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WSOP's Ty Stewart Discusses Success of $1,500 Millionaire Maker Event

Posted at 10:00 2013-06-05 by Pamela Maldonado

Saturday marked one of the biggest days in World Series of Poker history. Event #6, the $1,500 “Millionaire Maker” No-Limit Hold’em event, attracted 6,343 players across two opening flights, both of which were played on Saturday. It was the largest single-day non-WSOP Main Event field ever played, according to the WSOP.

Everyone from pros, to daily grinders, to weekend visitors participated with hopes of being the lucky player to win the $1 million guaranteed prize for first place. After the final number of entries were counted, it was determined that eventual winner will be awarded $1,198,827, which is 799 times the initial $1,500 investment.

Players and spectators took to Twitter to comment on the historic event.

PokerNews caught up with WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart to discuss the day’s event and just how historic the tournament was.

PokerNews: What was the thought process when creating this event?

Stewart: We just wanted to start off with a bang. We obviously close the series very big with the Main Event but we think that it’s better for everyone when they get into action early. Our contention is if you get a taste of the WSOP experience early on, then you’ll want to come back for more. I thought we just needed to do something a little more different that catered to the dreamers of the game. Our payout formula is pretty flat — it's one of the flattest in the business — but I think it is the right thing to do for a 62-event ecosystem with tens of thousands of players. But for one event, I thought it was OK to deviate from the norm. There aren’t that many people that are gassing up their car and dreaming about to Las Vegas just to min-cash. So to have something that is a little more top heavy is the right thing to attract a new customer.

Is attracting new customers, then, the goal that the WSOP was hoping to achieve?

We certainly coveted first time visitors. We believed that we could bring a first time visitor as well as bring a lot of the people that have been to the WSOP in the past but for one big event. It’s not that well known that most people only play a handful of events a year so we end up having just a new funnel each weekend. If we can get them to take just one more trip at the same time, then obviously we have a pretty powerful event.

Is the Millionaire Maker affiliated with the 10-year anniversary of Chris Moneymaker winning the Main Event?

I think in the back of our heads we are always mindful that we need to push the envelope and build momentum from just that one moment in history. The Millionaire Maker, though, is actually a company-wide initiative at Caesars. In just the last month we started celebrating the concept of Caesars as a company becoming the Millionaire Maker Company. Amongst Caesars Entertainment we have the Wheel of Fortune Millionaire Sweepstakes, the Millionaire Maker Slot Tournament, and now the WSOP Millionaire Maker event. It is now a company-wide brand where have made over 75 millionaires and counting.

What was the benefit of having two starting flights in the same day? Why not separate the two?

One of the things we found is the issue of time. Particularly for the average visitor time is a big deterrent. They want to be able to play and get back to their everyday lives. We have experienced this in the circuit and it has worked very well. With us having the capacity now here at the Rio, we figured it was the better way to do it.

Through Seth Palansky’s Twitter feed, we saw the number of entrants jumping every hour. As of late Saturday night, the entry list went past 6,300. Did the WSOP achieve the number it was hoping for?

We definitely did. In fact, we exceeded our goal. We are very pleased. It’s not just a big day for the WSOP, but I think it’s a big day for poker. This is a statement maker and there seems to be a lot of shared pride at showcasing the interest that still remains in the game of poker. There is now a sense that perhaps the tide is turning; that poker’s darkest days are behind us and now there is optimism for the future. Online poker is slowly coming back, the love and passion is still there and going strong and today was just what poker needed to have its swagger back. The statement is clear that poker is not just alive and well but the future is bright.

The great thing about the WSOP is the coming together of everybody in the community. Obviously, as a whole we are very powerful. It may be cheesy but I’m coining today as “Sunny Saturday,” the polar opposite to “Black Friday.”

Do you think the Millionaire Maker will be larger than this year’s Main Event?

No I do not. I absolutely think that the Main Event will attract a bigger field. I also think that everyone that came here today will try like mad to come back for the Main Event. There is probably also a ton of people who will play the main who weren’t able to be here today.

However, it is in the top 10 for the biggest poker tournament ever held and is the biggest single day poker tournament by a landslide. It is more than 50 percent bigger than any other poker tournament in a single day. We are really close to even beating the 2007 Main Event so it will be either the seventh or eighth biggest poker tournament. Those are normally over 3 or 4 days but this event had essentially an entire Main Event field played in one day.

Will it be on next year’s schedule or the years after?

We have a collaborative process but it seems to be a favorite to be back on the schedule. If it is, what makes me excited is I think it will be bigger next year because I believe it is here to stay. It has definitely earned its right to be back.

Some players — both pros and recreational — were slightly dissatisfied with the length of the lines or how slow it was to get registered. Do you have any comments on this?

It is a partnership. We want to be able to get player registered and it was one of my commitments that we would never shut a player out of any WSOP event ever again. We fundamentally increased capacity by a lot and that has allowed players to feel comfortable to walk-up to an event right before it starts. We will accept the responsibility that we should get you through the lines fairly quickly but then again pushing 6,000 people through anything in a short amount of time is a difficult thing to do. For this event, not a single player got shut out and there was only a two-hour period today where the waits were extensive. We continue to work on the issue but I think today was still pretty satisfying to most.

Are there benefits to an amateur winning this event as opposed to a pro taking it down?

We have had both sides of it. For a period, pros were always making it to the end, followed by a time were amateurs were always in the final table. It’s been a solid mix and every year it changes. Sometimes it's better for the amateur to win and sometimes it's better for the pro to win. The important thing is, as long as both sides are doing battle, it’s healthy competition for everyone. What I am waiting for, what I think will be the biggest moment is when a woman wins the Main Event. It may not happen this year but we are waiting and looking forward to it.

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