Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Not Such a Slow News Day

It appears that the era of the mega-WSOP is over.

Harrah's just announced that they will not be accepting third-party registrations for next year's World Series of Poker. Meaning, that only you can buy yourself in. Not an online site. Sure, sites could try and award cash instead of entries, but with $10 or $12K in your pocket in cold, hard cash instead of a direct buy-in? Come on, you're keeping the money and so am I. This decision was made as a result of the recent passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).

Apparently, the same goes for online satellites to WSOP Circuit events as well as U.S.-based WPT events. Online satellites to events outside the U.S. are unaffected--e.g. EPT, Aussie Millions, Aruba, and the PokerStars Carribean Adventure to name a few off the top of my head.

As a result of this decision, Full Tilt sent emails to all players whom had won a WPT/WSOPC "Winner's Choice" $216 super satellite with the news, as well as other options for redeeming their prize (take it in cash, play WPT Niagra, or play their Dublin All-Stars tourney and they'll kick in some extra travel dough).

Here's the email in it's entirety, which I found over on 2+2:

Unfortunately due to the upcoming change in legislation Full Tilt Poker will no longer be able to satellite US residents into live tournaments in the US. This policy will be effective immediately. There are currently 3 options that you have with your winner's choice package.

1. We can credit your account with the $10K buy in. This money would be yours to do with what you please. We will also send you a full assortment of Full Tilt Poker gear and accessories.

2. You can choose to attend the WPT $10K tournament at the Falls View Casino in Niagra Falls, Canada. This event starts on the 24th of Oct and we would need to know by this Wendesday, the 11th if you would like to play in this tournament.

3. You can choose to attend the Dublin All-Star Tournament in Dublin, Ireland. This tournament beings on the 17th of Nov. The prize package for this event is $8K so in addition to the $2K that you have already received and the entry into the tournament, you would be credited another $6K for travel expenses and spending money.

We are extremely sorry for this inconvenience and we hope that you can understand the position that we have been pout in because of the current legal situation.

Please feel free to respond with any questions you may have along with your decision about what you want to do with your prize package.

Thank you,

Team Full Tilt

Phil Gordon and his dreamy blue eyes also addressed this policy change on this week's edition of ESPN Radio's The Poker Edge. For quotes and even more details on the whole shebang, hop over to Pokerblog.

Commence speculation on my part:

No online satellites? No more 8900 entrants in the WSOP Main Event. Maybe 2000, if that. Phil Gordon predicts 2200 on the broadcast, but I think that number is optimistic.

No online satellites? No $20M Party Poker logo on the tables. No more growth incentives that made corporate sponsorship attractive to the likes of Degree, Milwaukee's Best, and Corum Watches. Jeffrey Pollack told the media at the beginning of this year's Main Event that “We are at the very beginning of what this tournament can be from an economic standpoint.” In years to come the 2006 Main Event may be seen as not only the WSOP's peak, but the peak of the poker boom in general.

No online satellites? BIG dip in attendance at WPT events. WPT shot themselves in the foot on this one and only exacerbated it with "we-don't-care-about-the-legislation" press releases like this one. Joe Sixpack's dream of playing on a WPT televised final table has been effectively ended, and almost a dozen of poker's most high-profile pros are continuing to boycott WPT events pending the resolution of their lawsuit. Whom, exactly does the WPT expect to play in these tournaments? With the amateur "juicy" factor down, will pros be running to them in droves the way they did before now that they face significantly diminished EV? And what "young guns" will WPT have to coronate with Budweiser as their new stars when their primary route to a seat has now been completely shut down?

Of course, seeing as Harrah's was a quiet proponent of the UIGEA, there is likely some Level 17-corporate maneuvering going on behind the scenes. By geting the major online sites out of the satellite game, might Harrah's be taking the first step in clearing the path to their own online poker presence? Just imagine...

"! The ONLY place you can win your seat to the WSOP!"

WSOP tourney juice + all online main event satellite juice? That's a lot of extra dough for Harrah's.

Look, I'm so far from an expert on all this stuff. Frustration and anger and disbelief and even shame chokes off the section of my brain that forms eloquent-yet-witty one-liners when I start thinking about the sinister forces at work in both corporate America and the U.S. government today. And it goes way beyond fucking internet poker. The anti-gambling legislation just parks this political ugliness in my back yard. It affects my livelihood. It affects the livelihood of many of my friends. All of us are about to become a little less free on Friday when W. signs this thing into law.

