With the Main Event turning the corner into the money today, the 2013 World Series of Poker is all but over. By this time next week the entire poker world will be nursing a serious hangover from bingeing in the desert for seven-plus weeks. So while everyone’s still functioning to one degree or another, it’s time to take a look at how this year’s Series stacked up compared to recent years.
After a small dip in 2012, attendance was up again at the 2013 WSOP. Total participation was an all-time high of 79,471 total entries, beating the record set in 2011 by five percent. Part of the jump came from the highly successful Event 6, the $1,500 “Millionaire Maker,” which drew a record single-day starting field of 6,343 players. That was the most ever for any tournament other than the Main Event, making it the eighth-largest live poker tournament ever held. Also helping to boost attendance was the sheer size of the schedule: including the Main Event there were 62 events played, an all-time record. All in all it was another excellent year for the Series at the registration windows.
At 6,352 players, this year’s Main Event field is just six players shy of the mark set in 2007, the final year before the November Nine concept was introduced and the first year after Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. How you take that piece of data has a lot to do with how you frame it. It’s the smallest Main Event since Joe Hachem outlasted 5,619 to win the 2005 tournament, just before the crest of the poker boom; it’s also the seventh-largest live tournament in history despite being held during a challenging time for poker.
In the post-UIGEA era, the Main Event has now averaged 6,755 players per year even though attendance has been trailing off slowly since 2008. If you’d suggested in late 2006 that the tournament would remain that strong seven years later without an unregulated U.S. market driving attendance, there wouldn’t have been many industry insiders who could have mustered up disappointment. I think it’s safe to say this has been another strong year for the Main Event. And given that next year’s tournament should see online qualifiers from the U.S. for the first time in several years, it could be the smallest one for the foreseeable future.
Plenty of players familiar with having a winner’s photo taken earned another go this summer, adding to the body of evidence that poker is indeed a skill game. Cliff “JohnnyBax” Josephy won his first bracelet since 2005 and second overall in Event 9 ($3,000 NLHE Shootout). Then came Mike Matusow, whose win in Event 13 ($5,000 Stud Hi/Lo) was the fourth of his career and his first since 2008. The 2007 WSOP Player of the Year, Tom Schneider, won both the $1,500 and $5,000 HORSE events for his third and fourth bracelets. Schneider’s fellow former Player of the Year, Jeff Madsen, won his third career bracelet in Event 35 ($3,000 Pot Limit Omaha). David Chiu picked up the fifth bracelet of his career with a win in Event 23 ($2,5000 Stud). Mark Radoja (Event 16, $10,000 Heads-Up NLHE), Athanasios Polychronopoulos (Event 17, $1,500 NLHE), Davidi Kitai (Event 19, $5,000 Pot Limit Hold’em), Erick Lindgren (Event 32, $5,000 six-max NLHE), Michael Gathy (Event 34, $1,000 Turbo NLHE), Daniel Idema (Event 39, $1,500 Stud Hi/Lo) and Matt Perrins (Event 57, $5,000 NLHE) all earned their second career bracelets. And Daniel Alaei wrapped up the side event schedule by claiming his fourth career bracelet in Event 61 ($10,000 PLO).
At the other end of the spectrum from the repeat winners, several of this year’s bracelet winners earned their first bracelets by breaking streaks of final table appearances without a win.
7: Vladimir Shchemelev of Russia had appeared at seven previous WSOP final tables over the last four years, including one earlier this summer, before winning this year’s Event 46, a $3,000 Pot Limit Omaha/8 tournament.
6: California pro Marco Johnson had gone six previous final tables without a win, dating back to 2007, before taking down Event 48 ($2,500 six-max Limit Hold’em).
4: Brandon Wong had missed out four times before, including two second-place finishes, before winning Event 50 ($2,500 six-max 10-Game Mix). Matthew Ashton had also struck out at previous four final tables before winning Event 55, the $50,000 Poker Players Championship, though three of those final tables were earlier this summer so it doesn’t really feel like a streak.
3: Florida poker pro Matt Waxman won Event 7 ($1,000 NLHE) after three previous final table appearances dating back to 2009. Britain’s Barny Boatman did the same in Event 49 ($1,500 NLHE), ending his personal streak dating back to 2002.
2: The third time was the charm for Brent Wheeler in Event 10 ($1,500 Limit Hold’em), Taylor Paur in Event 18 ($1,000 NLHE), and Jarred Hamby in Event 40 ($1,500 NLHE).
Two women won open-event bracelets this year. Casino cocktail waitress Dana Castaneda of Arizona was the first to break through when she won Event 54 ($1,000 NLHE). It was just the second cash of her career, following up on a top-100 finish in the Ladies Event the week prior. WSOP Circuit veteran Loni Harwood of New York made two final tables earlier in the summer without going the distance before she earned gold in Event 60, a $1,500 NLHE tourney. That gave her a total take of $874,698, the most by a woman in a single WSOP in its history. Going into the Main Event, Harwood’s performance had her ranked third in the WSOP Player of the Year standings.
This marks the first time since 2004, when Cyndy Violette, Annie Duke, and Kathy Liebert all won tournaments, that more than one woman has won a bracelet in a single year. The two bracelets for women this year match the total won by all women in the previous five years. (Vanessa Selbst won events in 2008 and 2012.) Whether a woman can finally break through to the Main Event final table, on the heels of two near misses last year, remains to be seen. But even if it’s all guys again, this has been a good year for women at the WSOP.