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WSOP vs. WCOOP Part 2: Entrants, Field Sizes and the Main Events


Last week, we began comparing the World Series of Poker to the World Championship of Online Poker in the battle of the two premier tournament series from online and live poker. We threw a bunch of numbers at you regarding the number of events each series has held since 2002 and took a look at the prize pools generated. This week, the second part of this series will focus on the number of entrants drawn to each tournament and then take a look at how the two Main Events stack up to one another.

When it comes to the number of players these two events attract each year, the WSOP has drawn more total entries every year except for 2009 when the WCOOP surpassed the WSOP in total entries. Remember, though, that the WSOP had many more events every year on its schedule. Even in 2009, the WSOP had more events. The WCOOP held the most events ever on its schedule that year, but still had 12 less than the WSOP that year. Even so, the WCOOP series had over 50,000 more entries than the WSOP. Although the numbers can’t be compiled yet for 2010 because the WCOOP is currently running, you can bet that the WCOOP will once again crush the WSOP in total entries, especially with the fact that there are 15 more events on the WCOOP schedule compared to the WSOP. The WCOOP held 45 events in 2009 and had 112,740 entries – 51,861 more than the WSOP. The WCOOP had an average of over 2,500 entrants per event, and this number can help us gauge the projection for this year’s installment of the elite online series.

Since 2002, the average number of entrants for each WCOOP event has risen every year except for in 2008 when it sunk 3.65% from the numbers in 2007. This wasn’t because the total number of entries fell, but instead it was a result of the WCOOP adding 10 events — more than a 43 percent increase from the previous year. If worst comes to worst this year, the average entrants will be the same as they were in 2009. For ease in understanding, we’ll keep the number to a rounded 2,500 entrants per event. Multiplying that by 62 for the number of events this year, that puts the total entries at a whopping 155,000! How big is that number compared to that of the 2010 WSOP? Well, it’s much more than double!

WSOP vs. WCOOP Part 2: Entrants, Field Sizes and the Main Events 101
WSOP vs. WCOOP Part 2: Entrants, Field Sizes and the Main Events 102

If you take a look at both of the graphs shown above, you will see that the WCOOP is on a much better path to continue to increase the size of its events each year. Although the WSOP began to level off in 2007, 2008 and 2009, it saw a nice spike in 2010. This year, the WSOP saw nearly 20 percent more total entries.

When it comes to the Main Event of each series, the WCOOP has always had a smaller buy-in amount than the WSOP has had. What’s different about the WCOOP Main Event, though, is that the price to enter has increased over the years. This even began back in 2002 as a $1,050 buy-in and has increased to $5,200, first in 2008 and then again in 2009, as well as this year. The WSOP has never increased its buy-in amount.

Last year, Yevgeniy “Jovial Gent” Timoshenko won the WCOOP Main Event for $1,715,200. He bested a field of 2,144 entrants, which is far fewer than what the WSOP Main Event usually draws. Joe Cada beat out a field of 6,494 to win $8,546,435 at last year’s WSOP. This year’s winner stands to win $8,944,138 for coming out on top of the 7,319 field. This year’s WCOOP winner is guaranteed to win at least $2 million, according to PokerStars, and that’s unheard of for an online tournament.

Cada scooped up over 854 times his buy-in for his win and some lucky winner will earn over 894 times his buy-in for winning this year. That prize is far greater than the 330 buy-ins won by Timoshenko or the 384 buy-ins that the winner will take home this year, but one can’t argue the value that the WCOOP Main Event provides. To strike gold in the WCOOP Main Event, you need to conquer less than half the field for about half the price.

Every year, except for 2003, the WSOP Main Event has had more entries than the WCOOP Main Event. Outside of 2003, when the WCOOP had 52 more entries, the WSOP numbers have crushed those of the WCOOP. In every other year, the field size for the WCOOP Main Event hasn’t even amounted to half that of the WSOP Main Event. Of course, this is mainly because the WSOP Main Event is the premier event in the market. Nothing tops it and nothing ever will — hands down. Although the WCOOP may have better numbers as an overall series, the WSOP Main Event will always be the largest, most lucrative tournament in the world.

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Taking a look at the graph shown above, you’ll see that the WCOOP Main Event numbers haven’t had the steady increase that has been seen elsewhere when looking at the series. The number of entries boomed by over 274 percent from 2002 to 2003, but then dropped in 2004. Very solid increases were then seen in 2005 and 2006, followed by a nice boost in 2007, but the years after that have seen a decline in field size each year.

