myanmar (2), and Thailand (1).

A total of 82 players also hailed from Australia, with some of the other more distant countries represented at the 2018 WSOP Main Event including Kenya, Zambia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Bosnia.

Increasing Attendance

In 2003, the Main Event attracted 839 players, rising to 2,576 players in 2004, and 5,619 in 2005. Following a record attendance of 8,773 runners in 2006, the number of entrants subsequently leveled off in the mid-6,000 range, where it remained until experiencing tremendous growth over the past couple of years. In 2017, for instance, 7,221 players took part, making it the third-largest in WSOP history, while this year’s attendance is just 899 off the all-time record.

Helping to partially explain the positive turnaround is a gradual return of online poker to the US, with four state’s having now legalized their online poker markets. A general improvement in the world economy has also contributed significantly to the positive situation. As unemployment rates fall, and the stock market continues to rise steadily,
consumers are left with more discretionary income, resulting in a consumer spending boost, with poker one of the many beneficiaries.

Demographic Breakdown

Poker still enjoys a popular following across a wide range of age groups, although over the past few years players in the their 20s have fared significantly better than their older competitors, and shown themselves more able to endure the Main Event’s punishing 13 day, and up to 14 hour a day schedule. In 2017, however, Qui Nguyen bucked the trend by winning the Main Event at the ripe old age of 39/40.

This year, the most popular category of player to enter the Main Event fell in the 26 to 40 year old age group, with 1,439 players aged between 26-30, 1,689 aged 31-35, and 1,050 aged 36-40. Meanwhile, just 310 players entered aged 21-25, while 1,070 players fell into the over 56 year old category.

Overall, the average age of participants at this year’s Main Event is 41.23 years old, broken down into 43.71 for males, and 41.13 for females.  At the 2018 Main Event, John Olsen from Mississippi is the oldest player in the field at 88, while the youngest is Nicholas Dashineau from Pennsylvania, who only turned 21 on Sunday.

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