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Hundreds of poker players turned away from main event

8 July 2009

By Steve Silver, Las Vegas Sun
LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- A gold bracelet wasn't necessary to read the faces of hundreds of poker players turned away from registering for the World Series of Poker main event Monday.

More than 500 angry poker players were denied entry into the fourth starting day of the $10,000 buy-in No Limit Texas Hold 'em event, including top professionals such as five-time gold bracelet winner Ted Forrest and six-time gold bracelet winner T.J. Cloutier.

WSOP officials accepted 2,809 players Monday before closing registration about two hours before the noon start time of day 1D of the tournament.

"We do everything we can in our power to give everyone an opportunity to play in this event," WSOP communications director Seth Palansky. "We're sorry we couldn't accommodate everyone, but those waiting until the last minute, as in life, sometimes come up short."

Registration opened for the main event on March 1 and the tournament utilizes four "first" days to accommodate nearly 12,000 players.

But only 1,116 players competed on day 1A on Friday, 873 on 1B Saturday and 1,696 on 1C Sunday.

"July 4th is typically slow, so that is not unexpected," Palansky said. "But what is surprising is that people really do show up within an hour of the start time and expect that there will be no issues."

Selling out an event is nothing new for the WSOP as the final start day of the main event has closed early every year since 2006. Ten smaller events reached their maximum entry limit this summer.

As crowds swelled Monday morning, the WSOP set up additional poker tables inside Buzio's at the Rio and took over the regular poker room on the main floor of the casino to accommodate the large turnout.

"We do not want to be in the business of turning people away," said WSOP commissioner Jeffrey Pollack. "This is not our preferred outcome, but operationally we are at capacity today."

Yet despite those efforts and numerous apologies from Pollack, the poker players denied entry into the main event did not feel any consolation.

"I've wasted airfare and lots of money on hotels," said Trevor McCarthy of Melbourne, Australia. "This is my first time in Vegas and I don't think I'll ever be back if they run it like this."

The most players ever to compete in the main event occurred in 2006 with 8,773 entrants. Last year, the main event attracted 6,844 players.

WSOP officials announced Monday night that 6,494 players will compete for $61 million in prize money, with the champion winning $8.55 million.

"We are sympathetic for those who did not get in, because we wanted to accommodate all the players and break last year's number of entrants," Palansky said. "So it is disappointing on our end in that sense, but there is a reason there are four start dates. There are capacity issues. When you physically run out of tables and chairs you can't do anything about it."

Palansky said Pollack and other tournament directors did discuss adding an extra start day or placing 10 players at each table instead of nine.

Ultimately, though, in order to maintain fairness and equality, Pollack made the decision around 2:30 p.m. not to change the format of the tournament and to officially turn away the late registrants.

"Just so we are clear, we are not happy about what has happened today, but from an operational standpoint we have done everything that could have done to accommodate everyone today," Pollack said. "… I apologize and I promise you we will deal with this and it will not happen again."

Copyright © Las Vegas Sun. Inc. Republished with permission.