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2012 World Series of Poker $50,000 Buy-In Poker Players Championship Attendance Hurting

Tournament Facing Possibility Of Smallest Field Size In Seven-Year History

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Field Confined To Small Corner Of Amazon RoomThe cards are officially in the air for event no. 45, the $50,000 Poker Players Championship at the 2012 World Series of Poker. Although it is usually considered to be the highlight of the series outside of the main event, this year it is being overshadowed by the impending $1 million buy-in Big One For One Drop, which will kick off July 1st.

The Poker Players Championship began in 2006 as a H.O.R.S.E. tournament. The first three years brought in fields of 143, 148 and 148, largely because of ESPN’s final table broadcast. The first year, no-limit hold’em was played exclusively at the final table, for the benefit of the viewers at home. That changed when Freddy Deeb won in 2007, the first year that H.O.R.S.E. was played throughout.

“We tried to be purists, had H.O.R.S.E all the way through,” said WSOP executive director Ty Stewart. “It was the lowest rated program in our history.”

The network responded by eliminating their coverage of the event in 2009 and the field size suffered as a result, dropping to just 95 players.

In 2010 and 2011, the format was changed to an eight-game rotation, incorporating the usual H.O.R.S.E. games as well as no-limit hold’em, pot-limit Omaha and 2-7 triple draw. Stewart was successful in getting ESPN to come back under the agreement that the final tables would feature only fan-friendly no-limit hold’em and the players responded with 116 and 128-runner fields, signifying a strong comeback.

This year, ESPN has instead decided to broadcast the One Drop event, which is sure to hurt attendance numbers.

“With increased production costs around two live broadcasts, and a million dollar event being a must cover, it missed the cut,” said Stewart. “Hopefully it’s back in the rotation next year.”

Stewart was quick to point out that the final table will be streamed online at WSOP.com.

As of 6:20 p.m. PST, the field had only reached 86 entrants, putting it in position to be the lowest attended tournament in the event’s seven-year history. Registration is still open, but without online poker sponsorship money juicing the prizepool and the possibility of some TV time, the players on the fence will most likely stay away.

Here is a look at player attendance over the years.

Year Format Entrants Winner Payout TV?
2006 H.O.R.S.E. 143 Chip Reese $1,784,640 Yes
2007 H.O.R.S.E. 148 Freddy Deeb $2,276,832 Yes
2008 H.O.R.S.E. 148 Scotty Nguyen $1,989,120 Yes
2009 H.O.R.S.E. 95 David Bach $1,276,802 No
2010 8-Game 116 Michael Mizrachi $1,559,046 Yes
2011 8-Game 128 Brian Rast $1,720,328 Yes
2012 8-Game ? ? ? No

For complete coverage of the summer poker festival, check out our WSOP landing page.