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Best of John G. Brokopp

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Poker's 'World Series' Evolves into a Classic

11 October 2006

There are other poker tournaments, but the World Series of Poker has evolved into the richest and most high profile of them all thanks to some clever marketing strategy on behalf of Harrah's Entertainment, which obtained the rights to the brand several years ago.

This year's WSOP, which ran for seven weeks from June 26 through August 11 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Vegas, brought out a total of 48,364 entrants for the 45 events, a fifty percent increase over last year.

Huge growth was experienced in other categories as well: 8,773 players participated in the Main Event, the $10,000 No-Limit Texas Hold'em World Championship, which had a gross prize pool of $82.5 million. In 2005 those numbers were 5,519 and $56 million.

ESPN's taped coverage of Final Table action aired weekly starting in late August and concluded Tuesday, Sept. 26. If you were able to catch any of the shows, you were witness to the entertaining reality television into which poker has evolved. The participants were even showcased in ways similar to athletes. Gary Thompson, WSOP's director of communications and operations, has his own reasons for the tournament's success:

"The 'World Series' is the oldest and most tradition laden poker tournament in the world," he said. "Our goal is to make sure that when we get good suggestions from our players we take them into consideration. I know that some other tournaments have different structures and faster levels, but our players have told us that they really like the fact that we play two hours per level, that blind structures increase very slowly, particularly for the main event, and it gives players a chance to play, which is our goal."

Jamie Gold's victory in the 2006 Main Event and his $12 million prize made news around the world a couple of weeks ago, but less known is the fact that the first 12 finishers also became instant millionaires. The 13th through 63rd place finishers won six-figure prizes. In fact, the tournament paid down to 873rd place which was worth $14,597.

This year's WSOP included poker players from 56 countries around the world. Tournament officials are anticipating double-digit growth for the next several years, which means it's going to get better, but, according to Thompson, not longer:

"I think it's pretty much maxed out in terms of the length, he said. "What we're going to take a look at doing is some fine tuning on the actual events themselves."

CASINO NEWS: In spite of its broad popularity, live poker is far from reaching its full potential in the Chicago area. Of the eight casino destinations in the market, only three of them offer the game.

Poker's limited availability around here took a hit with the closure of the small four table venue at Argosy's Empress Casino & Hotel Joliet which had been operating only on a limited schedule and closed on weekends.

The only property with live poker on the Illinois side remains Hollywood Casino in Aurora, which has six tables open daily in a special section on the casino floor.

The best bet locally for anyone with an interest in playing or learning the game is Northwest Indiana where large dedicated rooms are found at the Majestic Star Casinos & Hotel at Buffington Harbor in Gary (21 tables) and Resorts East Chicago Hotel Casino (16 tables). Both rooms are open 24/7.

Here is the latest ranking of casinos in the Chicago area based upon overall slot payback percentage according to the monthly revenue reports from the Indiana Gaming Commission for August and the Illinois Gaming Board for July:

1 - Grand Victoria Elgin (93.46); 2 - Argosy's Empress Joliet (92.87); 3 - Hollywood Aurora (92.22); 4 - Majestic Star II (92.16); 5 - Blue Chip (92.11); 6 - Harrah's Joliet (92.00); 7 - Majestic Star (91.78); 8 - Horseshoe Hammond (91.43); 9 - Resorts East Chicago (90.65).

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp