How Black Friday Affected Live Tournament Poker
A Look At Some of the Changes to the Live Tournament Scene In The Past Yeat
The consequences of poker’s Black Friday rippled throughout the poker world in the subsequent year, changing the landscape dramatically even in areas of the game that weren’t as obviously connected to the fate of the online poker sites.
One such area that has been changed in a number of ways was the live tournament scene. From a small decrease in turnout in smaller event, to the disbandment of tours and the decrease in high-roller turnout, to the explosion of re-entry tournaments, a lot of things are different in the world of brick and mortar tournaments. Here is a look at the biggest changes that have taken place since April 15th, 2011.
Low Buy-In Tournaments Take A Hit
One tournament series that managed to grow in attendance was the World Series of Poker, which rose 4 percent year-over-year from 72,966 players in 2010 to 75,672 players in 2011. Many other events saw a sizable drop in attendance, like the L.A. Poker Classic main event, which drew 18 percent fewer players. At the highest echelon of the poker tournament world, the trend is unclear. But what has happened on the tournament scene for the average poker fan, playing smaller buy-in events?
There has been an overall 7.8% drop in attendance in events with buy-ins $500 or lower in the year that followed Black Friday when compared with the year that proceeded it, according to data from 2,465 low buy-in tournaments in Card Player’s extensive database.
Two U.S.-Facing Tours Dissolved
One of the first major changes to come about was the dissolution of two fledgling American facing tours that were backed entirely by online sites. PokerStars’ North American Poker Tour had began just over a year earlier in 2010, with the first season featuring seven events, with televised broadcasts on ESPN 2. Three events into the second season, the series was suspended after PokerStars.com was seized and the company subsequently stopped serving U.S. real money players.
Full Tilt Poker was in the process of forming its own tour called the Onyx Cup, geared towards ultra-high buy-in events ranging from $100,000 to $300,000. The first event was scheduled to take place in early May 2011, but was postponed and ultimately cancelled in the wake of Full Tilt being shut down in the U.S.
Attendance Drops In Super High Rollers
The Onyx Cup was first announced in early March of 2011, at a time when super high roller events featuring buy-ins of six-figures and higher were gaining in popularity. Three of these massive tournaments took place in January of 2011 alone, the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $100,000 super high roller, the Aussie Millions $100,000 high roller and the Aussie Millions $250,000 super high roller. After the dramatic success of this expanded high-rolling January schedule, it seemed that more would take shape in 2011 as plans for $100,000 buy-in events at the Bellagio were also announced.
While these tournaments did not disappear from the schedules in 2012, there certainly has been a decrease in attendance at these events since Black Friday. All told, 96 players entered the three previously mentioned super high roller events at the 2011 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure and the 2011 Aussie Millions. At the same events in 2012, only 70 players turned out for an overall attendance drop of 27%.
The Bellagio announced its first $100,000 buy-in in March, and held the event just a month after Black Friday with 29 players. The second of these $100,000 buy-ins at Bellagio, held in December, drew only 23 entrants for a 20% drop, although the players and tournament directors decided to allow re-buys, which two players utilized. Looking at the numbers in the year since Black Friday, it seems clear that the super high roller is on the decline.
Re-Entry On The Rise
One of the biggest changes on the live tournament scene has been the emergence of the re-entry event. A re-entry event is different from a rebuy event in that a player cannot “re-enter” until he has been already eliminated from the tournament. The concept took the poker world by storm, with many tournament series adopting the format for preliminary and even main events, from smaller Casino-run series all the way up to the World Poker Tour_, which hosted it’s first re-entry main event in August of 2011 at the Bicycle Casino. Will Failla won the "_Legends of Poker main event":http://www.cardplayer.com/poker-tournaments/3326-2011-legends-of-poker/1091593/results for $758,085 after topping a 757-player field, including re-entries, creating a $2,570,015 prize pool. This marked a 16% increase in total prize pool from the previous year, even though the buy-in had been decreased from $5,000 in 2010, which drew 462 players to make a $2,151,072 prize pool.
A number of smaller buy-in tour’s made the decision to change all of their main event’s to the re-entry format. In July of 2011 the World Series of Poker Circuit announced that their 2011-12 season’s main events would all allow re-entry. The Heartland Poker Tour also changed its main event tournaments to re-entry starting in October 2011, and as a result saw their first ever million dollar prize pool.
Bellagio Tournament Director Jack McClelland gave his thoughts on the trend in December of 2011. “When things were really rolling in the poker world, we had tons of players for our regular freezeouts,” said McClelland. “Then when the economy took a dive, we tried to increase our prize pools by offering rebuys. Those didn’t really work out, because they scared away those with lower bankrolls who couldn’t afford multiple buy-ins. So far, it looks like re-entry events appeal to players of all bankrolls. The buy-ins are low enough to bring in casual players, but still allow the pros to come in and do their thing.” McClelland tried the format in his preliminary events, but not in the WPT main events at Bellagio.
In addition to innumerable preliminary events, here is a list of notable main events that adopted the re-entry format post Black Friday:
- All WSOP Circuit $1,600 main events (same buy-in, changed from single entry)
- All Heartland Poker Tour $1,650 main events (same buy-in, changed from single entry)
- The WPT Legends of Poker $3,500 main event (changed from $5,000 single entry in 2010)
- The WPT Borgata Poker Open $3,500 main event (same buy-in, changed from single entry)
- The WPT Jacksonville $3,500 main event (new event)
- The WPT Prague €3,500 main event (new event)
- The WPT Vienna €3,500 main event (same buy-in, changed from single entry)
- The River Poker Series $2,100 main event (same buy-in, changed from single entry)
How Attendance Has Changed At a Selection of Major Events
Obviously there are many mitigating factors that could effect turnout beyond the effects of the major sites legal woes, but here is some raw data on the change in turnouts at a selection of the live tournament circuit’s major events and series that were held at the same venues and times of the year, and how their numbers looked at their most recent events both before and after Black Friday:
|Event/Series||Pre-Black Friday||Post-Black Friday||% Increase|
|WPT Championship||195 players||220 players||13%|
|World Series of Poker (Total Attendance)||72,966 players||75,672 players||4%|
|WSOP Main Event||7,319 players||6,865 players||-6%|
|Aussie Millions Main Event||721 players||659 players||-9%|
|EPT London||848 players||691 players||-18%|
|WPT L.A. Poker Classic||681 players||549 players||-19%|
|WSOP Circuit Atlantic City||352 players||262 players||-25%|
|PokerStars Caribbean Adventure||1,560 players||1,072 players||-31%|