Is the WSOP Europe Stagnant?

by , Sep 29, 2008 | 1:39 pm

Not entirely.

But the WSOP Europe can’t seem to grow its numbers. Amazingly, two of this year’s London events had the exact same number of entrants as in 2007.

2007 HORSE – 105 players
2007 PLO – 165 players
2007 NLHE main event – 362 players

2008 HORSE – 110 players
2008 PLO – 165 players
2008 NLHE main event – 362 players

The only major difference is that there was on additional event at the 2008 WSOPE in the form of a NLHE tournament that drew 410 players. With that extra event, one could say that the overall turnout for the WSOPE grew, but that’s not the real story. THE story is that the World Series of Poker has had such high hopes for the growth of its brand, even throwing out the idea of expanding to Latin America and Asia in the coming years, but the first two years of the WSOP Europe haven’t indicated that there is a real public demand for it.

Are there simply too many tournaments out there? Is London just too expensive for players to afford, considering the high buy-in (£10,000) for the main event and the general cost of living? Would European players rather play the outrageously popular EPT events because they’re so well organized and publicized? Is the US economy, and thus the world economy, finally having an impact on the poker tournament circuit?

Many thought that 18-year old Annette Obrestad’s victory at the inaugural 2007 WSOPE main event would bring more players to the tournaments this year, but that didn’t seem to happen. Personally, I thought it would grow this year, but when I considered making plans to cover it, it was suggested to me by more than one fellow reporter that any money spent on a London trip would be better spent to cover the EPT event rather than the WSOPE, mainly due to the cramped media quarters and the expected turnout difference between the two events.

While the 2008 WSOP in Las Vegas set records and saw an overall increase in players, even in the main event, the WSOPE can’t seem to gather that same momentum. We’ll have to see who wins the main event this week in London…and wait for the 2009 WSOPE plans to be announced next year to see if they believe in this enough to keep it going and what Harrah’s might be able to do to grow it.

10 Comments to “Is the WSOP Europe Stagnant?”

  1. DanM

    Stagnant can be OK … takes a bit for things to really take off sometimes. But I am kinda surprised that the fields weren’t noticeably bigger, as I’ve been under the impression that poker in Europe is booming the way it was here a couple years ago.

  2. brev

    Typical US-based nonsense.

    Why does everything in the US have to increase to be good? Check out your crap economy and you’ll see growth is not everything these days.

    The event, though perhaps flawed, has still managed to attract possibly the most accomplished line-up of professional players ever assembled. I can’t think of too many who are not there…ok Russ Hamilton is not there:)

    It seems Jen, that your only major complaint is “the cramped media quarter” You should remember that the tournament is not held for journalists.

    And speaking of journalism – it is sad that you have written an entire piece about the current event and not mentioned the poor sponsor once! Shame on you…or perhaps it’s because they haven’t paid any kickback!

  3. Kevin Mathers

    FWIW, EPT London maxed out at 500 players paying £5,200 with a long waiting list.

  4. California Jen

    brev, I’m not ignoring our own economy in the U.S., believe me. It’s more than ridiculous. But it didn’t seem to affect the WSOP over the summer, which surprised a number of us.

    You’re right that the line-up at the WSOPE is impressive; I’m simply trying to figure out why the Europeans aren’t flocking to the WSOPE events, especially the main event, like they do to any given EPT event.

    And I have nothing against the WSOPE sponsor. Kickback? We don’t know what that is at Pokerati… 😉 But all I’d have to say about Betfair is that they weren’t able to grow the attendance at the WSOPE since they’ve taken over as the official sponsor, which surprised me, to be honest. If they had something to do with improvements this year, that’s great, but I think Harrah’s is primarily responsible for that.

  5. Kevin Mathers

    Betfair was the presenting sponsor last year. Having a tournament in 3 separate venues was just silly to begin with.

  6. Jason

    Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it’s not the EPT? A lot of the Euros I talked to this summer in Vegas have a fascinating allegiance to the EPT, which tour has grown beyond anyone’s expectations of four years ago. Based upon those same summer interactions I had with European players, I get the impression that not so many of them get all EPT-tingly inside about Mr. Pollack & Co.’s “brand,” which once upon a time wasn’t a “brand” at all but a gambler’s convention.

    Keep in mind, too, we have to consider that a lot of Euros consider the EPT fields to be pretty soft; given the choice between soft EPT and “impressive” (read: tough) WSOPE, I think it’s pretty obvious where any thinking poker player would go. People talk about the glory of a bracelet but this game is all about – and always HAS been about – money, Harrah’s PR and ESPN glitz machine notwithstanding.

  7. Nilo

    Maybe you ar not aware that you cannot qualify (using the correct name ) through any of the big Online sites to WSOPE, because Betfair owns the event. This is the sole reason that the event is tiny – something Harrahs been aware and afraid of.

  8. Jennifer Joyce

    As the CMO of one of the largest European poker rooms, Everest Poker, I can tell you that poker is booming in Europe.

    We run satellites to all types of tournaments in Europe from the Big — EPT — to the small Spanish Poker Tour. We did not run satellites to the WSOPE for two reasons:

    1. The presenting sponsor, BetFair, decided to invoke their exclusive right to be the only site running tournaments. If you check out Poker Site Scout, you can see they are small. They need Stars, FT, etc. if they want the event to be big. They need Everest if they want a lot of Europeans
    2. The tournament is simply too expensive. Our player base which is 95% European and 60% Southern European won’t play in droves at the satellites because it’s just too much money even if we step them up. Certainly the price isn’t out of range for the pro Europeans and the markets which have had poker longer like England and the Nordic countries.

    They should move the tournament to France, Italy, or Spain where there is a casino infrastructure that knows how to host big poker tournaments and the costs are cheaper.

  9. brev

    @Kevin Mathers,

    I don’t think you can compare the EPT and the WSOPE because the WSOPE is a ‘series’ unlike the EPT which is a ‘tour’. I think the two rather complement each other with the EPT London taking place around the same time.


    Who are we to criticize their marketing strategy? Only time will tell if it has helped to increase numbers to their site. I can only think certain players may have joined just to get a shot at qualifying.

    @ Jennifer Joyce,

    Everest Poker? Never heard of them:) Seriously, you raise a good point about it being too expensive. However, the quality, as Jen said, is impressive and that is because of the higher buy-in. As the final table approaches I see there are still plenty of big names left in including Negreanu, Juanda, Matusow and Brandon Adams to name a few -a far cry from the Anonymous November Nine

    I think we should give the tournament a chance as it is only in it’s second year. The second year of the WSOP Main Event (1971) attracted just 6 entrants! Not for another 30 years did it top 1000 entrants.

  10. Jennifer Joyce

    I think it’s a great tournament. However, if the “measure” is number of participants then the approach won’t achieve that for the reasons I outlined. This post started out with that as the defintion of “success”.

    Quality of play, the experience, etc. might be more important because as you said it is a series not a tour. Their plan is to have one per continent and no more. So a quality approach is a sound a strategy.