The WSOP’s Big O event arrives in style, exceeds turnout expectations

Haley Hintze
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Posted on: June 18, 2023 8:04 pm EDT

The WSOP’s inaugural “Big O” tournament has turned out to be one of the biggest success stories of the 2023 series to date. It’s been a long time coming for the WSOP to devote an event solely to the format, though it’s spread within several mixed-games events. Big O, which is pot-limit but played with five cards (instead of four) dealt to each player, has surged in popularity of late.

A lot of Omaha players had clamored for a solo Big O tourney, and in 2023, that’s happened. Omaha specialist Ari Engel told PokerOrg that the format is now the third most popular cash-game offering behind no-limit hold’em and PLO, and that a solo Big O tourney was long overdue.

This inaugural Big O offering, with its $1,500 buy-in, drew 1,458 entries. That compares favorably with the 1,143 entries in the $1,500 Omaha 8-or-better event earlier in the series, as well as the 1,355 entries tallied in last week’s more traditional $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha event.

There’s certainly a newness factor in play, but Big O might be on the verge of becoming the next big thing. With the tourney already well into the money, plenty of big names and Omaha stalwarts remained in the hunt. PokerOrg chatted briefly with Engel, Robert Williamson III, and David Levi about the event and about Big O in general.

Outstanding turnout exceeds expectations

The players all agreed that the Big O debut was a success by any measure. “It was really shocking that they hadn’t ran a tournament,” noted Engel. “So this was just long overdue. I can’ t imagine that they wouldn’t want to do a bigger buy-in and this $1,500 got more than even the $1,500 PLO, so it’s getting more than every other $1,500 variety. So yeah, how did they not run a $10K?”

Levi’s thoughts were similar. “These days other people like Big O. , I knew there was going to be a lot of people playing this event. And it’s actually the first year. I don’t think they expected that many players he first year. I assume they probably thought maybe around 800, 900 tops, but this is really proof and I’m sure they definitely should take into consideration for next year. And maybe, they’ll even want to do a $10K Big O. This game is very, very popular.”

“For me,” added Williamson, “I think it’s got a really bright future, especially with the number of people that turned out here.”

Big O learning curve? Maybe, maybe not

Where the Omaha veterans had some slight disagreement was about the skill level of the field in its entirety. Engel viewed his opponents as being as skilled as in other $1,500 tourneys. “No, because [Big O is a] very popular cash game around the country. So it was it was really shocking that they hadn’t ran a tournament.”

Williamson saw it the other way. “There’s a tremendous difference between the level of play of the players in this inaugural big tournament. Literally from complete amateur to top pros.” Williamson also noted the swinginess and variance involved, even though he said that PLO still remains tops in that regard. “I’ve been up and down like a yo-yo, did you notice?” For Williamson, adding the fifth card creates “a lot more possibilities,” even though Big O remains a very mathematical game, like its Omaha cousins.

Levy saw the field strength similarly to Williamson. “There are a lot of people that know what they’re doing. And there’s a lot of people that basically, you know, they mostly regularly play Omaha high so they think it’s similar. You can see a lot of [different]-level players, especially in this kind of field.”