Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Poker Rebound

No, this isn't a post about me bouncing back from a bad streak lately. The poker has been fine just lately actually, with a couple of winning days in a row after a few stinkers that I'd much rather forget ever happened. But no, the rebound I wanted to talk about today was in the popularity of poker in general in this country, and really around the world, which somehow to me seems to be flying largely under the radar out there in media land. Poker is back, baybeeeeee!

The World Series of Poker had a huge year in 2010 as far as I'm concerned, and yet for some reason nobody seems to be talking about it. I mean, as many people have mentioned whenever this topic comes up with respect to the WSOP, things in the world are not good right now, economically speaking. Way fewer people are employed, asset prices across the board have deflated dramatically over the last few years, and entire nations are preparing around the world for austerity measures that will dampen economic activity and put in a measurable crimp in growth for a long time to come.

And yet, in the midst of all of this economic and financial ugliness, the 2010 WSOP shattered participation records across the board. This year 41st annual WSOP crushed on its way to setting a new overall attendance record with just over 71,000 total entrants through all events including the Main Event. The previous record number of participants, set in 2009, was 60,875, so we are talking about an increase of more than 10,000 players, or close to 17% from just last year, which was itself a record. Seventeen percent! In one year! From an all-time record! In this economy!

Now, to be sure, comparing these records over long periods of time makes little sense since there were so, so far fewer events back in the day than there are today, and of course so, so far smaller a number of people actually played the game well enough to even consider competing for the big money. But I mean, how much better of a comparison can you get than the last few years? To be clear, what happened at the WSOP in 2010 has absolutely nothing to do with increasing the number of events. We had 56 bracelet events in 2010, 56 events in 2009, and 55 events in 2008, so the difference in number of events is hardly significant. But, across more or less the same number of events over the past three years, attendance at the poker world's greatest spectacle has quietly skyrocketed, surging from 58,250 in 2008 to 60,875 in 2009 and now to just over 71,000 in 2010.

WSOP attendance is up 22% over the past two years, we just put together the largest live poker tournament of all time other than the 2006 Main Event in the 2010 WSOP ME with 7319 entrants, and about three-quarters of the events on this year's WSOP scheduled attracted more participants than the corresponding events in last year's WSOP. And this, again, in the midst of one of the worst global economic outlooks perhaps of our lifetimes. The arrival of Tom Dwan on the scene seems to have re-energized interest in poker on tv -- in particular High Stakes Poker which really seems to be striking a chord with the poker-on-television audience out there -- and the passing of the regulations governing enforcement of the UIGEA this summer seems to have had no effect on the ability to get money into or out of the major online poker sites, which themselves are setting new records yearly in terms of annual participation and rake fees paid.

After a few-year hiatus to be sure after UIGEA was first passed, poker is booming once again. Wonder how long it will be before everyone else starts realizing it?

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Blogger OES said...

Glad you brought that up because I sure as hell did not know that attendance was up (besides the Main Event). I know you have much more experience than I do with economics and numbers, but is that the best way to measure poker popularity? Obviously it is the World Series, but in attracting new people to the game, what good is more attendants to the WSOP when most people have no reason to watch poker or learn about it, regardless of how many attendants?

On a side note, I remember reading your Ford Fusion props awhile back and I think I used Inception and my dad may end up opting for the Fusion soon.

9:40 PM  
Blogger ghai885 said...


Trying to get in touch with you about your blog. Could you drop me an email to greg AT when you get a minute?


10:11 PM  
Blogger Astin said...

The increase in the number of $1k donkaments might have contributed somewhat...

10:07 PM  

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