The 50th World Series of Poker has been underway at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas since Thursday and it has already broken attendance records.
On Tuesday, the field at the “Big 50” event — which celebrates the WSOP’s half century — was confirmed as the biggest of all time for a live tournament. Those of you who thought poker was a passing fad of the mid-2000s, prepare to be gobsmacked.
The official figures are that 28,371 players packed into the Rio’s event space across the tournament’s four daylong starting flights, breaking the WSOP’s own record of 22,374 entries, at “The Colossus” tournament in 2015.
Organizers had not necessarily expected to beat The Colossus, anticipating around 18,000 participants, although they had hoped it was a possibility. Their anticipations were smashed.
The hordes created a prize pool of $13,509,435, which means at least one player is destined to become a millionaire — and then some — from a buy-in of just $500.
“It’s a testament to the love of the game of poker so many of us have, and we’re so thankful for the players who came out to usher in our 50th iteration,” said WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart in an official statement. “From humble beginnings 50 years ago with a half a dozen players, to creating a $13 million+ prize pool for a $500 buy-in – unheard – and truly shows the modern day poker scene is alive and well and ready to cater to a new generation.”
Wire Act Ruling a Big Win for Poker
The live poker scene may be alive and well in the US, but its being strangled online, where it is currently available in just three states — two of them, Nevada and Delaware, with small populations.
Steps to pool players with New Jersey to create the kind of the liquidity online poker needs to thrive — and to build the kind of prize pools generated by the Big 50 — were under serious threat from the Department of Justice’s recent reinterpretation of the federal Wire Act.
The DOJ published an opinion in January asserting the (pre-internet) Wire Act prohibited all forms of gambling across state borders, not just sports betting, reversing a 2011 opinion under the Obama administration that had paved the way for state-sanctioned online poker.
But on Monday, a federal judge rejected the revised opinion, ruling that the Wire Act “applies only to transmissions related to bets or wagers on a sporting event or contest.”
WSOP Online Events Off the Hook
That’s good news for online poker in the US, especially as Pennsylvania — the fourth most populous state in America — is shortly to become the fourth jurisdiction to offer licensed and regulated online poker, which could be just the shot in the arm the market needs.
In January, Pennsylvania gaming regulators ordered its new online gambling licensees to comply with the DOJ opinion, closing the door to interstate liquidity. While the DOJ may well appeal Monday’s decision — and Pennsylvania may wait to see how that pans out — the court’s judgment puts the possibility of a four-state agreement back in the frame.
It’s good news, too, for the WSOP’s online bracelet events, which, as of last year, began pooling liquidity between Nevada and New Jersey through WSOP.com, agreements that were jeopardized by the DOJ, which had given operators until July 14 to comply with the opinion.
The WSOP has scheduled nine online events, all of which fall before a deadline that is now moot. WSOP.com is likely to continue the interstate events unless an appeal court says otherwise, and one day soon they could be easily surpassing the kind of prize pools attained by the Big 50.