World Series braces
for 10,000 players

Mar 19, 2007 11:13 PM

Despite the loss of thousands of online "third-party" poker entries, the World Series of Poker is preparing for 10,000 entrants to this year’s main event, a 14 percent increase from last year.

WSOP officials (on a conference call) said last week that the number was for planning purposes only, and did not reflect confidence that last year’s 8,773 entrants would be topped.

Keep in mind that more than half of last year’s record number of entrants were estimated to have won their seats in online qualifier events.

"It is not either a target, a goal or a prediction," tournament commissioner Jeffrey Pollack said during the conference call with writers and reporters. "But again, you’ve got to plan for something. We’re planning for a top level of 10,000 but if there are more, we will figure it out."

The tournament plans to build a structure beside the host Rio hotel in Las Vegas and increase the number of tables to 258, Pollack said. That would be enough to allow more than 3,000 players to play the first three days of the main event.

A larger number of entrants would mean the grand prize for the world’s richest poker game would exceed last year’s $12 million.

The tournament also said it was distancing itself from online poker sites that accept bets from U.S. players, in line with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which was enacted last October.

Groups associated with dot-com poker sites that take U.S. wagers will no longer be allowed to set up VIP booths and displays, Pollack said.

The tournament, owned by Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., also is warning sites that improperly use trademarked material, such as the tournament name, to stop.

That could include web sites such as FullTiltPoker.com and Bodog.com, which are holding satellite tournaments that award World Series of Poker seats worth $10,000 apiece.

While the WSOP will no longer accept cash entries directly from excluded online poker sites, those sites can still conduct satellites and award the cash directly to the winners, who will be able to register directly with the World Series.

Pollack said players would not be able to wear logos from sites that continue to violate its trademark rights by the time the first events of the 47-day tournament series begin June 1.

The trademark warnings could crimp registrations, said Internet gambling expert and lawyer Anthony Cabot.

"I think they’re in a difficult position," Cabot said. "They’re a licensed entity and therefore have to be cognizant of the new laws and the potential impact those new laws could have on them as a company. At the same time, implementation of those policies will have a negative economic impact on the tournament."

In other WSOP news, players will be happy to know that this year they’ll have more starting chips. Thus, in the $1,000 buy-in events, for instance, instead of a $1,000 in starting chips players will start with 2,000 chips in order to give them more play.

This year, about 300 Las Vegas-based dealers will be trained and certified in all the games. The Las Vegas dealers will handle most of the dealing duties, while the Harrah’s dealers who come in from properties outside of Vegas will be used to fill their shifts at Harrah’s other Las Vegas casinos.