The Shot Taker’s Guide to Making a Million at the 2023 WSOP

Not every event on the 2023 WSOP schedule is created equal. Here are a shot taker’s best options at a seven-figure score on a budget.

Jeff Walsh
May 22, 2023

Million-dollar dreams are made at the World Series of Poker. With the summer series in Sin City just a few weeks away, players from all over the world are making their plans to visit the Las Vegas Strip in search of a gold bracelet and, potentially, a life-changing score.

But here’s the thing: unlike those pros who post their schedule of playing 90% of an action-packed 95 live bracelet events, you’ve got real-world responsibilities that come with a real-world bankroll. Perhaps you can get away for a weekend, but really “you only get one shot.” And you do not want to miss your chance to make the most of it.

While it’s true that the massive WSOP schedule is packed full of opportunity, realistically there are only a few events during the series where, if you make the right moves and the cards fall in your favor, a shot taker can turn a moderate buy-in into a legitimate seven-figure score.

Event #3 – $1,000 Mystery Millions
Starting Dates: Wednesday, May 31 – Saturday, June 3

Both your first and second opportunity to bink a million-dollar score comes right at the top of the series. After last year’s Million Dollar Bounty became the most thrilling event of the summer with it’s tremendous in-person production and ability to pull a $1,000,000 bounty, the event returns. Only this year it’s bigger and better. Event #3, the $1,000 buy-in Mystery Millions not only promises that someone will pull a seven-figure bounty, but first place is guaranteed to be a million as well. That’s two shots at a milly for a grand.

The event features four starting flights, one a day at 10:00 am local time. The first flight starts on Wednesday, May 31 and your last chance (for the Weekend Warriors) is Saturday, June 3. Players have an option of one re-entry per flight, for a maximum of eight entries over the four days, and should you find a bag in any flight you are not permitted to play additional flights unless you surrender your stack. While payouts will start on Day 1, in order to have a shot at pulling the big-money bounties (and first-place, obviously) you need to make it to Day 2.

Technically, this is the lowest price point to be promised a million dollars this year, but with a potential eight shots to be taken, it could get a little pricey should one get wrapped up in Mystery Millions madness. The field, especially on Friday and Saturday, will likely be enormous, so in addition to taking a shot be prepared to have your buy-ins ready to go on the Bravo app or be prepared to do less shot-taking and more line waiting.

Last year, poker pro Matt Glantz pulled the $1,000,000 bounty on Day 2 of the event while Quincy Borland went on to win the bracelet, topping the 14,112-entry field to book just his fourth career recorded live cash – worth $750,120.

Event #39 – $1,500 Monster Stack
Starting Dates: Friday, June 16 & Saturday, June 17

For deepstack grinders on a budget, Event #39, the $1,500 Monster Stack may be more your speed. Hour-long levels and 50,000 in chips will give those players who enjoy taking their time and picking their spots.

The WSOP Monster Stack event was first introduced in 2014 and was won by Hugo Pingray who took home $1,327,083 after defeating soon-to-be WSOP Main Event champ Joe McKeehen heads-up for the bracelet. The event became a hit and was quickly a mainstay of the summer schedule. For the next five years, prior to the 2020 COVID pandemic, the winner of the $1,500 Monster Stack walked away with more than a million. In 2022, when the live WSOP returned, the event – which had always been a freezeout – took a big step back in terms of the prize pool. That year, Mike Noori bested Ryan Leng heads-up and booked a cash of $610,347. A nice score to be sure, but a steep dip from the million-dollar payouts of years past. It’s fair to say that there may have been lingering COVID concerns that hurt the numbers, but they are what they are.

In 2022, WSOP officials finally gave in and introduced a rule the players had been begging for for years. Now, if you play Day 1A of the Monster Stack and bust, you can re-enter on Day 1B. This immediately paid dividends as the field nearly doubled the field year-over-year to 6,501 and awarded winner Mike Jukich $966,577. Not a million, but close enough.

