With the recent release of World Series of Poker main event statistics there has been wide speculation both in Las Vegas and the US media generally on the impact that excluding WSOP registrations flowing from Internet poker tournaments may have had.
Following the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which forbids financial transactions with online gambling sites, late last year WSOP organisers Harrah's decided to exclude winners of sponsored Internet poker seats from registration. This did not stop online poker rooms from running tournaments with WSOP packages as prizes, but winners had to make their own private arrangements to enter, creating hassles and reducing registrations.
According to WSOP figures, the main event now underway has drawn 6 358 entrants, down about 27 percent from last year's record turnout of 8 773. And last year's top prize of $12 million for the winner puts this year's predicted $8.25 million from a still impressive prize-pool of $59.7 million in the shade.
The Las Vegas Sun reports that poker experts are speculating that at least 4 000 more players would have signed up for the WSOP Main Event were it not for the restrictions on Internet entries. This would have sent the total registrations into record five-figure territory.
"As it was," the newspaper comments, "the culprit for the drop-off was the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, which made it more cumbersome for Americans to move money to and from online gambling sites and prompted some online poker rooms to pull out of the U.S. market.
"It also changed the dynamics of how players who won a World Series of Poker entry online – an estimated 55 percent of last year's field was generated by Internet qualifiers – actually registered for the tournament."
The Sun goes on to explain how Internet satellites and WSOP seat registrations were previously organised in a smooth, speedy and professional manner directly by the online poker rooms, ending with the pertinent comment that following the ban, poker rooms now award the winner with the value of the prize package direct, leaving him or her to make their own WSOP arrangements.
The newspaper hits the nail on the head when it remarks: "Consider what that means to the guy in Dubuque, Iowa, who won a World Series main event satellite online. He has to inform his wife that he's going to take $12 000 in cash, leave her with the kids in the middle of the summer and disappear to Las Vegas for a couple of weeks. Tough sell, huh?"
Nevertheless, viewed in its totality, the World Series of Poker this year drew a record 54 288 registrants for a total prize pool of more than $159 million. It included the single busiest day in World Series history, when 3 151 players competed in a $1 500 hold 'em tournament on June 30 – a record for a non-main event. And this year 621 players will be in the money bubble for at least $20 320 each, thanks to a "flatter" payout scale that awards more prize money to players finishing farther down the main event list.