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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

WSOP and the Unlawful Gaming Act

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The field has multiplied tenfold, from 839 to 8,773 since 2003 when Chris Moneymaker rode a $40 PokerStars qualifier to the World Series of Poker Main Event Championship and a $2.5 million prize. This year, PokerStars alone sent more qualifiers to the Main Event (1,600) than Chris Moneymaker bested to become the champ. Some experts and noted players feel that growth is in jeopardy due to the recent passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and the stoppage of third-party registrations into WSOP events.

"It's going to affect the average player most dramatically. And those players are the ones that have kind of filled the ranks," said Michael Bolcerek, president of the Poker Players Alliance. Phil Gordon, on his ESPN pod cast The Poker Edge, forecast a reduction in players in the 2007 Main Event to fewer than 2,500 players. Mike Sexton, two-time WSOP bracelet winner (including the 2006 Tournament of Champions) and host of the World Poker Tour said "I wouldn't say it would put poker in a death spiral but in the long run it will hurt the growth of poker. The World Series of Poker is going to be devastated over this."

With all this doom and gloom from industry professionals, some brick and mortar casino spokespeople disagree. WSOP spokesman Gary Thompson said "We're planning to accommodate a larger field than we ever had before. But whether or not we'll have a larger field, nobody really knows." Thompson also said that ESPN is contracted to carry the WSOP coverage through 2010.

Thompson stated that tournament organizers haven't accepted third-party registrations from online gambling sites since 2004, so the UIGEA has had no impact on the way the WSOP registers players. "In 2005 and 2006 we had record fields each year. We're confident again that 2007 will be the best one ever."

There is a loophole in the regulations allowing players to register themselves after qualifying online if they are given the $10,000 entry fee by the site, and Thompson indicated that would continue to be an acceptable method of entry. In his pod cast, Gordon expresses doubt that many players who typically qualified online would choose to use the money for the tournament registration, and there would be nothing the sites could do about it.

Some poker sites, notably FullTilt Poker (still open to US players) have already modified their qualifying tournaments to no longer provide satellites to US-based WSOP, WSOP Circuit or World Poker Tour Events. In an email to qualifiers of "Winner's Choice" tournaments, FullTilt made this statement "Unfortunately due to the upcoming change in legislation FullTilt Poker will no longer be able to satellite US residents into live tournaments in US. This policy will be effective immediately." Winners were given the choice of receiving $10,000 into their FullTilt accounts or being registered into events that were not taking place in the US.

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