15 November 2021
United States
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World Series of Poker Main Event draws 6,650 players to Rio Las Vegas

(Las Vegas).- This year’s World Series of Poker Main Event never had a chance of being as big as 2019’s. But it also never had a chance of being as small as 2020’s.

The final entry count of 6,650, announced a few hours after the late-registration window closed on Wednesday afternoon, lands the 2021 edition at the Rio in Las Vegas in that sizable sweet spot between the two extremes.

The 2019 total of 8,569 was the second-largest Main Event field ever — just 204 entries shy of the record set in 2006 before the passage of UIGEA brought a premature end to the boom-iest part of the poker boom. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic rendered a massive in-person World Series impossible, so WSOP organizers settled for two online poker tournaments with live final tables and a head-to-head meeting of the winners, an affair that drew only 1,379 entrants, the smallest Main Event since the one Chris Moneymaker won at Binion’s Horseshoe in 2003.

COVID delayed the 2020 World Series from its typical May-July spot on the calendar to September-November, and the Delta variant impacted the live poker extravaganza in assorted ways. A vaccine mandate eased worries for some but kept others away, and travel restrictions limited the numbers as well.
The tournament was originally supposed to have four starting flights — Nov. 4-7 — but with some international travel restrictions expiring Nov. 8, organizers added a “Day 1E” and a “Day 1F” on Nov. 8 and 9, and succeeded in preventing this from being the smallest fully in-person Main Event since 2005 (5,619 entries) or possibly even since 2004 (2,576).

But attracting 6,550 entries at $10,000 a pop during a pandemic? Yeah, the WSOP, and the poker world, will take that as a positive sign about the health of the brand and the game.