2004 was a banner year for the poker world...right? So, that would mean that tournament attendance would be way up from a year ago...right?
I thought the Jack Binion World Poker Open would be an excellent case study, as it has been a stalwart of the tournament circuit since its inception 6 years ago. Also, it being the first heritage (not new in 2005) major tournament of the year, I thought it would be an excellent measuring stick for the popularity of tournament poker in 2005.
I looked at the number of entrants in seven sample events: The $500 buy in NLHE, Limit HE, Pot Limit Omaha, and Stud/8 events also the $1,000 NLHE, $2,000 NLHE, and $2,000 Limit HE events. I took the entrants over the course of three years (2003, 2004, 2005), and looked at how the number of entrants grew (or in one case, shrank) over those three years.
What the numbers show is truly an explosion .at least for No Limit Hold Em. The lowest buy in ($500) NLHE event, just missed tripling its 2003 mark. A whopping 1449 players bought in to the $500 NLHE event this year, up 280% from the 555 entrants in 2003, and still up 52% from the 950 players who plunked their money down in 2004.
The numbers for Limit Hold Em held a few surprises. The $500 Limit event was up 64% over the course of the three years, but the 2005 number (still a huge 1118 player field) was "only" up 22% over the 2004 number of entrants. The most surprising number of all came from Limit Hold Em. The lone number that was down in 2005 versus 2004 was the $2,000 Limit event, which this year attracted 170 players, down from the 174 players the event had in 2004. Still, that same $2,000 Limit event was up 74% in 2004 from its 2003 field of 99 players.
The real news is a fact that has become painfully obvious in the post Moneymaker era to those whose primary game is not No Limit Hold Em. Poker's "other" games have not quite enjoyed the explosion that the Hold Em games have. The $500 Pot Limit Omaha event was up only 9% from the 2004 event. The 2004 $500 PLO event was up only 9% from the 2003 event. The $500 Stud/8 event, which actually fell 5% in 2004, rebounded to be up 22% in 2005. Over the course of the three years, the $500 Stud/8 event was up 15%, whereas the $500 PLO event was up 22%, in stark contrast to the 280% increase the $500 NLHE event enjoyed. The sound you just heard was more of a pop than an explosion for the "other" games of poker.
The main event of the Jack Binion World Poker Open, the $10,000 buy in NLHE event, begins today. By no means am I a psychic, but I am going to throw a guess out there as to the number of entrants. While I have spoken to friends who are at the tournament site, I have specifically asked them not to tell me how many have entered the tournament so far. I am going to venture a guess of 444 entrants into the $10,000 event. This is down from my initial guess of 505. Given the data you see above, you take a shot, and venture a guess. To give you some historical perspective, in 2003 the main event field was 160 players, in 2004, that number grew to 367 (a 229% increase). Whatever the final number comes out to be, you can bet that the winner is going to take home a riverboat load of cash. Good Luck.