Participation in the Sunday Million, PokerStars’ most famous and longest running tournament, has been in decline following a reduction to its buy-in earlier this year, the latest figures compiled by PRO show.
On January 27, PokerStars halved the buy-in of its longest-running tournament from $215 to $109 in hopes to make the tournament appeal to “more and more players.”
It kept the guarantee the same at $1 million, so it requires double the number of entries (10,000 rather than the usual 5000) to in order to cover the guarantee. And it has achieved that goal: Three months on. the operator is still meeting the guarantee each week.
But only just. The prize pool has dipped almost every week since the $109 price change was introduced.
Declines are natural; the online poker industry follows a natural seasonal cycle, with participation levels declining from early spring through to late summer.
However, year-over-year comparisons, compiled exclusively by PRO, show participation dropping faster than usual. In the first third of 2018, traffic to the tournament was effectively steady. In 2019, outside one-off specials, traffic has declined.
Moreover, after the first week, and excluding special events, the 2019 edition has had a lower prize pool every week than in the same tournament a year ago.
Last week, it barely managed to avoid an overlay: The prize pool exceeding its $1 million guarantee by just $20,000—just a 2% margin. The same week in 2018, when the buy-in was $215, it attracted enough players for a healthy prize pool of almost $1.3 million.
The industry is now entering the quieter summer period. Unless something dramatic in participation changes, or PokerStars changes the format, the first Sunday Million overlay at $109 will soon inevitably occur—potentially this Sunday.