Online World Series of Poker Shatters Records with $27.6M Prize Pool

Posted on: September 10, 2020, 06:57h. 

Last updated on: September 11, 2020, 10:52h.

The World Series of Poker (WSOP) online event wrapped up Labor Day weekend after about two months of play. It set several new poker records, including the largest-ever online tournament prize pool.

WSOP Avi Rubin
Avi Rubin, a Johns Hopkins University computer science professor who participated in this year’s online WSOP event (pictured in t-shirt among students in a class) is predicting both a shift back to live poker, as well as ongoing increased interest in online poker. (Image: Johns Hopkins University)

The event featured the largest online poker tournament prize ever awarded — $3.9 million — which went to Bulgaria’s Stoyan Madanzhiev in the online Main Event.

Madanzhiev outlasted more than 5,800 players to win. China’s Wenling Gao came in second and won $2.7 million.

Capturing third place was Tyler Rueger of the US, who won $1.9 million. New Zealander Thomas Ward took down $1.35 million in fourth.

A total of 203 players won at least $100,000, and 54 WSOP bracelets were claimed. The event saw the most entries ever for a WSOP tournament, with 44,576 engaging.

Pandemic Silver Lining

Another player in the tournament was Avi Rubin, a Johns Hopkins University professor of computer science and technical director of the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute.

During the tournament, the computer security and applied cryptography expert sailed his boat from Maryland to New Jersey. He docked there for a few days so he could compete in a couple of WSOP bracelet events.

It is not surprising that this year’s WSOP was the largest online event ever. After all, poker players want to play, and this year, that was the only option,” Rubin told on Thursday.

“Once things get back to normal, I expect that we’ll see a shift back to in-person live poker, especially for cash games,” Rubin added. He said security issues in online poker are “much more serious for cash games than tournaments.”

He explained that the response to the pandemic led to “much higher-quality online systems, and greater user acceptance, so I think that even after safe live games return, we will see a permanent increase in the presence of online poker.”

The WSOP Online bracelet series ran on from July 1-31 (for players in Nevada and New Jersey) and Aug. 1-Sept. 7 on GGPoker for players outside the US, including Asia, Europe, Canada, and Latin America. Between the two sites, there were 239,754 tournament entries.

The continuing pandemic forced the postponement of the in-person WSOP. Initially, it was scheduled for the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

The WSOP began in 1970. That makes it poker’s longest-running tournament.

Many Players Move Online

When asked about the WSOP online event’s popularity, James Whelan, a psychology professor and co-director at the University of Memphis’ Institute for Gambling Education and Research, told that recent national data suggested that many frequent gamblers switched to online play because of COVID-19“ and the lack of available in-person options.

“I would guess that these experiences will result in some being more comfortable with online betting,” Whelan added. “Of course, we have also seen people … who did not gamble for several months and then the casinos reopened, and off they went.”