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Quite the draw - Thousands 'buy in' to WSOP

July 07, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

If I had my druthers, I'd be in Las Vegas with 6,600 other hopeful (and soon to be tortured) souls participating in this year's World Series of Poker $10,000-buy-in no-limit Texas Hold'em main event, beginning today and running through next Friday.

I can't believe I just typed the number 6,600.

I jumped on the poker bandwagon early in 2003, back when no live poker tournament in history had ever had more than 700 participants and most major events drew 100 to 150 players. Later in 2003, the WSOP main event drew what was at the time a mind-boggling 839 entrants.

Little did anybody know that Chris Moneymaker's victory, taped and later broadcast about a billion times by ESPN, would help springboard poker to a level of attention absolutely no one could have predicted.

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Basically, poker exploded, and the WSOP main event is a perfect example. One year after Moneymaker's victory, the number of entrants for the main event more than tripled, to 2,576. This year, an estimated 6,600 players will pony up the 10 grand, with the winner likely to take home more than $8 million.

What happened?

Well, it was more than Moneymaker's victory and more than ESPN and the Travel Channel and Bravo and all the other networks that have aired poker of some form or another. It was one thing for people to see poker on TV, but for the boom to happen, those people had to have access to the game itself, because access is the hook, and not everyone has easy access to a card room.

What happened? Two words: Online poker.

Hundreds of thousands of players around the world play on dozens of online poker sites every day. They play several variations of Texas Hold'em, Omaha, 7-Card Stud and others, in both tournaments and ring games, ranging in value from play-chip and penny games to those where thousands of dollars are risked on every hand. There's something for everyone and every budget.

It's estimated that this year's WSOP main event field will consist of at least 4,000 players who earned their seat playing online.

And here's the really cool thing: Anyone can achieve what those 4,000-plus players have. There are countless stories of players who have turned a small investment (less than $100) into a seat in the world's greatest poker tournament.

Poker's not an easy game to have success with, for more reasons than I have space to list. However, there are plenty of poker-strategy books on the market, and plenty of online low-stakes games in which new players can learn how to play without breaking their bank accounts. Anybody with the proper desire to learn the game can be successful.

Which is the other reason poker has exploded: Not everybody can hit a major-league fastball, sprint down the sideline to catch a touchdown pass, or drive a race car three-wide at 190 miles per hour at Daytona. But anybody can play in - and even win - the WSOP main event.

Even you.

(Note: For coverage of the World Series of Poker, visit www.cardplayer.com or www.pokerpages.com)




Dan Kauffman is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7520, or by e-mail at kauffman@herald-mail.com

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