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New $109 Buy-in PokerStars Sunday Million Draws 15,550 with $1.5m Prize Pool

Liv Boeree stacks a set of chips at the PokerStars Sunday Million.

It appears that dropping the buy-in of the iconic Sunday Million tournament is going to work out just fine for PokerStars.

The new $109 buy-in Sunday Million attracted an eye-popping 15,550 entries over the weekend with an impressive $1,555,000 prize pool.

Ukrainian online player 555AU outlasted all comers to take down a hefty $136,892 first-place prize in the long-running tournament. The event paid out 2,798 places, meaning a large number of players walked with at least $178 for their efforts.

The Sunday Million buy-in will remain at $109 (even less if you manage to qualify) so there’s no telling what kind of numbers the event might draw in the near future.

The New Paradigm for Online Poker?

Buy-ins have been dropping for major poker tournaments around the world since about 2010 as operators chase more players and bigger prize pools.

The online world has not been immune to that concept and dropping the Sunday Million to $109 helps smash a mental barrier that players had about spending over $200 on a single poker tournament.

The move appears to have paid immediate dividends for PokerStars as the new $109 buy-in Sunday Million attracted roughly twice as many entries as the previous week when the old $215 buy-in was still in place.

“I’m a big fan of this new structure because it maintains the enormous payouts for the final tablists but gives more people the opportunity to play this iconic tournament more regularly,” said Team PokerStars Pro Liv Boeree.

These days there are very few online tournaments that exceed $200 for a buy-in and manage to draw huge fields. One exception is The Whale on 888poker, which remains fairly popular. Partypoker is also experimenting with its $5,200 buy-in Big Game but that event takes place in phases.

Even PokerStars still has the Sunday 500 (which prominently features a $500 buy-in) but that event has been steadily declining over the years.

Lex Veldhuis Wins Sunday Warm-Up for $34k on Stream

The PokerStars Sunday Million might have been the biggest online tournament this weekend but that doesn’t mean it was the only game in town.

Team PokerStars Pro Lex Veldhuis outlasted 1,069 players in the $215 Sunday Warm-Up to win $34,690.

Perhaps most impressively, Veldhuis streamed the entire 16-hour tournament and peaked with over 15,000 viewers.

Veldhuis, who is a longtime member of Team PokerStars Pro, has become one of the most popular poker streamers on twitch.tv and Sunday Warm-Up was a nice sign of validation for a guy who has put in countless hours online.

The Dutch poker pro won the tournament in back-to-back hands where he triumphed with ace-king in each one.

Anyone interested in reliving Veldhuis’ epic journey in the Sunday Warm-Up (and getting an amazing poker education in the process) can watch the entire tournament right here.

Sunday Million Satellites Start at $0.11

The idea of making the Sunday Million more accessible seems to have worked and PokerStars seems to have hit a sweet spot with the $109 buy-in.

That doesn’t mean players have to commit $109 to play the tournament, however, as PokerStars runs a diverse qualifying schedule for the Sunday Million that starts at just 11 cents. That’s not the easiest way to qualify but it’s certainly possible.

One aspect of the Sunday Million that will hopefully make it a huge long-term draw is that it pays 22 percent of the field. That’s quite high for a poker tournament but it means that even the most recreational players have a decent shot at making it into the money.

While it’s unlikely that PokerStars changes the famous $1-million prize guarantee that’s attached to the Sunday Million, it definitely seems conceivable that the company could up the ante to a $1.5-million guarantee for the new $109 buy-in version.

It wouldn’t be the first time that PokerStars has altered the guarantee surrounding the Sunday Million. There have been several special Sunday Millions over the years that offered guaranteed prize pools of over $10 million.