Now two years removed from the one-off fall WSOP fall, and a year into the new setup on the Sin City Strip one can expect overall attendees to be on the rise once again. With it the $1,500 Monster Stack should have a very good shot at bringing in a million-dollar first-place prize once again. But you’re going to have to earn every penny, with those hour-long levels comes a five (maybe six) day tournament. It would clearly be worth it, if there’s a monster payout waiting for you in the end.

2022 WSOP Millionaire Maker winner Yuliyan Kolev. (photo courtesy: WSOP)

Event #53 – $1,500 Millionaire Maker
Starting Dates: Friday, June 23 & Saturday, June 24

But if you need an event later in the series and love a guarantee, then perhaps circle Event #53, the $1,500 Millionaire Maker on your calendar. It’s right there in the name – whoever wins this event will make no less than a million dollars.

The Millionaire Maker came to be in 2013 and quickly shattered records for the WSOP including the largest live non-Main Event in history, the biggest payout for a $1,500 buy-in event, and the largest number of non-Main Event payouts in history, among other milestones. The event helped usher in an era of marquee marketing for events and was a key part of the poker world picking itself back up after the events of Black Friday. The very first year, Canada’s Benny Chen battled at a final table that included Justin Liberto, Dan Kelly, Chris Hunichen, and Upeshka De Silva to take home $1,199,104.

For the most part, the first-place prizes have consistently exceeded the million dollar mark, including last year with Yuliyan Kolev banked more than $1.125 million after besting the field of 7,961. Like the Monster Stack, this event features hour-long levels but with half the starting chips. There are two starting flights and one re-entry per flight for a total of four potential entries per player.

Event #76 – $10,000 WSOP Main Event
Starting Dates: Monday, July 3 – Thursday, July 6

Of course, the ultimate shot taker’s event is the $10,000 Main Event, and if ever there was a year to find yourself on the heater of a lifetime, it would be this year, in this event. After years of coming oh-so-close to breaking the longstanding record of 8,773 runners in the 2006 WSOP Main Event, officials are moving all-in to usurp that record with a healthy dose of online qualifiers and satellite winners from their WSOP Circuit partners both inside and outside of the U.S.

The Main Event has only broken 8,000 runners three times – the first in 2006, when Jaime Gold won it for $12,000,000. Again in 2019, when Hossein Ensan topped a field of 8,569 for a $10,000,000 score. And then, last year, the Main Event fell just 110 entries short of the record as Espen Jorstad outlasted a field of 8,663 for a $10,000,000 payday.

What does this mean for the million-dollar shot takers? With just a small bump in the prize pool, it’s very likely that all nine players at the final table will walk away with at least $1,000,000 (as they did in 2019). Also, there’s an outside chance, depending on just how well they do in breaking the record, that they could best Jaime Gold’s $12 million payday – but it’s important to remember that when Jaime Gold won the Main Event, the WSOP paid out 10% of the field as opposed to the 15% of the field as they do today.

No doubt, for many $10,000 is a lot of money to “take a shot” with. So, as mentioned above, this year the WSOP is looking to help people get in for the minimum and will be hosting round-the-clock super and mega satellites on site from July 2-7 with buy-ins starting as low as $145 and as high as $2,175 – the latter giving people a 1-in-5 shot at getting into the Main Event.

Finally, shot taking is not limited to recreational players enjoying playing for big money, it’s also applicable to pros who want to step into the high-stakes arena for a career-changing score. By our estimations, there are no fewer than seven other events on the WSOP schedule with buy-ins ranging from $25k to $100k, including the $50,000 Poker Players Championship (Sunday, June 18th), that will eventually award more than a million in the bankroll.

The World Series of Poker kicks off Tuesday, May 30 with the $500 Casino Employees event and a $25,000 High Roller 6-Handed…where the first $1 million first-place prize just might be handed out.