By David Stratton | The World Series of Poker has traditionally relied on Internet poker rooms for a substantial percentage of entrants into the WSOP’s $10,000 buy-in, championship event. In the past, those entries were estimated at more than 50 percent of the total field.
But the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in October 2006 short-circuited a significant number of online qualifiers by eliminating "third-party" entries – the WSOP would no longer accept the buy-in from a poker site on behalf of one of its players.
But this year, online poker rooms stepped up their qualifiers, offering WSOP "packages," which consist of the $10,000 buy-in plus extra money for expenses, paid directly to the player.
The largest Internet poker site, PokerStars.net, announced last week it is giving away 80 packages worth $12,500 each through a series of qualifying tournaments, all of which are free to players.
The online tournaments are held every hour on the hour, now through June 22. Players can only enter one tournament a week, so they have eight chances to win a free seat into the World Series of Poker.
"There’s nothing better than going to the World Series and playing for the biggest prize pool on earth, except getting there for free," said Joe Hachem, the 2005 WSOP champion and Team PokerStars Pro.
The full prize packages include:
• $10,000 main event buy-in
• $2,500 for expenses
• Accommodations at the Palms hotel/casino
Anyone who wins their seat through the PokerStars competition and makes it to the final table will win an automatic cash bonus from PokerStars:
Other prizes include $1 million for winning the main event; $400,000 for second; $300,000 for taking third; $200,000 for fourth and fifth; and $100,000 to those finishing sixth through ninth.