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World Series of Poker the Olympiad of the Gambling World

6 July 2005

In light of the Olympic proportions that the World Series of Poker has assumed, "Let the Games Begin" would have been a much more appropriate way to signal the start of the 2005 competition earlier this month than the traditional "Shuffle Up and Deal".

The 36th World Series began on June 2 in Las Vegas and will continue for seven weeks, during which a record 45 events are scheduled. The competition's showcase event will begin July 15 when all attention will focus on the final table of the $10,000 buy-in World Championship no-limit Texas Hold'em match.

Gone are the days when the World Series was held in the quaint, dingy smoke-filled poker room of Binion's Horseshoe in the Downtown. This year's venue has been moved to a specially constructed 60,000-square-foot, 200-table arena in the new convention center at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.

Gone also are the days when the World Series of Poker Champion received his prize money of one hundred bills wrapped in $10,000 stacks in a cardboard box. This year's first place money estimated at more than $8 million would have to be presented in a crate. Last year's champion, Greg Raymer, won a record $5 million.

Poker enthusiasts from around the globe, representing every level of experience, are in Las Vegas for what is being billed as the "Richest Sporting Event on the Planet". By the time the bell rings for the main event on July 7, more than 15,000 player registrations are expected to have been recorded.

At stake is around $75 million in prize money, a considerable increase over last year's $45.9 million, which was double the money distributed in 2003. If that's not an indication of the rapid growth in popularity of poker, consider the fact that ESPN is going to produce 26 hours of original programming and an additional six hours of coverage documenting the circuit events. Coverage is slated to begin July 19.

Which brings us to the logical question: "Is poker a sport?" Certainly not in the context of athletic skills, but as an exercise in brain power it ranks right up there with international Grand Master chess. And if chess can have a world champion, certainly poker is entitled to one as well.

ESPN quite obviously thinks poker is worthy of considerable air time on a cable system whose programming is devoted exclusively to sports. Last January the network and Harrah's Entertainment, Inc., owner of the World Series of Poker, cut a deal through a consulting firm that has negotiated multi-billion dollar contracts on behalf of Major League Baseball and NASCAR.

The only luck associated with poker is the cards you are dealt. How you play them is one hundred percent skill. The beauty of the game is that you don't need the best hand to win. The art of bluffing, or playing a poor hand as if it were a good one to intimidate your opponents, is a huge component of strategy.

"The World Series of Poker is a sporting event like no other," said Gary Thompson, the tournament's director of communications. "It offers more prize money than any other sanctioned sporting event, and it gives amateurs the opportunity to compete alongside the legends of the game. For a baseball fan, it's like stepping into the batter's box against Roger Clemens and knowing that, if you can hit his fastball, you can walk away with millions of dollars."

The spotlight World Championship, which attracted 839 players in 2003 and a record 2,567 last year, is expected to lure more than 6,600 players this time around. All nine players at the final table could be in line to win at least $1 million for the first time in the history of the competition.

The 2005 World Series will maintain a link to its colorful past for perhaps the last time. The final two days of the competition's showcase event will be held at Binion's to coincide with Las Vegas' centennial celebration.

If you'd like to keep up with the action as it unfolds, log on to www.worldseriesofpoker.com for daily updates and related features.

World Series of Poker the Olympiad of the Gambling World is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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