First WSOP.com Online Bracelet Event Of The Season Crushes, But Could It Have Done Better?

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Another day, another record.

On Sunday, WSOP.com set a new benchmark for a tournament with a sub $500 buy-in. The first of four online bracelet events slated for the summer (WSOP Event #10 – $365 NLHE) attracted 2,123 players and 2,972 buy-ins, creating a mammoth prize pool of $974,816. First place clocked in at just under $155k.

For a network that only spans two states, New Jersey and Nevada, that’s cause for much celebration.

Yet before we break out the party hats and balloons it’s worth considering that the event could have done somewhat better, had the brain trust behind the tournament take a hard look at its product.

Modest uptick over 2017

This is only the second time WSOP.com has offered an online bracelet event in the $300 buy-in range, the first being last year’s $333 buy-in event. That tournament created a $752,700 prize pool, a massive success given that only players in Nevada could partake.

Admittedly, the two other online bracelet events hosted last summer both boasted larger prize pools ($1.2 million+), but the achievement award still belonged to the $333 event as it drew by far the most entries (2,509).

This year’s small buy-in event outperformed last year’s in every measurable metric, including players, entries, and prize pool. Yet the growth margin was rather tepid considering that both New Jersey residents and tourists to the Garden State could register.

From 2017 to 2018, growth margins were as follows:

  • Players: +19.3%
  • Entries: +18.5%
  • Prize pool: +29.5% (inflated due to this year’s higher buy-in)

Quite frankly, this is the kind of growth we’d expect if New Jersey wasn’t added to the mix. Something had to be off…and it was.

So what went wrong?

WSOP.com faced its fair share of troubles leading into Event #10, both on the technical and logical sides.

Technical glitches

The most pronounced problem was a glitch in the software that appeared to impact a number of players. Upon registering, an alert flagged indicating that the player was already registered for the tournament, despite not having done so.

A few prominent names were affected and took to Twitter, including Chris Moorman:

There were reports that this glitch mainly impacted international players. While we were not able to confirm this, the fact that there was only 19 international signups out of 2,123 players lends some credence to this theory.

There were a smattering of other technical problems reported, mainly revolving around connectivity issues. These were to be somewhat expected, as many players were logged in via hotel WiFi and mobile, the latter of which is known to be troublesome.

What were they thinking issues

Sunday’s online bracelet event featured unlimited reentries and a obscenely long late registration period of 3 hours and 45 minutes. With blind levels of only 15 minutes, it goes without saying that a multitude of players would be firing more than one bullet.

Or at least they would try. Problem was players had only 30 seconds to re-enter the tournament, and had to have enough money in their bankroll to cover the re-entry. In other words, they’d have to load the maximum amount of bullets they’d be willing to lose prior to the event.

Some players saw this as a blatant cash grab on the part of WSOP.com:

However, this was not the case. Turns out, it was an overlooked restriction of the software. That might be even worse, as it’s something software provider 888 had a full five years to address.

Of course, players could have frantically tried to load their account, as most NJ online poker and casino sites are adept at processing transactions quickly. Not so with WSOP.com, where (at least in our experience) ACH transactions took a full 3 – 5 minutes to process.

The second major logic issue was the starting time. Event #10 kicked off at 3:30 pm PST, which wouldn’t be too late if the late registration period wasn’t so long and more importantly, if NJ players (three hours ahead) weren’t making up a significant portion of the player pool.

What resulted was a tournament that didn’t end on the east coast until 6:44 in the morning. Suffice it to say, for NJ players planning a deep run, going to work the next morning wasn’t an option.

On a bright note…

The online bracelet event coincided nicely with the four scheduled Online Championship events, all of which saw impressive turnouts:

  • OC #9: 884 players, $37,160 prize pool
  • OC #10: 690 players, $207,800 prize fund
  • OC #11: 482 players, $72,404 prize pool
  • OC #12: 529 players, $34,362 prize fund

Most of these events too ran until the wee hours of the morning on the east coast.

Still, the tournament schedule was more attractive than it has been on any day since New Jersey and Nevada began sharing liquidity. Although based on player reactions to the new daily and weekend schedules, that isn’t saying too much.

Cash game traffic was also up sharply, and it wouldn’t surprise if there was more ring game activity on Sunday night than ever before on WSOP.com. Even less frequented formats like Stud 8 and Omaha 8 has multiple tables running.

WSOP.com kicked itself in the foot, but not hard

The aforementioned technical gaffes and logic mishaps downgraded what could have been a historic day into a merely great one.

The hope is that 888 will learn from the experience in time for the next online bracelet event (or at least by next summer), improving its re-entry mechanism, its payment processing and the overall look and feel of its antiquated US software. Although, given the operator’s lackluster approach to its US software, we’re hard pressed to keep our fingers crossed.

Going further, it would be nice if WSOP.com paid a little more attention to the desires of its New Jersey players, as a 10:15 pm registration close time undoubtedly caused some players to second guess grinding out the event.

Still, a nearly $1 million prize pool for a $365 buy-in event? Hard to complain.

Robert is a veteran writer and analyst for the gambling industry, with a particular focus on the emergent US online gambling market. An avid poker and gambling enthusiast, Robert offers unique perspectives from both the vantage point of the player and industry professional, and is fit to cover a broad spectrum of topics.

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