Wow. It's a large number that is extremely relevant given Sunday's online action, but unless you are actively following me on Twitter or are an active online poker enthusiast, that number doesn't mean much to you. Now, I'll give you some more information: That's 59,128 players.
On Sunday, PokerStars celebrated the fifth anniversary of the Sunday Million, the tournament that many could argue is the biggest and most prestigious weekly tournament in the online world. The buy-in of $215 usually draws four figures' worth of players, but when Stars put the $5 million guaranteed prize pool into the picture, and a Lamborghini Gallardo for first place, players flocked to this major event. The site offered satellites nonstop for the event, including an $11 buy-in at which 1,000 seats would be given away. This week's Sunday Million was a tournament that many would not miss and this absolutely massive field of 59,128 players created a prize pool that absolutely destroyed the $5 million guarantee: $11,825,600.
It took nearly five hours of play before the field was whittled down to 7,450 and players made the money. What followed was a 10-hour chase for a tremendous amount of cash. The tournament lobby stated that the champion would be in line for $1.6 million with second place earning $1.1 million, but when there were nine players left, according to PokerStars, there was a 40-minute discussion regarding a chop. The players awarded "wrzr123" the top prize of $844,209, and instead of ninth place earning $41,389 as initially presented, the eventual ninth-place finisher, "Battmeister," earned $263,888. The players did leave the Lamborghini Gallardo on the table and the eventual champion, Luke "Bdbeatslayer" Vrabel, claimed the car and $671,093. Vrabel was in third place at the time of the chop.
Vrabel has been a staple in the online poker world since 2007. The Connecticut native has amassed $2.6 million online throughout his career, which has included victories in Full Tilt's signature Sunday event and the Super Tuesday on PokerStars. On the live felt he has nine WSOP cashes including one main event cash (509th in 2008).
Last year's tournament, which celebrated the fourth anniversary of the Sunday Million, had 36,169 players.
Reflecting on this event:
• Seriously? 59,128 people decided that this is what they wanted to do with their Sunday?
• For those who continue to want to discuss the revenue online poker could be generating, PokerStars raked in $886,920 from this single tournament.
• Remember that average online poker players aren't risking their money in $215 tournaments. After seeing such a huge market for larger buy-in events, I'd be really surprised if we didn't see more monthly events of this sort in the future. Clearly there is a market for this type of action.
• The first question I was asked today in the office after discussing the event was the chop. Personally, I don't mind it. I know that there was a ton of money taken off the table for the champion, but all of the nine players turned their tiny investment into something major. Obviously Vrabel is probably debating the decision right about now, but after 15 hours of play, ask yourself if you'd rather lock up $263,888 instead of potentially finishing with $41,389. Maybe I'm just too risk averse, but that's the way I'd view it.
Small blinds: The "Big Event," formerly known as NAPT Los Angeles, attracted 417 players, a much smaller number than what we would've expected if the television aspect and branding remained in place. Fifty-six players will make the money and the winner will earn $500,000. Mid-Day 2 leaders include Alex Kamberis, Chris DeMaci, David Baker and Yevgeniy Timoshenko. Daniel Negreanu, Joe Hachem, Victor Ramdin and John Dolan each hold around average stacks. Day 2 eliminations included Barry Greenstein, Joe Barbero, Shannon Shorr and Dwyte Pilgrim. ... The Borgata hosted a $500,000 guaranteed event and fell just short of reaching that guarantee with 308 entries at $1,500 apiece. The champion will take home $131,257 and action will continue until a final table is reached on Monday. ... Phil Ivey had a monstrous weekend online cashing in for around $900,000. The latest wins give him nearly $2 million in online earnings in 2011.