It is a lot of money, $10 million. Even for the richest event in poker, the World Series of Poker, the eight-figure payday is something we've only seen three times in our 45-year history. This year's WSOP at the Rio is so massive though that we are more than likely going to have three more added to the poker history books. Thanks to the return of the Big One for One Drop and the $10 million guaranteed first place payday in the Main Event, this is going to be one of the richest summers we've ever seen.
This change to the Main Event has many people buzzing with excitement as well as questions about what this eight-figure payout entails. WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart took some time to answer some questions about the $10 million celebrating our tenth year at the Rio as well as talk about what else is in store for the summer:
Why is this the year to award a $10 million first place payday?
Many reasons. It’s the 10th anniversary of WSOP at the Rio and we’re proud to highlight that fact. The unlocking of online poker funds is noteworthy. It will provide a fun rallying cry for WSOP.com online qualifiers to be able to turn $1 into $10,000,000. But, most of all, while we’ve been happy with the figures the past few years, it’s time to see the Main Event spike back up. We’re seeking to send a loud message that 2014 is the year to come or come back again to the signature event in poker.
What exactly does a $10 million guaranteed first place payday mean?
It just means that, for absolute certain, someone will walk off the Penn & Teller stage with ten million bucks. It’s primarily a modified payout approach, and we’re up front in that regard. We’ll start with a $10 million payout for first place independent of total entries, and then cascade the balance of the prize pool by percentages in much the same fashion we’ve always done it. This is the same device we used for the Millionaire Maker last year, which worked out well. We believe we can dial up the Main Event chatter in 2014, making the dream of winning even more vivid.
Is there a guaranteed prize pool?
No. We understand focusing on first place is a different approach than most tournaments take with respect to guarantees, but, then again, the Main Event at the World Series of Poker is different than most tournaments. We can get a pretty good estimate on attendees given the past 10 years.
How will this affect the rest of the payouts?
I’d just let the numbers speak for themselves. If you look at the side-by-side for 2013 vs. 2014 at 6352 entries, you see the impact is pretty negligible at most every pay-out tier. Obviously, our goal is to generate attendees higher than our 10 year average of 6,380 players. We’ve long had one of the flattest payout structures in the world of tournament poker, which seems correct for most events, but, for a single event, the culminating event of the series and granddaddy of them all, we think it's okay to tweak that approach and generate a prize that jumps off the page--something that ESPN can shout about and mainstream media can’t ignore. In our experience, not too many Main Event entrants come with the goal of 550th place and the assurance that the payday is more than the year prior.
(If you would like to see how this year's payout scale compares to last year's, check out our side-by-side comparison.)
Will the payouts vary greatly from past years?
They shouldn’t. Of course, it all depends on total entries. To achieve $10 million for first place with a similar field size to last year simply means that less than 3% more of the total prize pool will be going up top. Last year it was around 14% and this year, if we have the same field size of 6,352, first place amounts to slightly less than 17%. It should end up looking pretty similar down the pay scales, with one happy player joining the eight-figure club.
With WSOP.com online poker up and running in NJ and NV, what kind of online satellites can we expect?
A little bit of everything. There will be general steps starting as low as one buck, single table satellites, and special guaranteed satellite events. Online satellites are already up and running and we are giving out Main Event seats in both Nevada and New Jersey on a weekly basis, not to mention having weekly satellites for the $1,500 events as well. The exciting thing is that someone with a modest bankroll can come out to Nevada or New Jersey and see if they can grind their way into the field. Obviously, there is some legend associated with the Main Event and doing just that.
What else has you excited about the summer?
We really try to act on constructive feedback and we hope that’s evident. This is my ninth WSOP coming up, and I think this is the best schedule hands down. We’re recommitting to the idea of being the “Olympics of Poker” – with variety and multiple events for each core discipline. We’ve got accessibly priced events and high-priced championship events, which I think are core to the fabric of the WSOP’s history. There are cool new events on the schedule, like the Dealer's Choice and the Monster Stack. The deep stack little secret is now out about being one of the best values of the year too. And, of course, the return of the Big One with one more table opened up, allowing for the possibility for a 56-player field.
Basically, people always tell us how hard it must be to try and be all things to all poker players – and we say bring it on.