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‘It’s a lottery’: WSOP Mystery Bounty event draws huge field seeking $1M

Matt Glantz was just giving a couple of his poker buddies a hard time with his sarcastic tweet in the summer of 2022.

But in the nearly two years since, the post has taken on a life of its own.

“Never seen so much FOMO (fear of missing out) over a nonsense circus bounty event,” Glantz wrote.

Glantz was referring to the World Series of Poker’s $1,000 buy-in Million Dollar Bounty No-limit Hold’em, which was new on the schedule at the time and created a massive buzz among players. In the ultimate irony, Glantz pulled the tournament’s $1 million bounty top prize that year, further adding to the lore of his tweet.

The mystery bounty is now one of the most popular events at the WSOP, as players are awarded cash prizes for each opponent they eliminate. The format gives players the chance to take home massive sums of money without actually winning the tournament.

This year’s event, which also features a $1 million guaranteed top bounty prize, continues this weekend at Horseshoe Las Vegas and Paris Las Vegas. The tournament drew more than 5,500 entrants during the first two days and is projected to see one of the largest fields of the series.

The final starting flight is Sunday, and bounties will start being awarded Monday on Day 2.

“It’s like when the lottery gets to be like billions of dollars,” Glantz said. “It’s just exciting because everyone wants to try to win a lottery, and basically when you do the Mystery Millions, it’s a lottery to win $1 million. So it’s something special.”

Bounty tournaments are a staple of online poker and were introduced to the WSOP schedule for the first time in 2015. The mystery bounty format was introduced at the WSOP in 2020 with a $250,000 guaranteed top bounty prize, but the series schedule was altered because of the coronavirus pandemic and it wasn’t a part of the 2021 schedule.

The WSOP worked with partner GG Poker to build software that randomly draws the bounties. For the debut in 2022, the mystery bounty event drew a massive field of 14,112 entrants. Last year’s event saw 18,188 entrants over the four starting flights.

“You have this part of the prize pool that is basically everyone’s lottery ticket to a certain degree,” WSOP vice president Jack Effel said. “It’s like a perfect storm for a poker player. They have all this action, the prize pool is massive, you have all these bounties and big payouts into the final table and the winner. It’s just a very exciting format.”

In addition to claiming the $1 million bounty, Glantz finished 42nd overall in 2022 and earned an additional $20,730. The derivatives trader and former poker pro also collected seven other bounty prizes along the way. Quincy Borland, the winner of the inaugural mystery bounty event, took home $750,120 plus bounties.

To rectify that discrepancy, the WSOP added a $1 million guaranteed first prize in 2023 for the winner of the mystery bounty event. Tyler Brown won last year’s tournament, and the prize pool grew so large that two $1 million bounty prizes also were awarded. Shant Marashlian pulled the first seven-figure bounty, and Patrick Liang nabbed the other.

To create the prize pool, $300 from each buy-in goes toward the bounties. Once the tournament reaches Day 2, players draw a random bounty prize each time they eliminate an opponent. Last year’s event featured bounties ranging from $1,000 up to the two $1 million prizes. There was also a $500,000 bounty and one for $250,000.

Players are incentivized to play aggressively to accumulate chips and build their stack so they’re in a position to score knockouts. That leads to more exciting action at the table, as players will call with hands they normally wouldn’t to chase the bounty.

“It’s not skill-based, like when you win the tournament,” Glantz said. “To get to the final table, there’s a lot of skill involved. There’s not much skill in who randomly picks the $1 million bounty, so it’s more fun.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on X.

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