The World Series of Poker’s two-years-delayed debut of its Mystery Bounty event has turned out to be one of the 2022 WSOP’s biggest hits to date, with the tourney succeeding in drawing huge numbers to what has become one of the most intriguing tournament innovations in recent years.
The Mystery Bounty, with its affordable $1,000 buy-in, may have succeeded too well. Over four starting days, the Mystery Bounty drew 14,112 entrants, all seeking a chance to pull the event’s million-dollar top mystery bounty, which itself exceeds what the event’s actual bracelet winner will collect, a bit over $750,000. With the huge demand on available seating and the event’s having been positioned as the primary alternative to the WSOP’s Main Event, it resulted in many people pushing back their Main Event plans and participating in that event’s final Flight 1D opening day.
In itself, that exacerbated an already growing Main Event issue, in which a higher and higher percentage of players opt for the Main Event’s final flight. The added push in that direction made even the expanded Paris/Bally’s WSOP layout run into space, causing a schedule change in the Main Event that rippled into at least one rival poker series down the Vegas Strip.
Game-show atmosphere in Mystery Bounty’s Day 2
“Come on, down!” could’ve been used as the event’s call-to-draw phrase, or since WSOP interviewing veteran Jeff Platt hosted the high-dollar draws, maybe “Please climb up!” would’ve been even better. The huge numbers of bounties that were awarded — one per every Day 2 bustout, had led the WSOP to wisely install a two-tier bustout system.
Every player collecting another player’s bustout ticket was then entered into a room-wide electronic draw, with the results projected onto the giant four-way screen suspended from the ceiling at the heart of the Paris Ballroom. An ongoing procession of bounty winners’ names appeared on the screen, followed by a brief animation of a golden key unlocking a treasure chest. The vast majority of the bounties were immediately shown on the screen, in amounts of $1,000, $2,500, and $5,000, but on rare occasions, a special golden-chance draw image appeared. The lucky player was then invited to a small stage, also at the Paris Ballroom’s center, where he or she was guaranteed at least a $25,000 prize but might pull a ticket for much more.
The bounty-awarding line was so long during Day 2’s first levels that action was stopped briefly on two occasions to allow the animated draws to catch up to the event. The draws were also, notably, distracting, with action all but halting during the occasional on-stage bounty draws, and tourney directors repeatedly chastising players for leaving their seats and wandering around the player area amid all the other activity. Despite the hiccups, the event probably did exactly what the WSOP hoped, generating plenty of buzz during the early-days stretch of the Main Event when not a whole lot, in terms of poker results, is actually happening.
The Mystery Bounty will almost certainly return in future WSOPs, despite the hiccups and the drain on space and manpower. It’ll also likely undergo additional tweaks to make it closer to a “best fit” among everything the WSOP has to offer.
Featured image source: Haley Hintze