On Friday, there were 5,946 players seated for the day's events at the WSOP. It was an incredible weekend that left one media member saying that it finally felt like the WSOP after two weeks of activity. The Rio was packed; just look at the events and turnouts from Thursday through Sunday:
• Event 28 - $1,500 no-limit hold 'em - 2,500 entries
• Event 29 - $2,500 10-game - 431 entries
• Event 30 - $1,000 Seniors - 3,752 entries
• Event 31 - $3,000 pot-limit Omaha - 685 entries
• Event 32 - $1,500 no-limit hold 'em - 2,828 entries
• Event 33 - $10,000 seven-card stud high-low split eight-or-better - 168 entries
• Event 34 - $1,000 no-limit hold 'em - 3,144 entries
That's a total of 13,508 entries at the Rio in just a few days, which is why the latest release from the WSOP was no surprise at all. The WSOP announced on Monday that through the first 30 events of 2011, 11 participation records had been broken. In total, WSOP participation is up 11.7 percent with 33,173 entries creating a boost of 8.6 percent in the total prize pool. That boost has occurred with the $50,000 event still to come after being one of the first events a year ago.
The WSOP so far has offered the largest Omaha high-low split, six-handed, Lowball, pot-limit Omaha, mixed game and Seniors event in poker history. Additionally, they've set the record for the largest tournaments in history with a single day start three times.
"We are humbled once again by the incredible turnout from players all over the world," said WSOP executive director Ty Stewart. "It has been a record-setting summer thus far in 2011 and we are confident it will continue through the duration of the tournament."
Along with the actual WSOP success, all other games offered at the Rio (cash games, satellites and the daily "Deepstacks") are up 45 percent year-over-year. With 408 tables in play, the biggest poker tournament series in the world has lived up to the hype ... and just over half the bracelets have been awarded.
The masses may have left the Rio and headed back home for another work week, but there are still some major events in action on Monday.
Event 32: $1,500 no-limit hold 'em
Out of the 2,828 who started on Saturday, only 35 have advanced to Day 3. Highlighting the field that remains are Adam Geyer, Kyle Cartwright and Josh Brikis, but there are a number of talented young players as well who are also searching for the $668,276.
Brikis has made his third cash of the Series in this event and is looking for his second final table. Coming into the WSOP, Brikis was playing for his ability to stay on his own and not need a backer. So far, he's pocketed nearly $20,000 and has locked up at least another $12,675 from this event.
It's likely that the event will play a full 10 levels today and a few players will return on Tuesday to play out the final table.
Event 33: $10,000 seven-card stud high-low split eight-or-better
Remember the Event 16 final table? Event 33 is shaping up for another spectacular finish with many of the final 18 players looking to add to their accomplishments. Only 16 players will make the money and two names from the field stand out from the rest, Phil Hellmuth and Erik Seidel.
Hellmuth has rebounded from his second-place finish in Event 16 with a deep run in this event. His very first WSOP cash and final table came in this variation in 1988. He has three cashes total and is looking to improve on his best fifth-place finish to earn his 12th WSOP bracelet. He'll enter play in seventh place.
Seidel's year has been amazing in general and the WSOP hasn't been all that bad either. Seidel is in great shape to make his third cash of the Series, but his hopes are clearly set on winning his ninth WSOP bracelet. If he does make the money, it will be his first cash in this variation at the WSOP.
Eric Rodawig leads the final 18 into Day 3 action and has a solid lead over David Benyamine in second. Ali Eslami, one of the contenders for the WSOP Player of the Year honor, is in fourth and is looking for his fourth cash and third final table of the 2011 Series. Felipe Ramos, John Racener, Ted Forrest, Phil Laak, Bill Chen, Justin Smith, Chris Tryba, Jon Turner and seven-card stud specialist Cyndy Violette are also in contention. If Laak finishes fifth or higher, he will clear the FS+G poker league bubble and earn his tour card.
Event 44: $1,000 no-limit hold 'em
It was just another 3,144-player event that began on Sunday and 323 players survived to make Day 2. Christopher McClung leads the field, but there's a long way to go and a full 10 levels will be played on Monday to shrink the field to its final few tables.
2010 WSOP bracelet winner Konstantin Puchkov, James Carroll, Amanda Baker, Lars Bonding and Daniel Negreanu's secret fantasy poker pick, Yueqi Wang, are all among the top 25 in chips. The money bubble burst right before the end of play early Monday morning and all the players that remain have already secured $1,895. The champion out of this massive field will earn $488,283.
The big picture
There were 3,752 players in the Seniors Event to make it the largest single-day entry tournament in history. How incredible is that? It's always talked about how the younger, online generation of poker superstars are the ones that drive the game, but it's hard to ignore this turnout.
The WSOP, given that it offers something for everyone, really might want to consider a better way to capitalize on this player base in the future. It has secured Deerfoams slippers for the women's and main event, so why not something for the seniors next year? You can use your imagination and offer suggestions in the comments section if you'd like, but I'm just thinking that the energy strip company Sheets or Go Daddy aren't really hitting their target demographic for that one huge event.
I joked on Twitter on Friday that there should be the WSOSP, World Series of Seniors Poker, and in retrospect, maybe it wasn't a terrible idea after all. It could create stops on the WSOP Circuit set for only seniors and give them a chance to play -- like the PGA's Champions Tour. I'm not sure if the turnout was based on the fact that there was a specific tournament for them or what, but the seniors came out in full force to show that there might be a different and unexpected market emerging in poker.
Small blinds: Viktor Blom defeated Rui Cao in the latest SuperStar showdown. Blom earned Cao's entire $150,000 in just 2,257 hands. ... With the recent victories at the WSOP, new players have earned their FS+G tour cards including Andy Frankenberger and John Hennigan. ... The Hill reported last week that Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) will be introducing online poker legislation in the near future. ... The Mirage will host the first ladies-only team poker event on July 2. ... Richard Sinclair won the PokerStars UKIPT Newcastle event, besting a field of 554 players.