Fifty freaking thousand!
Last Sunday, Full Tilt Poker pulled off quite an impressive feat in the online poker world, running a tournament with 50,000 players. The previous world record had been set last year by Poker Stars with a field of 35,000 players.
A tournament this large is no trivial task. One must coordinate that many players with real-time information about the status of all the other players in the tournament. So as the number of players in the tournament grows, the effort and bandwidth needed grows as the square of the number of players. This is particularly nasty for bandwidth. The techniques you might use to keep players in a 500 player tournament updated don’t work so well when you add a few more zeroes.
We were aiming to shatter the world record with this attempt. Unfortunately, it was announced 4 or 5 days in advance, and Poker Stars used this time to scramble and put together an even larger tournament of 65,000 players. They scheduled it to start just an hour before our would-be record breaker. D’oh! No Guinness for me, unless you count the Dublin variety. Still, not a bad result considering that last year we couldn’t even run a decent 5000 player tournament. And as a colleague of mine commented, “there has never been so many people in the world player poker as much as there are right now”.