Poker’s still alive!

Oct 30, 2006 4:29 AM

It’s been a few weeks since the online poker world was shaken by the federal ban, and we’ve had a chance to reflect on what the long-term effects might be.

First, it appears many Internet poker sites will continue to serve U.S. players. PokerStars, Full Tilt and UltimateBet, for instance, have vowed to remain available for play.

But even if the online poker sites continue to operate, there will be changes in how they "feed" bricks-and-mortar tournament, such as the World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour.

Officials for those events have stated they will no longer accept "third-party" registrations for winners of their satellites.

And, because nearly 70 percent of the 8,000-plus entrant’s into last summer’s World Series of Poker came from online events, the annual event could be severely impacted.

But by not as much as people might suspect. First, the online poker site could send the entry fee, $10,000 in the case of the WSOP championship event, directly to the player, who can then make payment directly to the WSOP.

But I’m sure other means will arise to facilitate winning one’s way into the World Series.

For instance, I recently heard of an organization called the National Pub Poker League (npplpoker.com) which is currently sponsoring poker tournaments in hundreds of participating pubs and restaurants in North America, Australia and the United Kingdom.

The group is currently holding free tournaments designed to produce contestants for the $1 Million Mansion Poker Dome Challenge, which will be held in Las Vegas and broadcast on Fox Sports TV.

I don’t have the details about these free tournaments, or whether they could be adapted to offer satellites for the World Series or World Poker Tour. But I don’t see why they couldn’t.

Beyond online satellite tournaments and other promotions such as the Pub Poker League, I expect there will still be plenty of poker players willing to pony up the $10,000 for a shot at the title.

With these factors in mind, I really don’t see too large a drop-off in the size of next year’s World Series field. My guess is there should still be 70 percent to 80 percent of this year’s field, which would mean a minimum of 5,500 to 6,500 players.

Of course, I think Harrah’s might want to become more aggressive in marketing the World Series and its accompanying Circuit tournaments.

We’ve seen, especially in gaming, that those who can adapt will continue to thrive. And, given the ongoing popularity of poker, there’s plenty of room out there for new ways of dealing a winning hand.