On March 31, PokerStars ran a special one-off “Knockout Special” promotion in which ten of the major Sunday tournaments, including the flagship Sunday Million, were played out under the progressive knockout (PKO) format.
It was the first time the Sunday Million was played with bounties—a format that has increasingly become popular over the past few years. As a result, the first-ever PKO Sunday Million drew 12,790 total entries to amass a prize pool well in excess of $1 million.
In total, the tournament attracted 9892 players and 2898 re-entries to create a prize pool of $1.27 million. Half of this prize pool was awarded in the form of bounties. In the end, a player from Sweden “42ayay” topped the field after battling for nearly 14 hours to take home $63,416 and a further $28,055 in bounties.
Other Sunday major tournaments which were switched to the PKO format saw big turnouts too. The $109 buy-in Sunday Kickoff, which had its guarantee doubled to $100,000, attracted 1071 entries to build a prize pool of $107,100. The $215 Sunday Warm-Up generated a prize pool of $284,000 while the $11 Sunday Storm ended with a prize pool of over $255,000.
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Bounty Rescue to the Declining Participation of Sunday Million
The one-off change to the Sunday Million format comes at a time when PokerStars recently cut its buy-in to its weekly marquee tournament to $109 from $215. Since it was introduced in 2006, the Sunday Million has always been a $215 buy-in tournament except for the occasional half-price specials and COOP editions.
Immediately following the price reduction, the first Sunday Million with a half-priced $109 buy-in saw a huge turnout. The tournament attracted over 15,000 total entries to amass a prize pool of over $1.5 million—a 32% uptick on the prize pool from the previous week which had the old price point of $215.
However, in the following seven weeks, participation began to wane and the prize pool declined with the last five weeks (before the knockout special Sunday Million) seeing the total prize pool drop below the level of the final $215 Sunday Million in January.
This constant decline in the prize pool probably led the operator to experiment with the bounty element to help boost its participation. The gamble paid off. The prize pool returned to the level it was at during the first few weeks of the new buy-in. However, the operator clearly stated that the tournaments will be played with bounties “for one day only” clearing the speculation that the operator may look to make the Sunday Million a PKO tournament permanently.
Sunday Million Stats (January 20 – March 31)
|Date||Buy-in||Total Entries||Prize Pool|
|31-Mar||$109 (Knockout Special)||12,790 (9892+2898)||$1,279,000|
But given its success, it would not be surprising to see the format return during the summer when the traffic is usually low. Last year, the Sunday Million saw two rare overlays in the month of June forcing the operator to add a re-entry feature to the Sunday Million.
Sunday Million Anniversary
The Sunday Million is set to see another change as the room is gearing up to celebrate its 13th Anniversary edition. It will take place on April 14 with a massive guaranteed prize pool of $10 million. For this special occasion, the buy-in will return to its original $215 buy-in.
Feeder satellites for the Anniversary edition are running starting from 90 cents with direct satellites costing $2.20. Two special edition Spin & Gos are also being run with a top prize of $1 million and they will also be awarding tickets to the $215 buy-in Sunday Million.
Furthermore, the room has pledged to give away 100 seats a day from March 25 until a day before the start of the tournament. Additionally, PokerStars is also giving away thousands of tickets to the Anniversary special Spin & Gos via milestone giveaways.