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2016 WSOP and History - Buyins and Payouts

[Note: This article was written after the 2016 WSOP schedule was announced. Footnotes include updates through the online 2020 WSOP.]

Buyin Amounts

A dollar in 1978 was worth $3.65 in 2016,1 so a $200 buyin works out to $730. Adjusted for inflation, the 2016 team event's potential $250 cost per person was actually the cheapest in WSOP history, ahead of the $100 buyin for the 1977 Women's Championship, which amounts to an inflation-adjusted $392.96. (The 2020 online Opener also featured a $100 buyin, while the BIG 50 broke the record with a $50 buyin.)

The effective average buyin for WSOP tournaments has also decreased over the years. It was $1,800 in 1971, $10,584 in 2016 dollars. The average dropped under $10,000 in 1979 ($9,294) and under $5,000 in 1992 ($4,752). After bottoming out at $3,190 in 2004, the average crept up again to $5,638 in 2009.

Then the Big One for One Drop skewed everything. The million dollar-buyin event in 2012 pushed the average all the way up to $21,042. But since it's such an outlier and so many players sell shares of themselves, it's not unreasonable to ignore the $1,000,000 and $111,111 events for comparison purposes. That brings the 2012 average down to $4,106, right in line with every year since then, including 2016, which checks in at $4,407 (down $220 from 2015 because of one fewer $10,000 event and one fewer $5,000 event).

By far the most common buyin all-time and in 2016 was $1,500 (23 of 69 events in 2016; 387 events in the history of the WSOP). There have been 185 total $1,000 events (11 in 2016) compared to 139 $10,000 events (13 in 2016). $5,000 (160) and $2,500 (152) tournaments have been more prevalent, but expect $10,000 events to surpass them in the next few years.

Nine buyins have occurred exactly once (data updated through 2020):

Every buyin had been either a round number ending in zeroes or a string of repeating digits until 2015 when the WSOP introduced a $565 buyin for two events.2

Rebuys

The WSOP has allowed rebuys in a small percentage of tournaments since at least 1976 when the $5,000 Deuce-to-Seven Draw had them. Both Pot-Limit Omaha events in 1984 allowed rebuys, kicking off the rebuy era that lasted until the WSOP abruptly stopped offering them in 2009.3

The WSOP quietly brought back rebuy events in 2016. For the Casino Employees event, which has no poker professionals, "players eliminated during registration period are allowed one re-entry".

The 2016 $111,111 High Roller for One Drop, $10,000 Deuce-to-Seven Draw Lowball Championship and $1,500 Deuce-to-Seven Draw Lowball each allowed one rebuy; while the $1,111 Little One for One Drop, $1,000 WSOP.com Online No-Limit Hold 'Em, and $565 Pot-Limit Omaha allowed unlimited rebuys.

Payout Percentages

One of the biggest changes in 2016 was that the percentage of the field that made the money was increased from ten percent to fifteen percent. Ten percent seems to have been the fixed percentage for a long time, but that's mostly only been true of the Main Event, and even then only dating back to 2005. Before 1973 (and in 1975), all WSOP events were winner-take-all, so discussing the percentage of players paid makes no sense. But since then, the numbers have ranged wildly. Events have paid from as low as 2% (3 out of 176 players for a 1980 Seven-Card Stud event) to as high as 36% (100 of 279 players in a 2005 No-Limit Hold 'Em rebuy event) and even 43% for one small event (3 of 7 players in a 1978 Limit Draw High event).4

Every year before 2012 had at least one event that paid under 10% of its field, and every year has had at least one event pay at least 13% of its field (with most years before 1989 going over 20%, a threshold that was also topped in 2012 and 2014).

The Main Event itself was winner-take-all through 1977, when 33 out of 34 players left empty-handed. The championship event paid between six and twelve percent from 1978 to 1985 then jumped to 26% in 1986, leading to seven straight years above 16%. This dropped almost steadily to 7% in 2001 and 2002 before creeping back up to 10% in 2005 where it remained until 2014. In 2015, since they thought it would be be a good selling point to pay the top 1,000 places, over 15% actually got paid.

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