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Howard Stutz

Crackdown on Internet sites could hurt WSOP

31 May 2011

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Since Caesars Entertainment (formerly Harrah's Entertainment) acquired the World Series of Poker in 2004, participation at the annual tournament has grown almost 10-fold. The prize pool over the past five years is $861 million, more than double the total prize pool of the tournament's first 36 years.

But this year's World Series of Poker, which begins Tuesday, kicks off under a cloud.

The federal government's crackdown on Internet poker, beginning with the April 15 indictments that shut down the access of American players to three of the world's largest online wagering sites, could dampen attendance at the 42nd annual tournament.

Event officials acknowledge that poker players, who can't retrieve funds they have on account with the shuttered poker websites, might be forced to stay home.

No one wants to predict whether overall attendance will fall for the first time under Caesars stewardship. Last year the World Series of Poker drew 72,966 players from 117 countries playing for $187 million in prize money.

"If a large amount of bankroll is impacted, that could be a salient factor," said World Series of Poker Executive Director Ty Stewart.

The World Series of Poker will offer 58 events over 50 days at the Rio, starting Tuesday with a $500 buy-in No Limit Hold'em event for casino employees and a $25,000 buy-in Heads Up No-Limit Hold'em Championship for 256 players.

The tournament will have 10 different $10,000 buy-in events, seven $1,000 buy-in events and 20 $1,500 buy-in events.

"We believe we have put together a tournament that has something for every player," World Series of Poker Tournament Director Jack Effel said during a conference call this month.

The $50,000 buy-in Poker Players Championship, which rotates eight forms of poker, runs July 2-6.

The $10,000 buy-in No Limit Hold'em World Championship Main Event runs July 7-19.

Play then halts until Nov. 5, when the top nine players return to the Rio for the final table. Poker's world champion will be determined on Nov. 7 or early in the morning of Nov. 8.

ESPN's taped coverage of the tournament will begin on July 26 and run through Nov. 8.
Crackdown on Internet sites could hurt WSOP is republished from