With more than 10,000 entries and $6 million in prize money awarded in 12 events, PokerStars’ Third Annual World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) held from July 28 to August 8 now rivals the biggest and most prestigious land-based poker tournaments in the world.
As thousands of poker fans watched on their computers this past Sunday, a 30-year-old financial analyst from Oslo, Norway, known by the screen name "Ragde" won $424,945.26 in the main event.
The total prize pool for the main event alone exceeded $2 million dollars — a higher figure than most of the biggest poker events shown on television — and the Top 81 finishers received prize money. No Internet-based competition of any kind in history has ever awarded such a large cash prize. All of the Top 5 spots won more than $100,000, an unprecedented payout for an online poker tournament.
The WCOOP tournament series, hosted online at PokerStars.com, consists of the most popular forms of poker — Texas Hold’em, Seven Card Stud, Seven Card Stud High/Low, Omaha and Omaha High/Low — with four events featuring the world’s most popular version of tournament poker — No Limit Texas Hold’em. Players from all 50 states and more than 50 countries took part in this year’s event.
The grand finale of the tournament was the WCOOP main event, otherwise known as the official World Championship of Online Poker. The feature game was a No-Limit Texas Hold’em event with an entry fee of $2,500 — a significant figure that attracted some of the biggest names in poker, including Greg Raymer and Chris Moneymaker, the past two World Series of Poker (WSOP) champions. Both won their WSOP seats for their championship runs through PokerStars.com.
Many of the participants in the main event paid the entry fee themselves, but for others the entry fee came at a bargain — a sizable number of players qualified through online satellites. Many more players gained entry into the tournament from PokerStars’ "Frequent Player Points" alone, meaning the entry fee essentially cost nothing other than time already spent playing at PokerStars. The company gave away more than $500,000 in free entries through the Frequent Player Point program.
Based on the huge success of this year’s tournament, in both the number of players and total prize money, it is expected that the WCOOP will continue to grow in size and stature, especially as more players come to realize that anyone can sign up and participate, and perhaps end up as a "world champion."
PokerStars caught the poker industry’s attention in 2003 by producing the first World Series of Poker (WSOP) champion who won his entry online. Chris Moneymaker, an accountant from Tennessee, entered a $39 satellite tournament on PokerStars.com and went on to win $2.5 million in the world’s biggest and most prestigious poker tournament.
In 2004, PokerStars sent 316 players to the WSOP. Four PokerStars players made it to the final table, and Greg Raymer, who won his seat in a $160 satellite on PokerStars, took home the world’s largest prize ever in poker — $5 million and the coveted WSOP bracelet.