2014 WSOP Main Event Polarized Payouts

[SS] “You know what else will probably be polarized?”1 Stan the Stat teased. “The payouts for the Main Event.”

[SS] “Because they decided to guarantee $10,000,000 for first place, a larger percentage of the prize pool goes to a single player. If we’re close to last year’s 6,352 players, it won’t matter much ($1,640,768 more to first at the expense of a little from every other prize). Despite the nearly steady drop from a peak of 8,773 entries in 2006, I think they took a fairly safe marketing gamble. The four-year trend2 said that we’d have just over 6,000 players this year, which is safe enough. With the extra attraction of the ten million dollar prize, they may have managed to stop the slide.”

[LL] “But even if the number of players bounces back, we’ll never know why”, Leroy the Lion argued. “It could be because people got their Full Tilt Poker funds back.”

[RR] “Or the economy in general”, Roderick the Rock suggested.

[SS] “True enough. It’s almost impossible to analyze anything with a sample size of one.”

[LL] “And no control to compare against.”

[SS] “At least the winner will be happy! If the field size doesn’t rise or fall, everyone but first place will win 3.3% less, with the places 19 and below being hurt a little less and 2nd to 18th place hurt a little more (16th to 18th get the worst of it at -7.3%).”

[RR] “I don’t like it at all. One player gets more at the expense of every other player who cashes.”

[SS] “But it’s only recently that first place paid so little percentagewise. Until 1977, the WSOP Main Event was a winner-take-all tournament. For the next eight years, first prize was half of the prize pool. The percentage remained in the forties through 1993, then wandered lower to 25.2% in 2001 before rebounding to 33.7% in 2002 and 32.0% Chris Moneymaker’s year. Only with the following boom in field sizes did first prize drop to just over 20% before ranging from thirteen and fifteen percent ever since.”

First Prize as Percentage of Main Event Prize Pool3

Year Winner Prize Pool 1st Prize %
1971 Johnny Moss $30,000 $30,000 100.0%
1972 Amarillo Slim Preston $80,000 $80,000 100.0%
1973 Puggy Pearson $130,000 $130,000 100.0%
1974 Johnny Moss $160,000 $160,000 100.0%
1975 Sailor Roberts $210,000 $210,000 100.0%
1976 Doyle Brunson $220,000 $220,000 100.0%
1977 Doyle Brunson $340,000 $340,000 100.0%
1978 Bobby Baldwin $420,000 $210,000 50.0%
1979 Hal Fowler $540,000 $270,000 50.0%
1980 Stu Ungar $730,000 $365,000 50.0%
1981 Stu Ungar $750,000 $375,000 50.0%
1982 Jack Straus $1,040,000 $520,000 50.0%
1983 Tom McEvoy $1,080,000 $540,000 50.0%
1984 Jack Keller $1,320,000 $660,000 50.0%
1985 Bill Smith $1,400,000 $700,000 50.0%
1986 Berry Johnston $1,410,000 $570,000 40.4%
1987 Johnny Chan $1,520,000 $625,000 41.1%
1988 Johnny Chan $1,670,000 $700,000 41.9%
1989 Phil Hellmuth, Jr. $1,780,000 $755,000 42.4%
1990 Mansour Matloubi $1,940,000 $895,000 46.1%
1991 Brad Daugherty $2,150,000 $1,000,000 46.5%
1992 Hamid Dastmalchi $2,010,000 $1,000,000 49.8%
1993 Jim Bechtel $2,200,000 $1,000,000 45.5%
1994 Russ Hamilton $2,680,000 $1,000,000 37.3%
1995 Dan Harrington $2,730,000 $1,000,000 36.6%
1996 Huck Seed $2,950,000 $1,000,000 33.9%
1997 Stu Ungar $3,120,000 $1,000,000 32.1%
1998 Scotty Nguyen $3,500,000 $1,000,000 28.6%
1999 Noel Furlong $3,930,000 $1,000,000 25.4%
2000 Chris Ferguson $5,120,000 $1,500,000 29.3%
2001 Carlos Mortensen $5,946,100 $1,500,000 25.2%
2002 Robert Varkonyi $5,936,400 $2,000,000 33.7%
2003 Chris Moneymaker $7,802,700 $2,500,000 32.0%
2004 Greg Raymer $24,229,400 $5,000,000 20.6%
2005 Joe Hachem $52,818,610 $7,500,000 14.2%
2006 Jamie Gold $82,512,162 $12,000,000 14.5%
2007 Jerry Yang $59,784,954 $8,250,000 13.8%
2008 Peter Eastgate $64,333,600 $9,152,416 14.2%
2009 Joe Cada $61,043,600 $8,546,435 14.0%
2010 Jonathan Duhamel $68,799,059 $8,944,310 13.0%
2011 Pius Heinz $64,531,000 $8,715,638 13.5%
2012 Greg Merson $62,021,200 $8,527,982 13.8%
2013 Ryan Riess $59,708,800 $8,359,531 14.0%
2014 ? $59,708,800 $10,000,000 16.7%

[SS] “With 6,352 players, the winner would take home one-sixth of the prize pool. It would take a major jump to 7,000 entries for the winner to get just 15% of the prize pool, which would be the highest in the last decade but still lower than every year before that. On the other hand, the field would have to drop to an unlikely low of 5,200 players for the winner to take over 20%.”

[SS] “Doesn’t look so bad when you put it in historical context now, does it?”

[RR] “I guess we’re just going to have to live with our polarized opinions on this.”

Footnotes:

  1. See the previous discussion on the 2014 WSOP Schedule, with its polarized buyins.
  2. Main Event entries from 2010 to 2013: 7,319, 6,865, 6,598, and 6,352.
  3. In 1970, the first year of the WSOP, Johnny Moss was given a silver cup and got to keep his winnings from playing. The 2014 prize pool and 1st place percentage are hypothetical based on 6,352 entries.

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