The second part of the official World Series of Poker Championship Main Event, taking place on the closed liquidity network of Nevada and New Jersey, has managed to attract more players than the global version hosted on GGPoker.

The $10,000 event brought in a staggering 705 players to its single Day 1 freezeout on Sunday, building a prize pool of $6,768,000.

“It’s a great result so far,” said Ty Stewart, Executive Director of the World Series of Poker. “I think considering the circumstances 1,379 players is a strong field size that can stand up to the history of the event. It’s also an important milestone for regulated online poker. Can’t wait to see who will win this world championship bracelet.”

Taken on its own, this is unheard of in any high roller tournament in such a market. It is almost seven times larger than the biggest tournament guarantee in a US regulated market.

However, when put next to the international edition, which attracted fewer than 700 players despite access across large parts of the globe, its success is even more impressive.

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Top Five Largest WSOP Online Bracelet Events (Prize Pool)

Year Event Prize Pool Total Entries Buy-in
2020 WSOP 2020 Main Event $6,768,000 705 $10,000
2020 #31 NLHE Championship $2,019,700 2126 $1,000
2019 #74 NLHE High Roller $1,802,720 593 $3,200
2019 #68 NLHE Championship $1,662,500 1750 $1,000
2018 #61 NLHE Championship $1,553,250 1635 $1,000

Given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the official WSOP 2020 Main Event has a unique format. It is running two Main Events online: one on GGPoker, the other on WSOP.com. Both are $10,000 freezeouts, and players were not permitted to play in both events.

Both play to a final table which will take place live. In the global market, this will be hosted in Rozvadov, Czech Republic tomorrow; for WSOP.com, the final table will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada in two weeks’ time.

Neither tournament has a guarantee, but its attraction – beyond the draw of the WSOP brand and the chance to win a coveted bracelet – was that the winners of each tournament would come together to play a heads-up tournament live. $1 million in prize money has been added to this tournament by the organizers.

For the GGPoker edition, this hybrid structure proved to be a deterrent. The tournament attracted only 674 players, building a modest prize pool of $6.4 million.

The tournament does not even rank within its top five largest on GGPoker this year. For such a prestigious event, this will have been a disappointment. With the equivalent of $500,000 in prize money added to the tournament, each player got back three-quarters of the $400 rake in equity.

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GGPoker’s potential market size is in the billions. It operates in most of Europe, South America, Asia and India. To compare, the tournament on WSOP.com was only available to players in Nevada (population: 3 million) and New Jersey (9 million).

The requirement to play live – first, in a small, wintery village in west Czech Republic, then in Las Vegas, Nevada to have a shot at the $1 million extra prize – would have been a detraction for most players on GGPoker. Large swathes of the international player base would have little inclination to travel; indeed, with restrictions on movement in place in many parts of the world, it would be physically impossible for many.

However, for many players in Nevada, playing live in their state for both the final table and the heads-up championship, would be an attraction. For those in New Jersey, a short vacation west to play cards on the famous WSOP stage could have been just as attractive.

WSOP 2020 Main Event: Schedule and Turnout

Day Date Site Host Turnout
Day 1A Sunday, Nov 29 GGPoker Online 246
Day 1B Saturday, Dec 5 GGPoker Online 171
Day 1C Sunday, Dec 6 GGPoker Online 257
Day 1 Total GGPoker Online 674
Day 2 Monday, Dec 7 GGPoker Online 179
Day 1 Sunday, Dec 13 WSOP Online 705
Day 2 Monday, Dec 14 WSOP Online 71
Final Table Tuesday, Dec 15 GGPoker Live, Kings Casino, Czechia
Final Table Monday, Dec 28 WSOP Live, Rio
HU Championship Wednesday, Dec 30 WSOP Live, Rio

Even so, no one could have foreseen that it would draw more players than its international counterpart. Yet that is exactly what it did: When late registration closed on Sunday, a total of 705 individual players had registered, 5% more than the turnout on GGPoker.

It means the WSOP.com version of the tournament has amassed a prize pool of $6,768,000 and the top two places will pay out more than $1 million. This is a staggering figure considering that the largest guarantee for a poker tournament in any regulated US market is $1 million (set by WSOP in a previous bracelet events and will be matched by partypoker NJ with a WPT event later this month).

The prize money is larger than even the record for an entire tournament series guaranteed in the United States – set in the summer, with WSOP’s own $6 million Championship Series accompanying the WSOP Online bracelet series.

Thanks to this huge turnout on the US version of the series, the WSOP 2020 Championship Main Event has a combined turnout across the two sites of a respectable 1379 players and a prize pool of $13.2 million.

It still falls far shy of turnout in the modern era, where north of 6000 players have entered the tournament every year since 2005, but it is higher than 2003’s breakout “Moneymaker” year and any Main Event prior.

It also means that the operators have much less of a tab to pick up with the added money. $400 in rake from each player means that $551,600 in total money was collected from entries. It is a far cry from the $1 million in added money, but much better than most had expected after the low initial turnout at GGPoker.

WSOP.com returns on Monday for Day 2, where players will play down to a final table. For the international edition, this will take place tomorrow in Kings Casino, Rozvadov, Czech Republic. In two weeks, the equivalent final table for WSOP.com finalists will play out in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The winners of each will then convene on December 30 for the $1 million Heads Up Championship.