Controversy Tails Record-Breaking Turnout at WSOP 2023 Main Event Controversy Tails Record-Breaking Turnout at WSOP 2023 Main Event
Courtesy of PokerGO
Key Takeaways
  • The 2023 WSOP Main Event sees a record-breaking 10,043 participants, resulting in a massive $93,399,900 prize pool.
  • The first prize winner will receive an record $12.1 million, triggering controversy within the poker community.
  • Dissatisfaction stems from the significant decrease in prize money for the runner-up and ninth place, along with allocation of extra $100,000 to the winner.
  • WSOP officials are credited for their remarkable efforts in achieving this milestone, despite the controversy.
  • The Main Event continues with anticipation as a champion will be crowned on July 17.

This is a colossal day not only in the history of the WSOP but for poker itself The World Series of Poker Main Event has reached a historic milestone, becoming the largest in its 50-year-plus history. As confirmed by official figures over the weekend, this year’s Main Event saw an astonishing 10,043 players register for the $10,000 buy-in event, eclipsing the previous record set in 2006.

Currently underway for Day 4 at the Horseshoe & Paris Las Vegas, the tournament not only surpassed the previous all-time high of 8773 entrants set 17 years ago but also marked the first time the Main Event attracted a five-figure field size.

Over its history spanning five decades, no other edition of this iconic event has ever witnessed a turnout even close to this.

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The resulting prize pool stands at a staggering $93,399,900, besting its previous record for the richest live poker tournament in history. The eventual winner will receive a remarkable 1210 times their buy-in, taking home a record $12.1 million prize money along with the coveted gold bracelet.

“This is a colossal day not only in the history of the WSOP but for poker itself,” said WSOP Senior Vice President and Executive Director Ty Stewart in a press release last week. “It’s particularly special to make history in our first year at the new Horseshoe Las Vegas.”

Continuing the trend seen in other gold bracelet events this year, the Main Event witnessed a remarkable 16% surge in participation. Last year, the World Championship event drew 8663 entrants, falling short of the record by just 110 entries.

Payout Backlash

Yet despite setting a historic milestone, the payout structure for the Main has ignited controversy within the poker community. Players are voicing their frustrations over the significant decrease in prize money for the runner-up and ninth place, with the latter receiving less than $1 million.

Furthermore, the decision to allocate an additional $100,000 to the winner in order to generate headlines as the largest first-place prize in history has drawn criticism. Jamie Gold currently holds the record for the largest prize money awarded to a Main Event winner, winning the record $12 million first place prize in 2006.

WSOP 2023: Final Table Payouts

1st $12,100,000
2nd $6,500,000
3rd $4,000,000
4th $3,000,000
5th $2,400,000
6th $1,850,000
7th $1,425,000
8th $1,125,000
9th $900,000

This year’s tournament attracted many more participants than 2006, but WSOP officials still find themselves inflating the first-place prize. The reason why: In previous years, including 2006, WSOP events generally featured top-heavy payouts, with only 10% of the field winning a prize. More recently, WSOP has changed this policy, paying out approximately 15% of the field. Rake has also increased.

The allocation of $12.1 million to the champion this year has thus led many to perceive it as a deliberate marketing strategy to break the 2006 record, skewing too much money up top at the expense of other positions.

The dissatisfaction with the Main Event’s payout structure has resonated strongly on social media, with many players, including the 2003 World Champion Chris Moneymaker, expressing their disappointment.

WSOP Deserves Full Marks for their Efforts

Nevertheless, officials deserve full credit for their remarkable efforts and impressive logistics in achieving this record-breaking milestone. The record was supported with four Day 1s and two Day 2s, the latter of which which allowed limited late registration in their first levels.

The first two starting flights saw an uptick of 15% to 27%, respectively, on entry last year. It underscored the effectiveness of multi-pronged efforts undertaken by WSOP officials this year to get a record number of players in seats through mammoth satellite programs running live and online, locally and worldwide. Pokerfuse rightly predicted at the start of the Main Event that it is was well on course to breach the 10,000 entry level.

The third starting flight, Day 1C did even better, registering over 3000 players. up more than 70%. Day 1D further contributed to the historic achievement with an additional 4,000 players. That resulted in a total of 9,337 entries, setting a record for the largest Main Event.

That field size expanded even more as Day 2ABC and 2D, welcomed an unexpected 700 additional registrations — pushing the total to an astounding 10,043 participants.

WSOP Main Event Breakdown by Day: 2022 vs 2023

Day 2022 2023 Change %
1A 900 1039 + 15.44%
1B 880 1118 + 27.04%
1C 1800 3080 + 71.11%
1D 4481 4100 - 8.50%
2ABC 148 196 + 32.43%
2D 454 510 + 12.33%
Total 8663 10,043 + 15.93%

The Main Event continues on Monday with the commencement of Day 4, during which the bubble will burst. In total, 1,507 players will earn a profit on their entry fee, with the minimum cash prize amounting to $15,000.

Play continues every day until a Champion is crowned for Monday, July 17. Eight out of nine final tablists will walk away as millionaires, with the winner receiving an unprecedented first-place prize of $12.1 million.