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Top-10 storylines to watch for in this year's WSOP

27 May 2011

The World Series of Poker gets underway in Las Vegas at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino on Tuesday. Thanks to the indictment of the owners of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker and the subsequent seizures of their sites’ domains, there are a myriad of questions about how the series will shake out. Here are my top-10 storylines to watch for at this year's WSOP.

10. We don't need no stinkin' patches
Don't expect to see well-known players sporting PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, UB.com or Absolute Poker patches. And don't expect the unknown players who make final tables to be wearing them, either.

"We really don't expect to see any of these logos show up at the event at our televised tables," said Ty Stewart, executive director of the World Series of Poker, in a conference call leading up to the beginning of the series. "We'll handle any conflicts at televised tables in the unlikely event, in my opinion, that they arise."

9. Licensed and regulated rooms to fill the void
With the industry leaders out of the way, there will be lots of advertising space available for those unknown players who end up sitting at televised tables. And rooms like Party Poker, PKR and 888 Poker will have the opportunity to get their logos on players who will be appearing on ESPN. Those rooms will want to take advantage of the void, as the episodes will also be broadcast across Europe, and if and when Internet poker is licensed and regulated in the U.S., they'll have their logos on display when the 2011 episodes are rebroadcast years down the road.

8. Diminished attendance in early events
Professional online poker players, many of whom have taken a shot at the live tournament scene at the WSOP in years past, may now be reassessing whether they can continue to make a living playing poker. Some may be deciding to use their bankrolls to enroll (or re-enroll) in college. Others may be using it as an emergency fund until they can get back on their feet. And semi-pros, who have a full-time job elsewhere but supplemented their income with online poker, may not feel like plunking down a few grand to take a shot is in their best interest.

The first real indicator as to how the WSOP is going to fare in this new environment will be Event #8, a $1,000 No Limit Hold'em tournament with two starting days. Last year, the first $1,000 No Limit Hold'em tournament drew 4,345 players. Expect this year's to draw fewer than 2,500.

7. Full Tilt Poker bankroll worries
Millions of Americans had money frozen in Internet poker accounts on April 15, and thousands of those players were planning on playing in at least one WSOP event. While many have recovered at least a portion of their online bankrolls thanks to quick payouts from PokerStars, Americans are still waiting on Full Tilt Poker to pay them their money. Assuming nothing changes before May 31, expect to hear lots of stories about players who have five-, six- and even seven-figure bankrolls tied up on Full Tilt.

6. Fading momentum as series progresses
There are a lot of former online poker pros who are thinking that this is the time to take their shot at live tournament poker. Many of them will be looking to make a name for themselves at this year's WSOP. And many of them will fail. Expect to see lots of players who start the series planning on playing lots of events change their plans after see their bankroll shrink right in front of their eyes.

5. "Insert unknown former online player name here" makes good playing live
There will, however, be some success stories. Every year a few anonymous players make a name for themselves at the WSOP. This year will be no different.

4. The "durrrr" watch
Last year, the entire poker community watched as Tom "durrrr" Dwan attempted to cash in on a WSOP bracelet bet that he had with several — if not dozens — of professional poker players. When he finished second, those who bet against him breathed a sigh of relief. Expect lots of tension again if Dwan makes his way to another final table this year.

3. Political messages
The Poker Players Alliance has held a rally at just about every World Series of Poker since 2006. Alfonse D'Amato, Barney Frank and Robert Wexler have addressed players in the Main Event in the past, and expect the heavy hitters to be out again in force again this year. The difference this year, however, is that there will be an even greater sense of urgency among the players, who have tended to be much more focused on the fact that the biggest poker tournament of their lives was just about to begin. Instead of PokerStars or Full Tilt patches on players, look for PPA patches.

2. Increased international presence
Last year players came from 117 countries to play in WSOP events, which means a full 60 percent of the nations in the world had at least one player compete for a WSOP bracelet. Non-Americans won 18 of the 57 bracelet events last year, and that number could increase this year, as international online pros haven't seen their income disappear and don't have their bankrolls locked up at Full Tilt. And with a weak U.S. dollar, the buy-in cost for international players is lower than it has been in past years.

1. Smallest Main Event since 2004
It's difficult to believe how quickly WSOP Main Event attendance has exploded. After Chris Moneymaker won in 2003, the event tripled in size to 2,576 players in 2004. By 2006, the field had tripled once again, to a peak of 8,773. Post-UIGEA, the numbers fell, but rebounded to 7,319 last year, more than eight times as large as the field when Moneymaker won. Moneymaker's story certainly had a lot to do with it, but there's no separating Moneymaker's story from online poker. Many players qualified to play in the WSOP by playing online satellites, and many more built bankrolls online and bought in directly. Online poker has, in fact, been a feeder system for the World Series of Poker, and with Americans now seeing that feeder system all but disappear, expect to see fewer than 5,000 players in this year's Main Event.
Top-10 storylines to watch for in this year's WSOP is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Aaron Todd
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.