It is interesting to look at how the decreasing years of 2008 and 2009 compare to the numbers for 2006. In 2007, the WCOOP Main Event saw its highest-ever participation rate with 2,998 entrants. It dropped to 2,185 the year after and then to 2,144 the year after that. Both of those numbers are lower than the 2,510 players that played in 2005, making the drop that much more significant. This is most likely because in 2008, PokerStars increased the WCOOP Main Event buy-in to $5,200 — the largest it has ever been.

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If you take a look at this graph, it shows the number of entrants based on the buy-in amount for the WCOOP Main Event each year. We just discussed how the numbers look beyond 2007 as compared to 2006. On this graph shown above, you’ll see that in 2004, when PokerStars opted to increase the buy-in from $1,050 to $2,600, the number of entries dropped. That number was still greater than the number of players who had showed up two years prior in 2002, something that didn’t happen when looking at the 2006 and 2008 numbers. You will also see that there was only a small drop in the field size as a result of the increase in buy-in for one year. In 2005 and 2006, the numbers rose each year with the new, higher buy-in.

If you take that trend and map it to what would be likely to be seen after the increase from 2007 to 2008, you’d expect a small drop in field size as the buy-in rose from $2,600 to $5,200. Of course, PokerStars had probably planned for this to happen and would only need to have half of the players come out in the increased year to see the same prize pool generated and collect the same amount of money from entry fees. PokerStars was able to get over 72 percent of the field to return even with the buy-in doubled, making the increase a success.

Also notice in the trend from 2003 to 2007 that after the increase in 2004 to more than double the buy-in, there was only a very small hiccup before the event saw big jumps in field size from year to year. If you map that toward the jump in 2008, you’d expect to see a small drop, which was seen, before the field size would begin to rise each year. Well, so far, in the second year after the increase, the field size has gotten even smaller.

One very good thing about the WCOOP Main Event that will always help it have a massive field and prize pool is that PokerStars slaps a big, fat guarantee on the event. All of the WCOOP events have guarantees on them. What sets the PokerStars WCOOP apart from other series with guarantees is that they tend to crush the guarantees. On the WCOOP Main Event this year, there is a $10,000,000 guarantee and just recently, PokerStars announced that they are guaranteeing $2,000,000 to the winner alone! That is unprecedented, but if PokerStars lives up to everything it has in the past, it will reach this amount easily.

Having a guarantee on the events within the series helps the numbers a lot. The guarantee always allows PokerStars to gradually increase field sizes and prize pools each year without the risk of losing money by guaranteeing too much. This approach lets PokerStars analyze the trends they’ve seen over the past years and events and plan future events. Having this big guarantee on the Main Event almost guarantees that at least 2,000 players will buy-in. Of course, there is the chance that it may not work out, but given the history, it doesn’t look like PokerStars will be losing any money on this one.

On the other hand, there’s nothing that is in place for this extent that would prevent the WSOP Main Event from seeing its numbers drastically drop. In fact, the WSOP could possibly learn from this and look to increase the field sizes by slapping some guarantees on the events. This would especially be good for the Main Event. Even with the chance that it doesn’t hit the guarantee, the WSOP would make up for it with all the money raked in from the entry fees and not take a loss.

Of course, no event will ever top the WSOP Main Event. It’s the granddaddy of poker and will always be the big dog in town. Even if the WCOOP Main Event ever reaches the same number of numbers that the WSOP Main Event does, there’s no substitute for the feel of the WSOP Main Event. You’re in real life and not behind a computer. No WCOOP bracelet will ever be held to the same regard as a WSOP bracelet — and that’s something that PokerStars will have to live with forever.

That wraps up the second part of this series. Hopefully, you’re out there taking shots at both the WCOOP and WSOP events on a yearly basis because these are the two premier events the poker world has to offer. Next week, we’ll wrap everything up and tie it all together to try decide which is the better series overall. It looks like it’s a pretty close race so far, and you have another week to give it some thought.

For more information on the WCOOP, check our our WCOOP page. Want to get in on the WCOOP action on PokerStars? Just sign up for an account today and maybe we'll be writing about you in our next WCOOP recap!

Speaking of big tournament action, check out our $10,000 Sunday Million Freeroll on PokerStars.

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