The 2012 World Series of Poker is in the books, with plenty of great performances and headline-worthy highlights. From Phil Hellmuth’s record-setting win in the ME to Antonio Esfandiari becoming the first player to win bracelets on both sides of the Atlantic in the same calendar year (a feat matched within a week by Hellmuth), there was no shortage of stories.
Portugal and Tunisia both hailed their first-ever WSOP bracelet winners, in Francisco Da Costa Santos and Imed Ben Mahmoud, respectively, the hosting French captured two of the seven events (Roger Hairabedian and Giovanni Rosadoni) — and Hairabedean almost won again in Event 6, the mixed-max championship that featured an epic meltdown by eventual runner-up Brandon Cantu. Cantu and Hellmuth himself provided the “ugly American” moments, but one of the underreported tales was the attendance drop in Cannes this time around.
From last year to this year, here’s how the numbers stacked up:
Event # Description 2011 Players 2012 Players =/- %
1: €2,500 NLHE 6-Max 360 227 -32%
2: €1,000 NLHE 771 626 -19%
3: €5,000 PLO 180 97 -46%
4: €3,000 NLHE Shootout 258 141 -45%
5: €10,000 NLHE Mixed Max 125 96 -23%
6: €1,500 PLO 6-Max 339 206 -39%
7 (Main Event): €10,000 NLHE 593 420 -29%
Say what you will; those numbers have to be disappointing to WSOP brass. So what caused it? Global economy woes? Some bad “Cannes-ed” food? (Probably not, at those prices.) A glut of poker tourneys?
There are more and more major poker series these days, each being heavily promoted, and that could be a part of it, and yet there’s been an undercurrent of comment on poker forums, Twitter and elsewhere that it may have been an anti-French thing. The 2011 WSOPE had numerous charges by players of favoritism being bestowed on locals, other tours have had some significant image issues, such as the Partouche Poker Tour, which had both the high-profile Ali Tekintamgac cheating controversy and a separate scandal involving three players, two employees and the use of marked cards and infrared glasses.
Then the Partouche tour up and folded a couple of months back, after a major controversy involving a temporarily retracted tournament guarantee and the publicly offered resignation — also known as falling on one’s sword — of one of its senior marketing executives.
It just hasn’t been a great year for French poker, all things considered. And maybe that was a factor, too, in the WSOPE’s attendance downturn this time around.
I don’t know what to make of it. Most baffling of all the WSOPE numbers has to be the 46% crash in le Omaha, which is probably more popular in Europe as a poker variant than it is in the States. Oftentimes the WSOP issues releases from its series whenever they set new attendance records, but as you can see, there was none of that this time around.
Still, from a headline and story perspective, the 2012 WSOPE turned out to be a great series. Entertaining storylines were everywhere. and it serves as a great bounceback to Las Vegas and the wrap-up of the World Series of Poker later this month.