Was the GGPoker WSOP Main Event a failure?

Poker writer Geoff Fisk profile photo
Geoff Fisk
Posted on: December 11, 2020 11:07 PST

International side of the 2020 Main Event drew only 674 entries

The 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event is on its way to drawing the lowest attendance for the tournament in the modern era. The GGPoker side of the Main Event drew 674 players, with the U.S. side still to play out Dec. 13-14.

Barring a massive turnout from U.S. players, the 2020 WSOP Main Event appears slated to draw its smallest turnout since Chris Moneymaker’s championship run in 2003. The Main Event drew 839 players that year, sparking the “poker boom” era that brought the game into mainstream consciousness. 

The 2004 Main Event drew 2,576 players the following year. In 2005, the tournament saw 5,619 players register, and every Main Event since then has drawn upwards of 6,300 players.

Is it fair to compare?

COVID-19 considerations prompted WSOP officials to reinvent this year’s $10,000 No Limit Hold’em Championship Main Event as a hybrid online and live tournament. GGPoker hosted the international side of the tournament through the first week of December, while WSOP.com offers U.S. players the chance to play in the Main Event this weekend.

Only the final tables from each side of the Main Event are scheduled to play out in live format. The GGPoker Main Event played down to the final nine Dec. 7, with those players scheduled to travel to Rozvadov, Czech Republic to finish the tournament.

The planned live final table takes place on Dec. 16 at King’s Casino, but it’s already down to an eight-handed game. Peiyan ‘fish3098’ Sun won’t make the trip from his home in China to play the final table in Rozvadov.

Sun finished the online portion of the GGPoker Main Event eighth in the final table chip counts. Per the rules of this year’s unprecedented tournament, he’ll take home the ninth-place payout of $75,360.

The reluctance to travel in the COVID-19 era likely prompted some players to not register for the GGPoker Main Event. Sam Greenwood, one of the most successful tournament players of all time, was one of many voices in the poker world with an unfavorable view of the December reboot of the WSOP Main Event.

“Making people play an online tournament where the FT might take place somewhere people aren't allowed to travel instead of just playing the tourney out online is stupid,” Greenwood tweeted on Nov. 13.

Sun would have begun final table play with just an 11 big blind stack, but still forfeited any chance to move up the payout structure and contend for the big prizes higher on the ladder.

Second WSOP Main Event of 2020

The announcement of the “official” 2020 WSOP Main Event sparked some confusion in the poker community.  GGPoker and WSOP.com ran the 2020 WSOP Online Bracelet Events series this summer, awarding 85 WSOP bracelets across the series. 

This series was designed to take the place of the regularly scheduled 2020 World Series of Poker. The GGPoker side of the festival featured a $5,000 No Limit Hold’em Main Event, which drew 5,802 entries.

Bulgarian pro Stoyan Madanzhiev came out on top of that tournament, taking home a $3,904,686 first-place prize. That marked the biggest payout ever awarded in an online tournament, and many in the poker community recognized Madanzhiev as the 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event champion.

Madanzhiev himself questioned the running of this month’s version of the Main Event.

“Seems like everyone but Ty Steward and @RealKidPoker were aware there will be another main,” Madanzhiev tweeted as one of a series of posts on the matter. “Even the commentators and the guys who prepared the certificate weren't.”

“It's interesting how did we get here debating this. What kind of decisions and marketing led us here.”

Madanzhiev referred to WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart in the tweet, as well as GGPoker Ambassador Daniel Negreanu.

Negreanu responded with a series of tweets contending that Madanzhiev's victory came in a $5,000 buy-in re-entry event, which wasn't meant to replace the tradtional $10,000 freezeout Main Event.

"I totally understand why you are upset man. I do," Negreanu tweeted. "From before the event happened I was on record [saying] this wasn’t a replacement for the $10k WSOP main event in Vegas.

"Congrats on your win! Epic, you won a tourney that’s in the Guinness Book of Records!"

Featured image source: Twitter