No one wins from this thing. No one benefits. Unless you count corporations and extreme right-wing politicos. There's just a whole lot more economic uncertainty and hardship on the horizon for the thousands of Americans who make a living off the online gaming boom. You can't just squash out a $12 billion industry--an industry driven by America--with a piece of paper in the middle of the night and just pretend that Americans aren't going to suffer from it. The religious right may be holding a temporary victory party for continuing to legislate their own version of morality on the population but it's not going to (a) last for long or (b) affect a damn thing at the polls. Frist looks like an idiot for jamming the legislation through the way he did. 71% of Americans believe that they should have the right to gamble online, and they're not all Democrats. It WILL come back to bite him in the ass.

Even staunch conservatives take issue with the UIGEA. I mean, when was the last time everyone on The McLaughlin Group agreed on something? Well, almost. Check out this YouTube clip that Bill Rini dug up. Everyone from the liberal dude from Time to the conservative Washington Times reporter agrees that the bill is B.S. That is, everyone except for resident nutjob Pat Buchanan. But that was predictable, right? Rini also has some awesome clips up on his blog from C-SPAN cointaining Rep. Barney Frank and Rep. Ron Paul's floor speeches opposing the UIGEA.

I may sound worked up right now, and I sort of am, but not all gaming news was bad today. According to Card Player's sources, Poker Stars is about to finally announce that they're staying in the U.S. market. Neteller appears to be all-systems-go as well. Kudos to them.

As a player, I'm largely unaffected by a lot of what is happening. I don't play satellites to $10K events. In fact, my bankroll is so freaking pathetic I'm not cashing out any of it. Two of the three sites I play on are still open for business, and I live in Los Angeles, where the world's largest poker room is only a 30-minute drive away.

But as an American, I feel all at once angry and helpless. I joined the PPA (and so should you), but until they're strong and well-orgazined enough to have a real lobbying plan, there's not a lot of concrete things I can do to fight this thing except get to the polls on November 2 where my Democratic representative and senators, all of whom supported the UIGEA, will likely be re-elected in a landslide. Heh... I don't even live in a swing state.

For tonight, I'll be playing my final games on Party Poker before cashing out that balance and bidding my super-secret, pre-blogging screen name adieu. Here's to the memories...


Pauly said...

Harrah's will make some nice coin running live satellites in the far corner of the Amazon Ballroom at the Rio... especially if that's the only way to win a seat into the ME.

Pokerwolf said...

The EPT has a damn good chance of getting a lot of new players because of all this situation. Ditto the UB Aruba event and all the other "lower tier" tournaments that aren't involved with the WPT and WSOP.

This, I think, is the death knell of the WPT. I, for one, won't miss them.

Anonymous said...

I find it scary that you are getting your voting information off of a blow up pig at a Roger Waters concert. Then again, that may explain Nancy Pelusi.

BTW, Election day is November 7.

WhatsAPundit said...

Well, the politics in the Waters post are seriously retro-kitsch, but I think Change is correct that this is going to come back and bite the bill's sponsors in their asses. That liberal bastion, the National Review Online, is calling it "Frist's Folly". (I actually think I was the first to use the term online, but hey, I've got a readership of.... Let's not go there.)

I sent an email to Frist's office vowing to actively work for his opponent in any race in which he participates. Democrats have been handed a golden opportunity to campaign on personal liberties. Republicans have painted them as the "we'll take away your toys" party.

Let's face it, online poker may be big to us, but 12 billion is a blip on the national scale. That's why Frist thought he could just sleaze this through at the last second. But as a market differentiator this could be a windfall for Democrats over the next month.

Tommy said...

Where did Harrah's announce this? I can't seem to find anything that says this coming from Harrah's itself.

I'm curious if it goes for all 3rd party signups, or just online?


Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Great post, Change.

I still can't believe that Harrah's is in favor of this silly bill. That they don't realize the long-term damage this "blip" in attendance and interest will do to the franchise that is the World Series of Poker, is beyond me.

I will say one thing though -- I don't think it's quite as crazy as you seem to think it is that the sites could just pay you your buyin in cash and then let us go buy ourselves in to the event with that money. Sure, satelliting directly in to the main event via your favorite online poker site is easiest and most efficient, but for example the Bracelet Races on full tilt this year paid out $1500 in chips, which could only be picked up at the Rio and then I had to buy myself in with that money. I wouldn't be surprised if that's where these satellite tournament payouts end up going. You know from being there this year, the WSOP already has a hospitality suite for every major (and not-so-major) online poker site, so why not just set those places up that you have to come there before your WSOP event and pick up your cash or chip buyin from the suite of the site where you won the buyin, and then go buy yourself in. That doesn't seem so outlandish to me when I think about it, given my experience at the WSOP this year.

Great post, as always.

kurokitty said...

Maybe part of an overall strategy, although I don't give Harrah's that much credit.

Bill Rini has an interesting video by activists who say Harrah's is a 50K donor to Frist and, coincidentally, their stock took a huge jump after the Internet Gambling bill was passed.

Andy_Ward said...

Harrah's is a donor to Frist :