WSOP Conference Call Highlights: The Fusion of Live and Online Poker

Written By Steve Ruddock on May 15, 2014
2014 World Series of Poker changes

On Tuesday Caesars Entertainment held their annual World Series of Poker conference call where they schmooze the poker media with their WSOP hype and remind us all how great last year’s tournament series was and how much better this year will be as WSOP brass like Ty Stewart and Seth Palansky offer up some thoughts on information on this year’s proceedings and answer questions during the Q&A session.

All in all the WSOP conference call is usually a pretty uninteresting hour, focused more on minor rule and schedule changes, or who the latest food provider will be.

Tuesday’s call certainly had plenty of that, but it also had quite a bit of substance as the 2014 WSOP will be the first one held where the online poker site will be available to all players (local or out of town) in Sin City during the six-plus week tournament series.

Because of this the conference call was full of people looking for information on how the WSOP would combine their online and live products, and it seemed the WSOP itself became the second part of the story.

The WSOP brass didn’t disappoint as they laid out numerous ways Caesars will be integrating the WSOP tournament series with its eponymously named online poker room throughout the summer: Hint, it goes way beyond running satellites, although there will be plenty of those, which is where I’ll begin.

WSOP Satellites

According to Head of Poker Bill Rini the site has already awarded 100 seats to the Main Event and is hopeful that an additional 100 could be added to that total before the Main event kicks off in July. Ty Stewart was a bit more pessimistic, saying he’d be happy with 100 plus satellite entries.

In the lead up to the Main Event will host everything from small buy-in super-satellites to $5,000 heads-up Sit & Go tournaments.

Either way, these direct buy-in satellites have demonstrated just what is possible with legal online poker. If New Jersey and Nevada can produce 100-200 entries imagine what nationwide online poker could do? In the future it’s not out of the realm of possibility that 3,000 players in the WSOP Main event will be from online satellites in the US alone.

Main Event satellites aren’t the only ones available either.

One of the more interesting announcements was that online satellites to the next day’s bracelet tournaments will be held at Players will have the chance to win their way into the next day’s event(s) for as little as $11, through either MTT’s or Steps-style S&G’s.

The WSOP wants you to play online

For the first time players will not only be allowed to play online poker while at the Rio’s tournament tables but will actually be steered towards playing online while at the Rio. Not only will laptops and tablets be allowed at the tables (allowing players to participate in both online and live games at the same time) but there will also be a dedicated “Grind Room” setup at the Rio.

The WSOP will allow online play so long as it doesn’t slow down play and while headphones are still banned at certain stages of a tournament or at televised tables, other electronic devices will be permitted.

The Grind Room will be a secure and isolated area in the Pavilion Room where players can log on and play at The Grind Room will have its own dedicated wi-fi network, while the regular wi-fi network will be used elsewhere throughout the Rio.

While I think the Grind Room is a terrific idea I’m not 100% sold on players using electronics at the table more than they already do, as it may make the games even less social then they have become in recent years.

This is definitely the initiative I’m the most concerned about backfiring.

More integration

Here are some of the other cross promotions Caesars has cooked up for the WSOP:

  • Players will be able to deposit at the cage at the Rio
  • During the World Series of Poker, will be offering a first time deposit bonus of 100% up to $1,000, as well as 5 tickets to a $1,000 freeroll tournament
  • WSOP ambassadors and customer service reps will be on hand to help players create accounts and answer questions
  • Dinner break online turbo tournaments for players who haven’t gotten enough poker in already
  • will run a Sit & Go leader-board throughout the WSOP
  • There will be random $50 and $100 bonuses handed out to online players
  • The High Roller Series (online tournaments with buy-ins between $200 and $500) will begin in late May
  • Caesars might (stress might) run a hybrid online / live tournament

And here are some other WSOP conference call highlights:

  • 32 events will be live streamed this summer
  • New chairs, new carpeting, and other improvements to the venue have been made
  • Frisbee dogs; enough said
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Steve Ruddock

Steve is a well-recognized voice in the regulated U.S. online gambling industry. He writes for a number of online and print publications including, USA Today, and others, with a focus on the legal market.

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