Despite the shutdown of the three largest online poker sites in the United States, World Series of Poker officials are hopeful that the Black Friday indictments won’t have a negative effect on participation in their events.
If the World Series of Poker keeps its attendance at a similar level to last year’s series, it would be an impressive achievement. The 2010 WSOP attracted 72,966 entries over the course of 57 events. In total, the prize pool for the entire series was over $187 million. The World Championship Main Event alone had a field of 7,319.
“We’re optimistic because if you’re a poker player with any bankroll, you will be in Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker,” WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart said during a media conference call.
However, while Stewart cited hotel room bookings and other factors as reasons why attendance may even improve over last year, he did acknowledge “the elephant in the room” – the indictments that ended the ability of Americans to play at PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker.
“The World Series of Poker is not impervious to outside issues,” Stewart said. “We are concerned about players not getting their funds back in a timely fashion. If a large amount of bankroll is impacted, that could be a salient factor.”
Luckily for the WSOP, most players are likely to receive their bankrolls back in time for this year’s series, which begins on May 31. PokerStars has already refunded money to many players, Full Tilt Poker appears nearly ready to do so, and Absolute Poker finally made an agreement with the US government this week that will eventually allow it to process refunds as well.
While such issues could indirectly affect the tournament series, the WSOP has no contractual agreements with any of the poker sites involved in the indictments. While the sites heavily advertised at the events and sponsored many of the players in previous years, the poker sites will likely be cutting down on such advertising in light of recent events. In addition, Stewart says, players are unlikely to want to advertise the fact that they are sponsored by major poker sites when other players may still be waiting on their account balances.
“It would be like walking into a PETA convention wearing a fur coat,” Stewart said.
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