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The risk didn’t come in the form of a larger, longer schedule, as the players expressed their unequivocal support for the series in 2022. More options were a plus, despite the new competition in series around Las Vegas and from a new uncoincidentally-timed tournament series in the Bahamas. Most of the bigger guarantees weren’t too risky, either. The WPT Prime Championship wildly surpassed its $2M guarantee with a $5.2M prize pool, so the increased guarantee to $5M this year was fairly safe. And in the end, players more than doubled that for the prize pool, as the total 10,512 entries put the prize pool nearly $10.2M.
The WPT and Wynn knew that the World Championship Main Event guarantee posed the risk.
Last year, players turned out in droves for the $15M guarantee, even with the tournament’s $10K price point. The 2,960 entries almost doubled the promised amount by creating a prize pool of $29,008,000.
This year, they slapped a $40M guarantee on the WC Main Event. Risk magnified.
It goes without saying that the World Poker Tour and Wynn hoped for the best. They hoped to hit the guarantee and soar beyond it. As the WPT World Championship Main Event began, however, there were some hurdles that became clearer by the day.
Day 1 A brought in 609 entries, and Day 1B added 730 more. Day 1C counted 973 entries. With a total of 4,081 required to meet the guarantee ($9,800 of each buy-in went to the prize pool) and only 2,312 tallied going into the final flight, it was going to be a close one.
On Friday, December 15, the above complications took their toll. Some poker players and fans suggested that the WPT and Wynn add a turbo flight or extend the time allotted for late registration. Many tournament organizers have done that in the past to avoid overlays.
The World Poker Tour and Wynn don’t do that, and they weren’t going to start with this one. The poker world’s eyes were on them. So, they did what they planned to do if they fell short of the historic guarantee.
WPT and Wynn executives talked to their staff and then called the media together to talk about the overlay. Then, they announced on social media and to players in the tournament that the $40M guarantee would stand. They made a promise to the poker community, and they kept it.
Simple as that.
The final number for Day 1D – the final opportunity for players to enter the tournament – was 1,523. That brought the total number of entries for the WPT World Championship Main Event to 3,835.
The overlay? $2,417,000
It came close to being the largest overlay in live poker tournament history. The Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open of 2014 holds the record, as it guaranteed $10M and missed it by $2.5M. The 2023 World Championship came close but didn’t set a record. Yet and still, a $2.4M overlay is a big deal. It’s a massive boon for the players who did participate.
However, this overlay will go into the poker history books for more than that amount of money. Poker will remember it for the way it was handled.
There were no last-minute executive meetings about how to add more flights, move some numbers, or place blame. The World Poker Tour and Wynn, as partners, handled it with the utmost class. They announced it to the players, talked privately with members of the media to answer questions, and carried on with the largest event in WPT and Wynn history.
Adam Pliska addressed the media:
“We are growing this franchise, and we want to make this something that lasts for many, many years. The $40M guarantee is our way of making a truly stretch goal and to say that we are committed. We’re not going anyplace. We’re building this up. We’re going to continue to make positive changes. But the most important thing we are after… we want players to say that this was the best player experience. And we’ve had so much positive feedback. … If you ask me what I’m proudest of is that I truly believe that we have taken the (player) feedback to heart.
“We believe that the growth of the World Poker Tour, the growth of good poker all over, helps poker. At the end of the day, what are we competing with? We’re competing with the real estate in the minds of people that want to play this game.”
Oddly enough, this isn’t something that the players needed to hear. They didn’t cheer for the overlay because they knew that WPT and Wynn worked as hard as they could to make the guarantee, and when it didn’t happen, they immediately honored it. There was never a doubt that they would do it. If players hadn’t learned at the 2022 WPT World Championship how much WPT and Wynn care about them and the entirety of the poker experience, they figured it out this year.
And with that, the Main Event plays on. The Big One for One Drop and other tournaments begin, and the WPT Prime Championship will find its winner.
By all accounts, the second WPT World Championship at Wynn Las Vegas is an unquestionable success.
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