The Big Issue: Was the WSOP Colossus winner short-changed?

It was the biggest tournament in WSOP history but the first prize was a bit of a damp squib…

The Colossus was all about the big numbers. And when it started, confirmation that over 20,000 people had rocked up to play confirmed the hype and proved it would be a great advert for poker.

Only a funny thing happened when the $11,187,000 prize pool was announced – another huge number. So the first prize was going to make someone a millionaire, right? Someone actually tweeted that it was going to be $5m, which was obviously wishful thinking. And then it was announced to a roomful of excited poker players that the first prize would be $638,880. Cue an awkward silence as the disappointed players ingested the news.

Twitter lit up with the news, with lots of pros expressing their disbelief that a marquee tournament like this wasn’t offering a seven-figure first prize. In fact, the near-$634k was just 5.7% of the total prize pool. Wha?



So what happened? Ty Stewart (WSOP Executive Director) and Seth Palansky (VP Corporate Comms) both took to Twitter to deflect the outrage. They tried to explain that the tournament followed the usual WSOP payout formula – they’d just never run one with such a huge field.

As Palansky said, ‘No poker tournament has ever returned 1130% to winner, but this somehow is wrong? It’s the same math for other events.’

Ty Stewart re-iterated, saying: ‘Truly shocked there was such outrage as was same payout format used for years, just never taken it out 2000+ places.’

Our initial knee-jerk reaction was one of disappointment. We – like most other people – expected a seven-figure payout minimum. But only because it seemed like it should have a marquee payout. But think about it a bit more. The real complaints only came from big name pros who enter a tournament like this to win it. The bulk of the 22,000 players were recreational players, lured in by the low buy-in. For them a min-cash would have been the first aim, and anything else a bonus. If you want a huge first prize the money has to come from somewhere.

Last year the WSOP was criticised for paying $10m to the winner of the Main Event. They responded by making a flatter structure and paying 1,000 players. The poker world applauded. So why have they taken so much flack over The Colossus, which by all accounts (ignoring the administrative cock-up which delayed payouts) was a fantastic event?

Communication is key. The first mistake was not clearly advertising the payout structure. The reason they didn’t is because they either thought they didn’t need to (it’s standard), or that there’s no upside to it (where’s the story?). Second, stung by criticism some of the tweets coming out from the WSOP were defensive and even defiant. That’s not the way to do customer communications.

It’s also true that the rake – $65 on every entry – was pretty big and amounted to more than twice the amount the winner got. This was what JC Tran was saying – the house made $1,454,310. However, this was clearly advertised and it didn’t put people off playing. Suits need paying too.

However, there is clearly a middle ground. We think the WSOP took their eye off the ball a little, leaving a standard payout structure in place for a tournament that was a long, long way from standard. There was easily room to shave from the middle and guarantee seven figures up top. We think the winner of the largest poker tournament of all time deserved it. And we think he or she will get it if The Colossus runs again next year.

What do you think about The Colossus payouts? Let us know on Twitter @PokerPlayer365

This article comes from Poker Player magazine which you can read for free HERE

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