Friday, March 30, 2007

Newly Designed Structures And Improvements At This Year's WSOP

Players competing in this year's World Series of Poker can expect to find a richer variety of games taking place in a newly designed "poker superstructure" adjacent to the Rio, but not much of a presence from any online poker sites that accept wagers from U.S. residents.

World Series of Poker commissioner Jeffrey Pollack detailed some of the new wrinkles for poker's biggest event - including a schedule moved up nearly a month - on a recent conference call.

Pollack did not identify the Internet poker rooms in question, but said the World Series would have no affiliation with sites that cater to U.S. customers.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, signed by President Bush last fall, aims to crack down on Internet gambling by Americans by severely restricting financial transactions linked to online gambling.

"You're not going to see very much of it," Pollack said of online poker's presence at the World Series. "We are not in business with any dot-net that's affiliated with a dot-com that takes U.S. bets."

Among the poker sites affected would be Bodog, Full Tilt, Poker Stars and Ultimatebet. In recent years, some of those companies had set up plush hospitality rooms and eye-catching promotional displays at the World Series.

Pollack also reiterated the World Series will not accept any "third-party" registration for the tournament except from organizations that have a licensing agreement, such as sponsors, charities or affiliated casinos. That means online poker sites that run satellites for the World Series cannot register their winners directly. (Of course, they could send the winners cash and tell them to register themselves.)

The final table of this year's $10,000 main event is scheduled for noon July 17, more than three weeks earlier than last year's date of Aug. 10. The 2007 World Series begins June 1 with a $5,000 mixed Texas hold 'em - meaning limit and no-limit - event.

"We'll also be on ESPN earlier than ever before. The turnaround to TV will be shorter," Pollack said.

The revised schedule positions the tournament as "the summer programming we were meant to be, rather than creeping into the fourth quarter," where it faces competition from the NFL and college football.

Playing off the success of last year's $50,000 buy-in HORSE tournament - a mixed-games event featuring hold 'em, Omaha, razz, 7-card stud and 7-card stud high-low split that attracted many of the world's best poker players - officials tweaked and expanded the roster of games available during this year's World Series.

"Last year's HORSE event was a way for us to signal we're going to look at the tournament fresh again each year," Pollack said. "We wanted to (make HORSE-type games available) not just for the top players but for the other players as well."

The 2007 schedule includes a $2,500 HORSE event, a $5,000 HORSE event and a $1,000 SHOE event along with the reprise of the $50,000 HORSE world championship tournament. Another mixed-game tournament pairs Omaha and stud high-low.

Other tournaments feature "specialty" games such as deuce-to-7 triple draw, Omaha high-low and razz.

"That comes from meeting with the players, and listening to the players' requests," said Howard Greenbaum, chief of operations for the World Series.

In all, 55 "bracelet events" - indicating a championship bracelet is awarded to the winner - are planned.

The tournament "superstructure" at the Rio will hold 258 tables this year, according to Pollack, who said officials plan to accommodate as many as 10,000 players in the championship event but will not cap the field.

"If there's more, we'll find a way to figure it out," Pollack said.

Last year's championship event drew a record 8,773 players, but that number could decline because of the government's crackdown on online gambling. One offshore sports betting site set an over/under of 6,900 players. Betting on the size of the field is not permitted in Nevada.

The main event, scheduled to begin July 6, has been no-limit Texas hold 'em since its inception in 1970.

"No-limit hold 'em is the game of choice," World Series tournament director Jack Effel said. "You'll continue to see a nice, healthy offering there."

By Jeff Haney

Source: Poker Gazette

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