While most World Series of Poker events have their appeal, especially for those looking to add a WSOP bracelet to their résumé, a few tournaments usually steal the spotlight.
These are the ones with a large prize pool and life-changing money up top, be it due to a big buy-in, extremely large fields, or the combination of the two.
If you’ve been wondering which WSOP events have the biggest prize pools, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, I’ll go over some of the largest and most significant tournaments that have traditionally had huge prize pools and will likely continue to do so in the years to come.
The Main Event
The Main Event has always been the pinnacle of the World Series, but after the 2003 boom created by Moneymaker’s surprise win, the tournament has seen a huge surge in interest and reached new heights.
The number of players in 2004 more than tripled, with 2,576 entries taking it to the felt, each paying the admittance fee of $10,000. In 2005, the Main Event saw 5,619 entrants, indicating what the future would look like.
Then came 2006 and the largest Main Event in history.
A total of 8,773 players descended to Las Vegas in their search for poker glory, generating a massive prize pool of just over $82.5 million.
The winner would take home $12,000,000, which was by far the biggest prize in any individual poker tournament up to that point.
As some of you might know, the person who ended up pocketing the impressive $12 million prize was none other than Jamie Gold, a recreational poker player who caught a very lucky run of cards at just the right time.
In the years to follow, the Main Event numbers have fluctuated between 6,000 and 7,000 entrants. Then, in 2019, the field once again exceeded 8,500 players.
With these numbers and given the fact that all players have to pay $10,000 to enter, the Main Event is the largest and most lucrative of all WSOP tournaments.
All winners have pocketed at least $8,000,000, except Joe McKeehen, who “only” got $7.6 million for his triumph in the 2015 WSOP Main Event.
The Millionaire Maker
There are two ways to look at which WSOP events have the largest prize pool. One is to look at the sheer amount of money, and the other option is to look at the overall prize pool in comparison to the buy-in.
If we focus on the latter, the Millionaire Maker tournament certainly deserves a place on this list.
This event is one of the more recent additions to the WSOP schedule, and it has been happening only for a few years. The buy-in is just $1,500 but the winner is guaranteed a cool million.
The event debuted in 2015, and right off the bat, it attracted 7,275 entries, generating a prize pool of over $9.8 million. Instead of the promised million, the eventual winner took home an amount of $1,277,193.
Motivated by the initial success, WSOP organizers kept the Millionaire Maker on the schedule for the years to come, and it’s proven to be a very sound decision. Every year since, the tournament has grown in the number of entries and, subsequently, the overall prize pool.
The last live instance of the Millionaire Maker took place in 2019 (as the whole 2020 WSOP took place online), and it attracted a total of 8,809 runners.
The final prize pool was $11,892,150, and the winner, John Gorsuch, pocketed $1,344,930 for his impressive run through the massive field.
If you’re looking for a WSOP tournament with a really big prize pool and with an affordable buy-in, the Millionaire Maker is the one to check out.
If you thought the Millionaire Maker was impressive, what would you say about a $565 tournament featuring a $5 million guarantee? You have to be either very crazy or very brave to come up with this idea, but the WSOP went on and did that in 2015 with the Colossus event.
The organizers didn’t have to worry too much about generating enough interest.
With dozens of thousands of players in Las Vegas for the summer and the very small buy-in, this wasn’t the main issue. From the logistical standpoint, though, organizing such an event was a proper nightmare.
In the end, the WSOP pulled it off.
While there were a few bumps along the road, the whole tournament went down much better than expected.
The final tally was 22,374 entries, and the prize pool was just shy of $11.2 million, which is mind-boggling for a live tournament with a $500 buy-in.
The winner, Cord Garcia, took home $638,880.
Although some people were against it, the overall feedback for the Colossus was largely positive, so the WSOP decided to keep it.
In 2016, the event attracted a similar number of players and offered the final prize pool of $10.8 million. Then, in 2017, there was a slight dip in interest, as there were “only” 18,054 entries, generating a prize pool of slightly over $9 million.
Numbers continued to dwindle, as 2018 saw a turnout of 13,070 entries.
This inspired the organizers to drop the buy-in further, so the 2019 edition of the Colossus featured a buy-in of just $400.
This didn’t change things much, though, as the number of entries was almost identical to that from the last year, but the prize pool was smaller. Still, the winner pocketed more than $541,000.
Just like the Millionaire Maker, the Colossus is back on the 2021 WSOP schedule, and the buy-in is once again $400.
Little One for One Drop
The Little One for One Drop is a rather popular WSOP event, which generates a decent amount of donations every year for the charity One Drop.
Seeing as it’s just $1,111 to enter, and there is a charitable element to it, it gets a very good number of runners each year, which, naturally, results in a rather hefty prize pool.
The Little One for One Drop was added to the WSOP schedule in 2013, after the debut of the Big One for One Drop in 2012.
The organizers, WSOP and the One Drop Foundation, figured creating a smaller event would be a nice way to give all players a chance to contribute if they wanted to and raise additional funds.
