The last few days of the World Series of Poker produced at least two interesting stories that have nothing to do with chip counts and bad beat hands.
They include, in no particular order, the fact that the WSOP’s main event, the $10,000 no limit hold ”˜em championship, failed to hit the widely speculated entry total of about 6,600 for one reason —the casino industry’s inability to deal with Internet poker.
Harrah’s was unable to accept hundreds of entries because they represented attempts at "third party registrations" by Internet sites trying to sign up satellite winners.
Those registrations were simply returned to the sites. How many of the satellite winners made their own way to Las Vegas and coughed up the $10,000 entry is anyone’s guess.
But keep in mind the number has been significant in the past. Nearly 70 percent of last year’s entries came via satellite tournaments. And the past two champions — Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer — gained entry via online satellite tournaments.
This is how the online scenario works: an online site holds satellite tournaments that award the winners with seats in the WSOP’s big game. But, Harrah’s did not take the matter any further after returning the entries.
Gaming regulators do not want casinos dealing with Internet sites that represent foot-loose and fancy-free outlaws of the casino business. They are based outside the U.S. but do much of their business with U.S. residents.
That’s how regulators see it.
Until the law changes or current restrictions are clarified, online poker played from a home computer in, Anywhere, U.S.A., is illegal. No one would like to see this change more than the large casino companies that are fully cognizant of the benefits they’ve reaped from what people do in the privacy of their homes.
How many of those third-party registrations were returned? World Series officials don’t want to know. They do know they want to avoid relationships with online sites that are illegally doing business with U.S. residents.
All of which meant that it was up to the sites to deal with the winners of these satellites. Some of those winners obviously never made it to Las Vegas. Each entry was responsible for his or her own registration, as gaming control sources explained the situation.
Harrah’s executives are content to ignore the issue, saying only that they were "very happy" with being able to accommodate the 5,619 entrants, more than double last year’s 2,600.
Which brings us to the second story of the last several days: Poker legend Doyle Brunson may be the face on poker’s next big brand as casino companies elbow their way through the crowd of companies anxious to capitalize on the potential offered by non-traditional big draws such as poker.
Brunson Friday offered $700 million for WPT Enterprises, the publicly traded parent of the World Poker Tour whose success on television’s Discovery Channel has provided a lot of momentum for poker’s surging popularity. (See story on page 1.)
When Brunson busted out of the main event last week he got an ovation that spread throughout the cavernous headquarters of this year’s Series with its thousands of poker players and spectators.
I caught Doyle on the phone Sunday, just long enough for him to tell me, "I’m not saying anything about that (the offer) so you can save your time about calling me back."
I wonder if the offer from Brunson and his unidentified financial backers has anything to do with unofficial and unconfirmed reports from gaming regulators that the WPT may be facing action from gaming regulators because of its past handling of third party tournament registrations.
We’ll have to wait and see.