The World Series of Poker 2015 is out to outdo itself this year.
Obviously, WSOP is always the biggest poker event of the year, but this year, organizers are hoping to bring more players than ever into the fold. According to WSOP officials, there could be more players at the series than any in recent memory, and they’re ready to handle it.
“The turnout for last year’s Monster Stack is something that caught even us by surprise,” WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart said during the WSOP’s annual media conference call. “That will not happen again.”
Stewart was referring to the 2014 Monster Stack, a $1,500 buy-in tournament that attracted 7,862 players: the most ever for a single starting day tournament in WSOP history. Organizers say that they learned plenty from that experience, and that they’re ready for the even larger events they plan to hold this year.
The biggest of all will be the Colossus, the $565 buy-in event that will feature four starting flights: two on May 29 and two more on May 30. It’s one of the first events of this year’s WSOP, and Stewart says that organizers are bracing for an enormous crowd of players at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino.
“If it is not by a large margin the largest event in the history of poker, it will be a disappointment,” Stewart said of the Colossus.
While WSOP officials don’t like to give out exact numbers, Stewart noted that based on preregistration numbers alone, the Colossus will already break the record for the largest tournament ever at the WSOP. That record was previously held by 2006 Main Event, which drew 8,773 competitors.
But the preregistration boom isn’t confined to the Colossus alone. Numbers are up across the board for both registration and hotel bookings, resulting in a dramatic increase in the total number of players who have already committed to competing in Las Vegas this summer.
“We have more preregistrations than the past five years combined,” Stewart said.
All of this may be driven by a desire from the WSOP to attract a broader audience, one that includes as many casual players as possible.
“Absolutely, we are aiming to get a more recreational player involved in the game of poker,” Stewart said about the types of events that the WSOP is running this year.
That means more big-field, lower buy-in events like the Colossus and the Super Seniors tournament (which is only open to players 65 and older), while also maintaining the variety of games and tournaments that attract professional players.
Media coverage can also help attract players, and ESPN’s coverage has been expanded for 2015. Some of ESPN’s pre-taped and edited coverage has been extended to 2.5 hours, starting immediately after SportsCenter at 8:30 pm.
The nearly live final table coverage will also be expanded, with the action being stretched out over three nights rather than two. When the November Nine returns to play out the final table, they will play down to four on Sunday, then use Monday to set up a heads-up match, and finally determine a winner on Tuesday.
Sports bettors will have the opportunity to wager on the WSOP as well, though opportunities may be limited. While bookmakers can legally set lines on the WSOP in Las Vegas, officials say that it is only likely to happen for the Main Event final table, as other events start their final tables too quickly to allow for betting lines to be established.