December 2023 was a Record-Breaking Month For Live Poker December 2023 was a Record-Breaking Month For Live Poker

Three major live poker festivals took place in December 2023. The EPT Prague from PokerStars, The WPT World Championship and the newly minted WSOP Paradise all went head-to-head, offering mammoth guarantees across Europe, the US and the Caribbean.

Combined, over $150 million was paid out between these three festivals, with record turnouts showing that there is still an enormous appetite for live poker.

That so many people turned out to break guarantees and records was no small feat. The events were geographically distant; players had a tough decision on to which event they would rather play. Scheduling came under criticism, with some in the poker community lamenting the overlapping schedules and others claiming the year was over-saturated in WSOP bracelets. (235 WSOP bracelets were awarded this year spread across live and online stops).

Yet despite these concerns, each festival can be considered a success.

Players Flock to Events in Prague, Bahamas and Las Vegas

The EPT Prague from Stars came straight off the back of their revived North American Poker Tour stop in mid-November, and it was competing with plenty of other European live poker stops in the winter months including the Unibet Open in Romania and The Merit Poker Series in Cyprus.

Despite this, it set multiple records. The Main Event attracted over 1250 entries for a total prize pool of €6,232,250, the largest in the event’s history. The Eureka Main Event attracted 4,403 entries, also a personal best. In total, around €30 million in prizes was paid out.

WSOP Paradise haters were proved wrong as the opening event in Paradise marked the largest poker gathering ever hosted in the Bahamas, plus all but one met their guarantees. The Main Event hit the $15 million guarantee, drawing just over 3000 entrants, and in total the series gave away over $70 million in prize money.

The WPT World Championship fell short of its mega $40 million guarantee by $2.5 million — which unfortunately created the second largest overlay in live poker history.

But that only tells part of the story. The $40 million guarantee was itself the largest ever guarantee set at a live poker tournament, and over 2.5x larger the 2022 event. According to data collected by Poker Industry PRO, the final prize pool (WPT honored the $40 million) was among the 25 largest poker tournaments ever.

The rest of the festival was also a bustling success. The $1100 WPT Prime Championship event set new records by attracting 10,512 entries, doubling the original $5 million guarantee. This represents the largest field in a $1k buy-in live tournament.

Major Live Events Results in December 2023

Tournament Buy-In Guarantee Entrants Prize Pool
WSOP Paradise Mystery Millions $1650 $5M 3446 $5,169,000
WSOP Paradise Main Event $5000 $15M 3010 $15,050,000
WPT Prime Championship $1100 $5M 10,512 $10,196,640
WPT World Championship $10,400 $40M 3835 Overlay $2,417,000
EPT Eureka Main Event €1100 - 4403 €4,226,880
EPT Prague Main Event €5300 - 1285 €6,101,300

Future for Live Poker Looks Bright for 2024

December 2023 was, without a doubt, one of the biggest months for live poker. Outside of the May & June months of the WSOP summer series, more prize money was paid out last month in live poker than any other time. To do so across three different locales, all with overlapping schedules, must be a first.

The numbers tell a clear story: Worldwide, there is still an insatiable appetite for live poker tournaments — and however ambitious the series, players will turn out and fill seats. With that in mind, eyes now turn to 2024 — and whether this level of investment and growth extend into the new year. Already, many operators have started releasing information on their live schedules.

888Live will be returning with a full compliment of stops as will PokerStars with European Poker Tour stops scheduled throughout 2024. The WSOP has also announced dates for its iconic summer series that will head back to Vegas on May 28, 2024 plus we can expect more stops from the NAPT from PokerStars plus South American and Asia stops.

BetMGM has already announced their plans to host the Borgata Winter Poker Open in January with a $10 million guarantee.