Choosing a World Series of Poker Main Event Starting Day: Does it Matter? Revisited.

Las week on the PokerGo Podcast, co-hosts Tim Duckworth and Donnie Peters were discussing the oft-repeated theory that playing the last day of the WSOP Main Event was the best way to run up a big stack.

As it happens, I’d taken a look at that assumption in an article at PokerNews back in 2015 (just a few months before I interviewed for a job there with Donnie and Matt Parvis, as a matter of fact).

In that article, I charted end-of-day chip stacks against entrants, breaking each day’s finishers into six groups: top 10%, 70% to 90%, 50% to 70%, 30% to 50%, 10% to 30%, and bottom 10%.

There wasn’t any statistical correlation between the number of entrants on each day and the stack distribution that I could find, the biggest end-of-day stack between 2011 and 2015 was on a Day 1A (2012). In 2011, the biggest ending stack was on Day 1A, and in 2014 the biggest stack on 1A was larger than on 1B despite a field only a third the size.

The other groupings remained very consistent. The first decile (bottom 10%) topped out consistently around 45% of the starting stack. The fourth decile (40%) had just over starting stack. The median at 50% was about 120% of starting stack, etc.

I wasn’t particularly surprised when I ran numbers for 2016 to 2022 (2020 excluded). This time, I used a percentage of starting stack to represent the end-of-day numbers, because the number of chips went from 50,000 to 60,000 in 2019. Again, everything except the top 10% is very consistent. And again, earlier starting days with fewer entries have outperformed larger fields: 2017 Day 1A had the largest end-of-day stack; the same thing happened in 2019.

Where there is a definite correlation is in the number of players that survive each day. Larger fields have a larger percentage of the field surviving to Day 2. Of the 20 starting days from 2016 to 2022, the range of survivors was from 67% to 77%, and the percentage of survivors on Day 1A was never more than 72%. The percentage of survivors on the last day—Day 1C until 2019 and Day 1D in 2021 and 2022—was never lower than 75%.

While there was only a 3% difference in the number of survivors between the first and last starting day in 2019, in each of the other years, there were between 5% and 9% more entering players making it to Day 2. Only on 2022 Day 1C were there more survivors on a later starting day.

So if you’re looking for a reason to play the last entry day for the Main Event, that’s your reason.