WPT World Championship Festival Concludes Great Year for Poker

4 minutes

Last Updated: January 25, 2024

There are a few days still to go in 2023, but things are slowly winding down as we enter the holiday season. A lot happened in the past twelve months and one thing we can say with certainty is that this year was a great one for live poker.

Live tournaments were booming, attracting huge crowds and breaking attendance records left and right. And then, as we entered the final stretch, the WPT World Championship Festival kicked off to wrap things up in style.

With its unprecedented $40 million guarantee, the Championship event itself created a huge buzz in the poker world. The $10k buy-in was steep, but online satellites and various promotions set up in the months preceding the tournament made it much more accessible.

To make things even more exciting, the Festival also saw the return of the Big One for One Drop. While the event’s $1,000,000 buy-in makes it exclusive only to select few, it is one that the entire poker world always looks forward to.

It was clear right from the get-go the WPT World Championship Festival would be one of the biggest events we’ve ever seen, outside of the World Series of Poker. But, organizing such a big event with thousands of players playing in different tournaments comes with many challenges.


Smooth Sailing Through and Through

Once things got underway, ballrooms at the Wynn and Encore were filled with players. There were hundreds of tables, dozens of dealers, and several tournaments running at once. And yet, there was no significant glitch to speak of.

With an event of this magnitude, one would expect and even understand some smaller issues, especially during early days, but there were none. Under the watchful eye of Matt Savage, WPT’s Executive Tour Director, and the rest of the team, everything was flowing just right.

It must be mentioned that all the media folks got a great treatment as well. Good working space, quality internet connection, and free sodas and coffee (and it was good coffee) were provided to ensure those doing the coverage had everything they needed to do their job.

A Record Breaking Turnout

Let’s address the elephant in the room first – the WPT World Championship did not meet its $40 million guarantee. It came up short about $2.4 million, and looking just at that number, one could get the wrong picture of the entire Festival.

First of all, the tournament attracted over 3,800 players, smashing the last year’s record. Perhaps $40 million was a tad too ambitious, but as an investment into the WPT brand and the future of live poker, $2 odd million isn’t that big of a deal.

At the same time, the WPT Prime event smashed its guarantee, and that’s actually an understatement. The initial promise of $5 million was more than doubled as the event recorded over 10,000 entries. Calvin Anderson, the eventual winner, took home just shy of $1.4 million, which is an insane amount for a $1k tournament.

The Big One for One Drop attracted a relatively small crowd of 17 players, but this was, at least in part, due to several last-minute cancellations by the players who had plans to play. Plus, $1,000,000 is a big ask for a single tournament, so it’s not realistic to expect a huge number of players.

The $1,100 Ladies Championship was certainly a success, attracting 457 players. The title eventually went to Lisa Costello, who added over $82,000 to her poker bankroll.

And these were just some of the highlight events. Happening on the proverbial sidelines were many “smaller” tournaments, which saw massive turnouts as well. For example, the $3,000 Progressive Bounty event attracted 582 entries, blowing the $500,000 guarantee out of the water.

Looking Forward to the Future

Despite the small glitch this year, the WPT World Championship has gone from strength to strength, and we can certainly look forward to much more in the years to come. Events like this give huge exposure to the game we all love so much and bring back the notion of the poker dream.

The World Poker Tour, in general, has done a great job in recent years, expanding beyond the United States, and making the tour a truly international affair, as it should be.

The WPT Prime brand has become hugely popular, bringing that unique World Poker Tour experience closer to an average player. Affordable buy-ins, big guarantees, and great organization have all contributed to the growth of Prime, leading to some record-shattering numbers.

So, with such a strong finish to 2023, the only thing that remains is to look forward to even bigger and better 2024. If current trends continue, all fans of live poker out there will have more than enough tournaments coming up to keep them busy in the months to come, and we love to see it!

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