Believe it or not, cards go in the air for the 2009 World Series of Poker in just 31 days. And in anticipation of the biggest poker event of the calendar year, the crack WSOP media relations staff released its 45-page Media Guide last week.
Thumbing through the guide, we found a number of fascinating stats and tidbits and thought that this week's Top-10 list would be the perfect spot to share the ones that we found most interesting. Enjoy!
10. 40th Anniversary Event will break a record
One of the new additions this year is a $40,000 No-Limit Hold'em Tournament that will help commemorate the 40th anniversary of the WSOP. And since the Main Event is always a $10,000 buy-in, this special $40,000 event will become the richest entry fee for a No-Limit poker event in North America, and the second richest overall, just behind the annual $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event.
9. Not bad for an amateur
Even though last year's Main Event winner -- Peter Eastgate -- was widely recognized as an online phenom, his official status as far as the WSOP was concerned was an amateur since he was still a student. "Amateur" is defined in the media guide as "a player who at the time of their victory supported themselves in a vocation other than poker." Take that into account and this means that for seven consecutive years the Main Event champion has been an amateur player. This is the longest such streak in the history of the WSOP. The last professional to be crowned Main Event champ was Carlos Mortensen in 2001.
8. Harrah's has helped the WSOP thrive
Harrah's Entertainment acquired the WSOP back in 2004 and the numbers show that it has done a pretty good job as seen by the fact that participation in the event has increased by more than 300% in the last five years, going from 13,036 player registrations in 2004 to 58,720 last year, which was an all-time high.
7. It's the WSOP with an emphasis on 'world'
The WSOP has become a true "world" event after a record 124 different nations were represented last year. That number was just 24 as recently as 2004. This is even more impressive if you consider that just the U.S. was represented in the inaugural WSOP and only 80 nations competed in last year's Winter Olympics.
6. Stats from the 2008 field
In addition to the number of countries represented and player registrations, last year's field also broke records for total prize pool ($180,774,427) and number of entries (31,146). After the U.S., Canada was the second top-participating country followed by the U.K., France and Germany. California was the top-participating U.S. state. Rounding out the Top 5 was Nevada, Texas, Florida and New York. The median age of the entire field was 37 and 91.4% of the entrants were male.
5. Who says poker isn't a TV sport?
According to the media guide, a December 2007 article in The Economist noted that poker is the third most-watched sport on cable television, behind only the NFL and NASCAR. It's also interesting to note that ESPN used 40 cameras to cover last year's WSOP. By comparison, NBC used 35 cameras to cover Super Bowl XLIII.
4. Prize pools continue to soar
Oh my, how times have changed. The prize pool for the past three WSOP tournaments ($500 million) is greater than the total prize pool of the first 36 WSOP tournaments combined.
3. Eastgate vs. Moss
Another sign of the times. Last year Peter Eastgate won a whopping $9,152,416 for his victory at the Main Event. The first winner of the WSOP Main Event was Johnny Moss back in 1970 and he got nothing but a handshake. That's right, the winning purse was zilch. But before you feel too bad for Johnny, you should know that he only beat six other players. Eastgate outlasted a field of 6,843.
2. Prize money in perspective
Let's stay with Eastgate's winnings for a moment. Did you know that his $9.1-million check was more than the combined top prizes last year for the Indy 500 ($2.5 million), the Daytona 500 ($1.5 million) and the U.S. Open for both tennis ($1.5 million) and golf ($1.3 million)? Try that one the next time you need to stump someone with a trivia question down at the local bar.
1. It pays to win the Main Event
With his hefty cash last year, Eastgate heads into the 2009 WSOP in second-place on the all-time WSOP money list, despite just one career cash. Of course, first on that list is 2006 champ Jamie Gold, whose one-career cash landed him a cool $12,064,976. Phil Hellmuth, meanwhile, is the all-time leader in career cashes with an amazing 66, yet he ranks just eighth on the all-time money list with a shade over $6 million in winnings. Heck, even last year's third-place finisher – Dennis Phillips – stands 13th on the all-time money list with $4.5 million, even though he has never won the Main Event and has 65 less cashes than Hellmuth.