The WSOP’s 50th-anniversary “Big 50” tournament ended up being quite a bit bigger than anyone ever imagined.
The Big 50 helped kick off the 2019 World Series of Poker over the weekend and the cavernous Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino was nearly bursting at the seams with a record-setting 28,000-plus entries. That’s enough to make the Big 50 the biggest live tournament — in terms of attendance — in poker history, easily eclipsing the 22,374 entries of 2015 Colossus, which was the previous record holder.
Organizers finally released a count of players midway through Day 2D with a record-setting 28,371 entries (17,970 of which were unique).
The record-breaking attendance would put the prize pool at approximately $13 million, which is more than double the $5-million prize pool that the WSOP guaranteed in the event.
No Rake, Huge Prize Helps Buoy Numbers
The Big 50 had a little help breaking records thanks to its unique rake-free structure. As part of the WSOP’s 50th anniversary, organizers opted to forgo a tournament fee on every player’s initial buy-in (also known as the rake). The Big 50 is a re-entry tournament so additional buy-ins were raked.
The rake is how tournament organizers make money so it’s very rare for series like the WSOP to offer essentially rake-free tournaments. One of the rare tournaments to be held rake-free is the $1-million buy-in Big One for One Drop where organizers instead donated the $111,111 tournament fee to charity.
Those tournaments always had fewer than 50 players, however, which is a far cry from the stadium-filling Big 50.
The rake wasn’t the only reason that players flocked to the Rio, however. The tournament also offered a $5-million prize pool guarantee with $1 million set aside for first place. It’s a significant return on investment considering the $500 buy-in. Thanks to the massive attendance first place will actually pay out $1.15 million.
Here’s a look at how the 2019 Big 50 stacks up against the 10 other biggest tournaments in history (in terms of entries):
|2019||$550 The Big 50||28,371||$13,509,435|
|2006||$10,000 Main Event||8,773||$82,512,162|
|2018||$10,000 Main Event||7,874||$74,015,600|
|2010||$10,000 Main Event||7,319||$68,798,600|
That’s not to say the event has gone off without a hitch. Thanks to the overwhelming demand, organizers had to scramble to create tournament space for the event. At one point a former bowling alley in the Rio was used as a makeshift tournament area. Tournament organizers also had to cancel a number of the smaller daily DeepStacks tournaments.
There were also long lines as players had to wait up to six hours to finally take their seat in the highly anticipated event. Participation was also so high that organizers are still tabulating the exact final count of players in the enormous tournament.
The event is scheduled to play to a Sportsbook this Friday but the final table may be delayed thanks to the massive field.
Negreanu, Hellmuth Off to Hot Start at WSOP
It’s going to be particularly difficult for any of the big-name poker pros to make it through the massive 25,000-plus field of the Big 50 but there’s still plenty of tournaments where the pros are making some noise.
Daniel Negreanu, who sold some of his 2019 WSOP action to fans for the first time ever this year, got off to an extremely hot start by making the final table of the first tournament he played — the $10,000 Super Turbo Bounty event.
Negreanu ended up finishing sixth in the tournament for a modest $52,099 but any fans who bought a piece of his mid-stakes package are already on their way to making back whatever they invested.
Meanwhile, Phil Hellmuth, who is renowned for cutting through huge No-Limit Hold’em live tournament fields, switched things up by making the final table of the first online event of the 2019 WSOP. Online tournaments are available to players based in Las Vegas and New Jersey.
Hellmuth, who plays on the WSOP.com software under the name “lumestackin,” had a legit chance to win his record 16th bracelet in an online tournament but he eventually finished in sixth place for a $39,460 payday. The Poker Brat still has plenty of time to win his 16th bracelet with 90 percent of the 2019 WSOP still ahead of us.
Be sure to check out the complete 2019 WSOP schedule for more information.