The World Series of Poker is well under way. The first “major” event was the return of Colossus. As you will recall, I played in the very first Colossus event last year (see here and here). This year, I’m not in Vegas yet so obviously I didn’t play in it. Honestly, even if I was able to be in Vegas now, I would have skipped the event. And apparently, I’m not alone in thinking that I could afford to miss this tournament. The turnout was less than last year’s.
That is the subject of this post. Was Colossus II a disappointment—attendance wise, that is? Was it just another case of the sequel not being as good as the original? Or would that be the wrong takeaway?
I initially got the idea to do this post on Thursday, the first day of the event. When I saw the reports of the number of seats sold for the two flights that made up the first day, I was thinking that turnout must have been a huge disappointment. And I started thinking of all the reasons why this was happening.
I’ll get back to that but now that we know how many people actually turned out for the event, it is obvious that “huge disappointment” is a totally inaccurate assessment.
But was it slightly disappointing, at least? I’d have to say yes. Let’s look at the numbers.
This year’s event drew 21,613 making it the second largest tournament field in poker history. The first was of course last year’s Colossus, which had 22,374 entrants.
OK, that’s not much of a drop off. But I heard they were expecting to break 30K players this year and if that’s true, then it is a disappointing turnout.
What’s important to note is that they added two more starting flights this year. So they could have handled 30K players, where as last year they wouldn’t have been able to.
Last year, the Day 1’s were on Friday and Saturday of the first week of the series (two each day). This year, they were on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of that first week, again two a day. I think they were anticipating pretty much maxing out each flight.
That would have been 4400-4800 each flight. Thus, when I saw they “only” had 3,249 for Flight A on Thursday, followed by a much smaller field of 2,153 for Flight B later that day, it sure looked like a big disappointment.
But to a great extent, adding two more days just spread out almost the same number of players over six flights rather than four. That was better for the players, and I guess for the staff as well, but probably not what the WSOP was hoping for.
The impact on the entire Vegas poker scene was way down too. Last year, they had to use every single table in the Rio for Colossus or some other bracelet events. They even used half of the Poker Kitchen for tables. No cash games at the Rio meant that cash game action was spread out over town and there were 3-4 hour waiting lists at many rooms to get into a cash game.
From what I could tell, nothing like that happened this year and I think the WSOP venue was able to run cash games most of the time (except maybe for part of Saturday). Thus the other rooms were busy, but not swamped.
The turnout picked up on Friday (3,770 & 3,099) and then a huge turnout on Saturday (4,855 & 4,487).
So, although not the turnout they hoped for, still an incredible number of players for a single tournament, to say the least.
But if we’re honest, it was on some level disappointing. So why didn’t they exceed last year’s numbers even with two more starting flights?
I have a few theories.
First, the novelty from last year was gone. I’m sure a lot of players who played last year didn’t feel the need to play again (like me), either because it was more of a “one time thing” or because their experience wasn’t so good.
As I reported in those posts I’ve linked to, it was kind of fustercluck last year. Although they did an incredible job under the circumstances, there were still a lot of glitches—starting with having to change the number of levels played on Day 1 and having to change the start times of the afternoon flights. One glitch from last year I unfortunately didn’t have to deal with was that there were incredibly long lines at the payout window for those lucky enough to cash. I’m sure this left a bad taste in the mouths of some of those who got paid. I’ll bet that’s one reason people who got paid last year may not have returned. That and the other glitches I mentioned last year.
And for those who didn’t play but were thinking of it, remembering all the stories of the glitches from a year ago may have dissuaded them from playing this year.
Ironically, by adding the two starting flights and getting a similar number of players, I think they were able to do away with most of the glitches, so that was a bad reason I guess for people to decide not to play.
And they fixed the payout problem by having each starting flight have its own individual pay outs before the flight ended. If you made it to Day 2 you cashed, but the money bubble hit during Day 1, and thus people who cashed but busted Day 1 could collect their money right then and there, reducing the lines for the pay outs.
They also made it simpler by not letting people register for more than one flight at a time. You couldn’t register for a second flight until you busted from the current flight you were playing. No doubt that made things go smoother.
I did read some complaints on Twitter that there issues on Day 2 as they kept reaching another pay jump on the pay scale—apparently they were stopping the clock and playing hand for hand for each jump. Can anyone confirm that?
Anyway, I wonder if a lot of people—whether they played last year or not—figured out that the odds of surviving such a huge tournament were so overwhelming that their tournament dollars were best spent elsewhere? That’s probably the main reason I wouldn’t have returned this year even if I had been in town. It is just way too big a crapshoot. And once I had the experience one time, I didn’t need the thrill again. Also, I believe there are a few more lower priced bracelet events this year, so there are more options for the low-rollers to play for a bracelet than last year.
And then there was the revised structure. I mention that in my post here, where I linked to the article here explaining the new, almost turbo-like structure of the event. Can’t be sure how many people read this article—or maybe just figured out on their own that structure was much quicker—and decided that there was not enough value in the tournament to play in it. But I’m sure the new structure had some effect.
Now I realize you readers come to my blog expecting detailed posts about long tournament runs, and must be disappointed that I don’t have one for you this time (since, you know, I didn’t play). So, if you want to read about a nice tournament run in Colossus, I’m giving this link here to my friend Don’s write up. I’ve mentioned Don numerous times, we’re pals from the days when PokerAtlas was All Vegas Poker. For some reason, Don calls himself “Dave” in his summary. As you can see, Don actually won a free seat to Colossus and it paid off for him. I think you’ll enjoy his reportage of the event.