The Future Of The WSOP Is Online And It’s On Hold

Martin Derbyshire Updated on June 5, 2019
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It seems like every year the annual World Series of Poker looks more and more like the World Series of Online Poker. The WSOP held the first official online bracelet event in 2015 giving players the opportunity to win a WSOP bracelet with the same value as the ones they award at land-based casinos.

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It drew 905 entries, all of which came from inside Nevada state lines.

There was another one in 2016 and it drew over 1,000. Then, in 2017 the WSOP expanded its online bracelet event offering to three tournaments. That became four tournaments in 2018. Plus, the WSOP opened the events to online poker players inside both Nevada and New Jersey for the first time.

All four events broke break entry records last year, in part because of an additional 858 entries across all four tournaments coming from inside the Garden State.

The trouble with breaking entry records

This year, the WSOP is even more online than ever before. But it may have trouble breaking those entry records.

The plan is to host a total of nine WSOP.com online bracelet events. However, at this point only two are open to players inside NJ.

The WSOP first released its 2019 schedule in February. Officials claimed eligibility for players in New Jersey for the nine online bracelet events had yet to be determined because the US Department of Justice had just changed its mind about their legality.

The DOJ’s December 2011 opinion that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting is what led states like NJ and Nevada to legalize online poker inside state lines.

Soon states agreed to share player pools and ultimately allowed players in both Nevada and NJ to enter WSOP events online.

The DOJ changed its mind

However, the DOJ suddenly changed its mind this year. Its new opinion is that the Wire Act applies to all forms of interstate online gambling. That would presumably make any online gambling activity that crosses state lines against the law, including online bracelet events.

The DOJ has given legal US online gambling operators until June 14 to comply with the opinion.

In early May, WSOP officials responded by announcing the two online bracelet events it had scheduled before June 14 would be open to players in both Nevada and New Jersey.

It is presumed the other seven scheduled for after will be open to players inside Nevada only.

However, the New Hampshire Lottery Commission won a lawsuit against the DOJ this week with the judge setting the new Wire Act opinion aside.

US District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro granted the Commission summary judgment declaring once agai that the Wire Act applies only to sports betting.

The DOJ may still move ahead with its enforcement deadline. However, the WSOP could see this judgment and decide to allow NJ players to compete in the seven other WSOP bracelet events scheduled after it.

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The first of the two tournaments, the $400 WSOP.com Online No-Limit Hold’em event, went off June 2.

It was the second largest online bracelet event in WSOP.com history drawing a massive field of 2,825 entries. Only the $365 WSOP.com Online No-Limit Hold’em tournament in 2018 and its 2,972 entries was bigger.

Lending a little star power to the event, poker legend Phil Hellmuth made the final table finishing fifth for $39,460.

Palisades Park, NJ’s Yong Keun Kwon won the bracelet and the event’s $165,263 first-place prize. However, the WSOP has yet to announce whether he was playing from NJ or Nevada. Nor has the WSOP confirmed how many entries and re-entries came from NJ.

The days of breaking entry records are numbered

Regardless, the days of NJ helping the WSOP break online bracelet event entry records appear to be numbered. At least for now.

So far, the WSOP is only allowing players inside NJ to enter one more online bracelet event this year: The June 9 $600 WSOP.com Online Pot Limit Omaha 6-Handed tournament. PLO tournaments generally draw less than low buy-in No Limit Hold’em events.

The similar $565 WSOP.com Online Pot-Limit Omaha 6-Handed tournament held last year was the first ever online PLO event. It drew a respectable total of 1,223 entries and re-entries.

Matthew Mendez, a Florida native living in NJ made WSOP history by winning the event playing from inside NJ. But even the boost expected from that isn’t likely to help this year’s online PLO event draw over 2,000 and threaten any online entry records.

The future of the WSOP online

Plus, unless the WSOP decides the New Hampshire decision is enough to change its plans, it appears the seven other 2019 WSOP online bracelet events will have to try to break records without players from inside NJ. That isn’t likely to happen.

However, not breaking records will not stop the WSOP from pushing forward online.

The future is just on hold for now. Until the WSOP can convince the DOJ that interstate online poker tournaments don’t really break any laws. Then, what is increasingly becoming the World Series of Online Poker will back on track.

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