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The 2011 WSOP in the Wake of Black Friday

The 2011 WSOP in the Wake of Black Friday

As the dust begins to settle after the US Department of Justice's moves on April 15th (which has since been dubbed Black Friday in the online gaming world) to bring charges against Full Tilt, PokerStars, and Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet for illegally serving the US market, attention is beginning to turn to the impact it will have on the 2011 WSOP.

The WSOP is poker's marquee event every year, with more than 50 tournaments starting in early June that lead up to the $10,000 buy-in WSOP Main Event, which is the unofficial world championship of poker and providing poker's richest prize to the winner. 2010 WSOP Main Event champ Jonathan Duhamel collected nearly $9 million for his victory, with Jamie Gold topping the money list when he scored $12 million for his 2006 Main Event victory.

2006 was the high point for the WSOP Main event as far as total number of players and prizemoney, as the passage of the UIGEA in late 2006 severely crippled the online poker market in the US, with most companies exiting the market except for those who stayed -- the same companies that were indicted on April 15th for ignoring the UIGEA as well as on charges of wire fraud and money laundering.

The passage of the UIGEA caused attendance at the Main Event to drop from 8,773 in 2006 to 6,358 in 2007, and many are expecting a similar (if not worse) decline in 2011. PokeStars and Full Tilt have in the past sent thousands of online qualifiers to the Main Event, with many of them coming from the US. While attendance at the Main Event had slowly crept back up, clocking in at 7,319 in 2010, some industry experts are predicting it might plunge as low as 5,000 in 2011, with Full Tilt and PokerStars no longer allowing US players to play on their sites.

In the bigger picture, attendance at the WSOP Main Event is a bit of a moot point, as it's just one poker tournament offered each year among thousands, and really has no impact on the broader health or prospects of the online poker industry. That said, many in the past have used it as a barometer for the overall popularity of poker and related Internet casino markets around the world, so this year's edition of the WSOP is likely to somewhat bittersweet, as attendance seems destined to be far below what it was in 2010.

The prominent hospitality suites that Full Tilt and PokerStars had provided at the WSOP for players in past years will be long gone as well, and it remains to be seen whether or not sponsored pros from both sites will show up at all, especially some of the more prominent members of the Full Tilt team that are rumored to own equity stakes in the company. It's very unlikely the US Department of Justice would try to arrest the likes of Phil Ivey, Howard Lederer, Jesus Ferguson, or Patrik Antonius, but few in the industry would have predicted the moves the US government made on April 15th, so it remains to be seen just how many of the top pros will be in attendance at this year's WSOP.

28-Apr-2011, 05:56

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