July 12, 2016

LAS VEGAS (AP) Fears of a ''Brexit effect'' hurting the World Series of Poker proved to be unfounded, a tournament official said Tuesday, after the Main Event in Las Vegas saw a big increase in the number of players from the United Kingdom.

By the close of entries Monday, the marquee event in the ongoing 69-event poker tournament tallied 344 players from the U.K., up 23 percent from the 279 who played last year.

''I guess when $63 million is up for grabs, and an $8 million top prize, they'll find a way to get here,'' event spokesman Seth Palansky said.

The concern had been that economic uncertainty following the recent U.K. vote to leave the European Union might prompt players to stay home. Palansky said the number of Main Event players from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland ranks third behind the U.S. and Canada.

In all, 6,737 players from 80 countries entered this year's $10,000 no-limit Texas Hold `Em competition. Play in the 47th annual Main Event began Saturday, Sunday and Monday at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.

Palansky said a record 1,011 winners will share in the $63.3 million in prize money. Last year, 1,000 players finished in the money.

The oldest entrant was William Wachter, 95, of Mahopac, New York. The youngest, 21-year-old Evan House-Hull of Sandoval, Illinois, made it through his first night of play with 92,300 chips, Palansky said. Players begin with 50,000 chips.

Celebrity players this year include rapper Hoodie Allen; actors Brad Garrett, Ray Romano, Kevin Pollack and Jennifer Tilly; and sports stars including former baseball reliever Brad Lidge, Norwegian soccer player John Arne Riise, former Australian cricket star Shane Warne and NASCAR driver Jason White.

A final table of nine players is due to emerge July 18. The Main Event will then take a break before resuming on Oct. 30. The televised championship is scheduled to be decided Nov. 1.

Poker pro Joe McKeehen, 25, of North Wales, Pennsylvania, won the Main Event gold bracelet last year and a $7.68 million top prize.

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