The largest starting day in World Series of Poker main event history (3,768 players) led to a main event field of 6,683 contestants. The winner, as guaranteed months ago, will win $10 million and every other member of the final table will earn at least $730,725. This is the fifth-largest main event in history and the first time since 2010 that there's an increase in participation. Why? Online satellites, live satellites and, of course, a little bit of added money in the poker economy thanks to the repayments of the Full Tilt funds earlier this year.
Regardless of how or why everyone showed up, this is a win for the WSOP.
"With all-time records for both entrants and prize pool and the first main event increase in years, it's got to be the best summer in the 45-year history of the WSOP," said Ty Stewart, executive director of the WSOP. "We all want to have a story. And there's few stories better than heading to Vegas for a shot at 10 million [dollars]."
Stewart is spot on, and with a flawless main event thus far, players are thrilled as well. One of the bigger concerns voiced socially was the potential to play 10-handed, but the event never reached that point. In fact, there were still tables in the Pavilion Room offering cash games that can be closed when the WSOP needs additional space. Looking out a year, there's no reason to think that the magic 4,000 number won't be hit on the final starting day of the 2015 WSOP main event.
"There's a ton of pressure on that closing entrant number," Stewart said. "It's the barometer of the industry. It's the crystal ball. It's sort of like sweating whether Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow and send poker back to the hole or we can stay happily in the sun."
Stewart's second thoughts echo something I've stated repeatedly on the Poker Edge podcast. People look at the WSOP main event as the end-all, be-all. Especially outsiders who don't follow the game at any point besides these two weeks. I've stressed the aspect of growth, and I do that as a reiteration of what most people believe: A healthy main event means a healthy industry. That part is true and incredibly important. I know that when I go back to Bristol, Connecticut, they'll talk about the numbers being up and that poker is making a comeback. This number matters.
What's also true is that there's a big poker world out there besides the WSOP. There are a number of tours around the world that go through the same growth and decline cycles. How the "minors" do is almost as important as the main event, because that dictates those that play the game at a casual level. Then we need to take into consideration online poker, the World Poker Tour, the European Poker Tour, the APPT ... you get the point.
All that said, this is a huge success and nothing should be taken away from that. This is the biggest and best event in the world and there's still a long way to go until someone wins $10 million.
Here are the payouts for the 2014 WSOP main event:
The money bubble will burst on Day 4, which will also be the first day of coverage on our ESPN broadcasts this year. Coverage of the main event will begin on Sunday, Sept. 28, at 9 p.m. ET.
Small blinds: There were a few new faces after the dinner break, including a number of former champions. Phil Hellmuth, Scotty Nguyen and Joseph Hachem began their main events a few levels in and Nguyen hasn't fared well thus far. Other additions include Tom Dwan and Gus Hansen, who were probably crowbarred away from the cash games to get to the Rio. Once here, Dwan continued to seek more action from anyone who wanted to partake. Shocker. Hansen nearly doubled-up in his first two hours. Then there's the story of Michael Nelson. Standing near the banner of Jonathan Duhamel in the Amazon Room, I hear a bit of commotion. There are two players standing and a member of the floor staff beside them. One of the two players, Sean Winter, takes his seat. The other, Nelson, is escorted to a chair by the floorperson and asked for ID. Nelson hands over his license and the floorperson walks away. He sits down in the chair and begins to rock, either falling asleep or passing out intermittently. Nelson, apparently intoxicated, mumbles a few words about the players who were at his table before and yells as the floorperson returns, telling them they need to stop messing with him. More of the floor staff shows up and escorts him through the Purple section in Amazon, asking him if anything looks familiar. He says yes. They stop by the doors to the side of the room and they continue the discussion. Nelson begins to get frustrated and things aren't going anywhere. I'm actively tweeting about the situation and I receive a tweet from Matthew Haugen that says, "@AFeldmanESPN table 309 is missing a drunk player." I show the tweet the staff who escort him into the Pavilion Room and to the tweeted table, which is immediately recognized. Nelson then proceeds to sit in his seat and play, sloppily, and bets out of turn on the first hand. He's given a penalty for doing so, but before he can observe it, his table is broken and he is once again sent to stumble back to the Amazon Room. He makes it to his new table, sits down, falls asleep, wakes up mid-hand and begins to ramble. Long story made even shorter, Nelson didn't make it through the next half hour. Paul Pierce has a tendency to get up and walk around outside in the hallway during levels. It makes it a slightly harder challenge to figure out if he's eliminated. Which he is not. Greg Raymer was the second main event champion to fall on Monday. The last woman standing from 2013, Jackie Glazier, is out, along with Sam Trickett, Phil Collins, Melanie Weisner, Davidi Kitai and Men Nguyen. There was a Tuan Lam sighting at the WSOP, but it didn't last long. The 2006 WSOP main event runner-up was eliminated early Monday. A few main event champions that didn't play this year: Pius Heinz, Peter Eastgate and Chris Ferguson.