Impending Launch of Real Money Online Site Highlights WSOP Conference Call
With the 2013 World Series of Poker less than two weeks away, the WSOP yesterday conducted its annual conference call to discuss the upcoming Series and invite media questions. While much of the hour was spent reviewing information that had previously been made available, a few new items were discussed, the most notable being Caesars’ hope to launch its own real money online poker site in the near future, perhaps during the WSOP.
Present on the call were WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart, WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel, and WSOP Communications Director Seth Palansky, with those three taking the first 20 minutes to speak in general terms about planning and preparation while voicing the usual optimism about the Series. Items discussed by those three included the following:
- the strategic scheduling of low buy-in events early in the Series encourages expectations for high turnouts early at this year’s WSOP, as does the fact that more rooms have been booked at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino than in past years
- the WSOP Player of the Year (which includes the WSOP APAC and WSOPE and is currently led by Daniel Negreanu) will win entries into the subequent WSOPE and WSOP APAC Main Events as well as the 2014 WSOP ME
- in addition to the full schedule of “Daily Deepstack” events, the WSOP will revive its “Carnivale of Poker” series (last staged from 1998-2000), with additional low buy-in “medallion events” every Monday and Tuesday throughout the WSOP, then every day during the Main Event; most of the 21 Carnivale events will be no-limit hold’em, with a few mixed-game events and the $5K open-face Chinese event also included
- the top 10 point-getters in Carnivale of Poker events will split $100,000
- following the WSOP’s conclusion there will be 40 hours of original coverage on ESPN, starting with the WSOP APAC Main Event final table and the WSOP National Championship, then focusing on the WSOP Main Event through November with the final table again to be broadcast in its entirety
- there is a hope that at least 100 players will participate in the $111,111 buy-in “One Drop High Rollers” NLHE event (Event No. 47)
- there is also hope that the new WSOP-branded real money online poker site will “go live at some point during the WSOP,” with players being able to sign up for accounts either online or at the Rio
Few details were offered regarding the timeline or offerings for the new WSOP real money online poker site, although twice during the call shots were fired in the general direction of Nevada-based Ultimate Poker, the first and so far only real money site in operation in the U.S.
“I think the market is ready for a first-class product,” said Stewart, a subtle reference to Ultimate Poker’s humble software and offerings as well as the various troubles UP has experienced during its first two weeks of operation. Later during the Q&A, a question about the new WSOP.com site prompted Stewart to chime in again to suggest jokingly to Palansky to “make sure that there’s only one nine of spades in the deck,” a dig at an apparent software glitch that caused a UP player recently to see two identical cards on a flop during a hand played.
References to other scandals and hardships experienced by poker players during recent years also led Stewart to suggest a felt obligation by the WSOP especially to avoid such difficulties and provide players a problem-free experience. “We at the WSOP feel the responsibility to be poker’s spring in the heat of the summer,” said Stewart.
The remainder of the hour was taken up with the Q&A period, with 15 different reporters asking questions. Items discussed during the Q&A included the following:
- security at the WSOP should be the same as in previous years (i.e., backpacks, bags, purses will be allowed), although Palansky did add “Will we do random searches? We might.”
- a few re-entry events have been added to the schedule to provide variety; according to Stewart “the Main Event will never be a re-entry”
- there will likely be some recognition — probably at the Main Event — of the 10th anniversary of Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 ME win
- there will be online streaming of final tables of 33 bracelet events this summer (on a half-hour delay) that will employ RFID technology to show hole cards of players involved in hands
- a question about efforts to increase participation of women at the WSOP was met with references to the changed buy-in policy for this year’s Ladies event ($1,000 for women, $10,000 for men) and Stewart discussing a new XBox game, “WSOP Full House Pro,” to be launched later in the summer (ostensibly presented as a possible mode of introducing women to poker and eventually to the WSOP)
- wagering on final tables at the Rio Race and Sports Book will not return this year, except for the Main Event
- repeated questions about launch dates for the real money online poker were deflected, with Palansky pointing out how the timeline was not completely within Caesars’ control
As mentioned, the news of Caesars’ planned-for real money online poker site represented a primary take-away from the call, despite the lack of details provided. Caesars Interactive Entertainment received its license approval from the Nevada Gaming Control Board in December 2012, and its new site will employ 888’s software, with the latter group receiving its NV license in March 2013.
Many are interested to see both how the site will look and function as well as whether or not the site’s launch will in fact come during the WSOP, a goal if which met will be of obvious benefit to Caesars.