The event regularly gets close to 5,000 entries and prize pools in excess of $4,000,000. On top of that, in 2019, there was a really great turnout, with 6,248 entries to create a massive prize pool of over $5.6 million.
The winner took home $690,000 and change, which is a pretty impressive return on investment.
This event really has it all for a very affordable price, so it’s the one to circle on your calendars if you’re planning on playing the WSOP but don’t have a huge bankroll to work with.
I guess you could argue that this event isn’t great value for money as you’re giving up some equity by paying an extra fee on top of the rake, which is technically correct.
However, you should also know that players often don’t take the tournament too seriously and play it primarily because of the charitable component, so the play is much softer than you might expect.
The Big One for One Drop
If we’re talking about WSOP events with the largest prize pools, it’s impossible not to mention the notorious Big One for One Drop.
Making its debut in 2012, this event is out of most players’ reach as it features a massive $1 million buy-in, but this article just wouldn’t be complete without it.
However, it must be said that, unlike other events mentioned here, The Big One for One Drop hasn’t been a regular feature in the Series, and it’s uncertain if the tournament will even return to Las Vegas.
The first $1 million WSOP tournament that took place in 2012 was really something else.
Everyone was talking about it, and it was the kind of spectacle that all fans wanted to see. In the end, 48 players paid the hefty entry fee and generated a prize pool of $42,666,672.
Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari was the last man standing, pocketing $18.3 million as well as the custom-made bracelet.
Sam Trickett, the runner-up, pocketed $10 million.
After skipping a year, the Big One for One Drop returned to Las Vegas in 2014, under very similar rules.
This time around, the turnout wasn’t as big as for the initial event. A total of 37 players registered to play, and it was the online heads-up specialist Dan Colman who took the title and the $15.3 million prize.
The bitter-sweet honor of the runner-up went to none other than Daniel “KidPoker” Negreanu, who boosted his tournament earnings by $8,288,001.
After a long hiatus and even being held in Monte Carlo in 2016, The Big One for One Drop appeared once again on the 2018 WSOP schedule. Despite the long break, the tournament failed to generate huge interest, as only 27 players turned up.
The final skirmish took place between two poker phenoms, Justin Bonomo and Fedor Holz.
In the end, Bonomo managed to outlast the German, taking the title and the $10 million first-place prize. Holz pocketed $6 million for his efforts.
Will we see the Big One come back to the WSOP scene?
It’s hard to say. The organizers definitely don’t have it planned for 2021, and trying to venture any guess for 2022 and beyond would just be making things up.
Although all three events featured some of the biggest WSOP prize pools, it wasn’t all that impressive given the fact players had to pay a cool million to get involved.
It’s definitely good for TV, though, and it does contribute to the One Drop Foundation, so there might be some plans for the future.
Prize Pool Distribution In WSOP Tournaments
A big question that many novice players have is: How is the prize money actually distributed? What percentage goes to the winner, how much money ends up on the final table, and how is the rest of the money divided?
WSOP tournaments traditionally pay 15 percent of the field, so if there are 2,000 entries, you can expect to make money if you make it into the final 300 players.
This is a bit more of a top-heavy structure than what’s found in some other live events, but it’s still quite friendly to casual players and gives them a decent chance to walk away with some money.
The min-cash is about 150 percent of the original buy-in, so if you do survive the bubble, you should be walking away with some profit for your troubles.
Of course, most money is reserved for the final table.
In most tournaments, over 40 percent of the entire prize pool is divided by the players who make it to the final table. Of that amount, around 60 percent is divided by the top three finishers.
This is why you’ll often hear how important it is to make the final table and play for the win instead of trying to just squeeze into the money.
The eventual winner will take home around 14 percent of the overall prize pool, which is a really huge amount.
The difference between the first and second place is often quite substantial, although the runner-up usually takes home close to 9 percent of the total prize pool.
The bottom line is, even if you don’t make it to any final tables, you have a decent shot at making money at least in some of the events you play in, which will help offset your losses or give you a chance to try your luck in a few more tournaments.
Get Involved With Large WSOP Events
There were a few different ways I could have gone about writing this article, but I took the one that I think makes the most sense. If a $100K tournament generates a prize pool of $5 million, that’s hardly impressive. In fact, you could even say it’s underwhelming.
But, when a tournament with a $500 buy-in generates that same prize pool, that’s something to take note of.
So, if you’ve been wondering which WSOP tournaments have the biggest prize pools that won’t come at the cost of your house mortgage, you now have your answer.
Beyond the Main Event, which is always massive for obvious reasons, there are quite a few events where you can compete for a big prize pool without a huge risk.
It goes without saying that winning or even making the final table in these tournaments isn’t easy. You’ll have to outlast thousands of players, bring your best game, and have a lot of luck along the way.
However, the combination of affordable buy-ins, the fact you’ll have a lot of fun either way, and massive cash prizes for the top spots make these tournaments well worth your time!