If anyone was asking whether live poker was officially back in Florida, this week answered that question in resounding fashion.
There might be masks, plexiglass dividers, and hand sanitizers. But there are also chips, cards, and a lot of money on the line.
The World Poker Tour Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown that played out April 23-27 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood was a huge hit among poker players from Florida and elsewhere. In fact, the event broke attendance records, becoming the largest in WPT history.
In other words, live poker is not only back, it is bigger than ever.
Largest WPT Main Event ever nearly quadruples event guarantee
The $3,500 no-limit hold’em tournament featured two Day 1 flights. Each starting flight allowed players to re-enter once per day for a maximum of four entries.
The tournament advertised a $2 million guaranteed prize pool. That meant the event would need to attract around 625 entries in order to meet that goal and avoid an overlay.
Reaching that goal did not turn out to be a problem.
As it happened, the first of the two starting flights drew more than 1,000 entries. The second drew even more. Ultimately the tournament attracted a whopping 2,482 total entries. Such a field pushed the prize pool to $7,942,400 or almost four times the guarantee.
Such a turnout made the tournament the largest live Main Event in WPT history, crushing the previous high of 1,795 entries for the 2014 version of the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown.
The winner of the tournament’s $1.26 million first prize has yet to be determined. Players will have to wait to settle that in a few weeks. In fact, the champion will be crowned outside of Florida.
According to the WPT live updates, it was after midnight last night when Sonny Franco knocked out Erik Cajelais in seventh place, thereby setting up the the six-handed final table.
The pot gave Franco the chip lead, pushing him ahead of closest challenger Brekstyn Schutten. Steven Snyder, Ken Aldridge, Albert Calderon, and Viet Vo each made the final table as well.
Those six players will reconvene on May 18 to play the final table at the ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas at the PokerGO Studio. The WPT began delaying final tables in this fashion in early 2019 in order to televise more final tables.
Turnout good sign for WPT, other tournament series
The WPT stopped running live events last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The last live WPT event of 2020 took place in California at Thunder Valley Casino Resort.
The tour held online tournaments for the remainder of 2020 on the partypoker global site and in New Jersey on the partypoker US network. One of those tournaments, the $3,200 buy-in WPT Online Championship in May, attracted 2,130 entries and created a $6.39 million prize pool. That technically set the mark for largest WPT Main Event ever until this week’s tournament set a new standard.
The tour only resumed live tournaments at the start of 2021 with the WPT Lucky Hearts Poker Open, also at the Seminole Hard Rock. That $3,500 Main Event also attracted a big field of 1,573 entries to create a prize pool of just over $5 million.
The massive turnout bodes well for the WPT and live poker, generally speaking, both in Florida and elsewhere. The WPT has yet to announce its live tournament schedule for the coming year. That said, after this week expect return trips to Florida.
Meanwhile earlier this month the World Series of Poker announced plans to resume its annual in-person, live tournament series. The 2021 WSOP will take place from Sept. 30-Nov. 23 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The WSOP had to cancel its 2020 series due to the pandemic. Instead, the WSOP hosted alternate events throughout the year most of which took place online.
The year-long WSOP Circuit has also moved online for the time being, but live WSOP Circuit stops could be returning as well. In the past, the WSOP Circuit has hosted series at various Florida locations, most recently at Seminole Casino Coconut Creek and Seminole Hard Rock Tampa.