The PGA Tour has the Champions Tour, the CrossFit Games have the Legacy Level, and the World Series of Poker has a senior tour as well?
Yes, the World Series of Poker not only has a senior event but it has grown so much in its 15 years of existence that it's now one of the most crowded events of the summer. And while the event was a bit of a breeze for the pros at first with so many amateurs involved, it's now one of the most competitive events on the schedule.
The first edition of this World Series of Poker event was held way back in 2001, and it was won by Jay Helmowitz. He took home $115,430 from a field of 340 players. While that was a nice prize from a relatively small field, it generated a lot of buzz.
By 2004, the field was up to 519 players with a prize of $202,725, and it was won by Paul McKinney. The next year, Clare Miller brought it home for the senior ladies as she won a prize of $247,814, beating out a field of 1,184. The event broke the 2,000-player mark by 2007, the 3,000-player mark two years after that, and it has had over 4,000 players and over $600,000 in prizes for the winner in each of the last four years. In 15 years, the tournament has grown by 10 times in participation and more than five times in prizing.
This year's winner was Johnnie Craig from Baytown, Texas. He topped the field of 4,499 players to collected $538,204 in earnings out of a prize pool of $4,049,100
What's interesting to witness at this event is that even though the participants are just as competitive as any other WSOP event, they treat each other differently. They'll talk to each other at the tables, address each other with respect, and they have fun together. There's a sense of camaraderie. It's a stark contrast to some of the events that are dominated by a younger crowd. They don't speak very much and when they do, it tends to be trash talk.
The WSOP is expecting even more growth in the senior event over the next decade as we'll see a number of the 40-somethings that started playing when the World Series of Poker was just getting started. The enthusiasm for the event has been so strong that the WSOP actually added a new category last year, the Super Seniors (65 and older). While it wasn't as bustling as the regular senior event, they still hosted 1,533 players. This year's event saw a slight decline but still welcomed 1,476 entries to total a prize pool of $1,328,400. James Moore, who finished 149th in the 2013 Seniors No-Limit event, collected the top prize for the Super Seniors event this year.
Women have not fared as well as the men in these events but that's expected to change over time. Maureen Feduniak was the only female to finish in the Top 20 in the Super Seniors event while Deborah Fineberg was the only woman in the Top 20 of the regular senior event.