The World Series of Poker has grown from an eight person tournament in 1970, which was an invite only contest for the best players in the world, to now including thousands of players of all different skill levels competing in 101 different events. But this year’s tournament is vastly different from past years in large part due to the coronavirus. Instead of competing at a Caesars casino in Las Vegas, the WSOP will now take place entirely online for 2020. 2017’s World Series of Poker winner Scott Blumstein and Sports Illustrated’s gambling analyst Frank Taddeo examine what poker players can expect in this new online format.
Bill Enright: The World Series of Poker for the first time will not be played in the casino, instead, it is going entirely digital. Let's bring on SI gambling analyst Frank Taddeo and 2017 World Series of Poker Champion Scott Blumstein. Scott, I'm going to start with you because you're the expert here. You won the bracelet, you claimed the title with the event moving online, going digital. How is this going to affect how the game is played?
Scott Blumstein: Yeah. It's a whole different beast online. I mean, you know, especially from the World Series of Poker. They started to add a couple online events over the last couple of years. But, you know, growing up, it's always been a live tournament series. And, you know, specifically for me, even I consider myself more of a live player. So it's never going to be quite the adjustment taken on to the digital platform. And they are really very, very different games. So we're gonna see how people adjust. But, you know, beggars can't be choosers. So any kind of poker will be good this time of year.
Bill Enright: Frank, when you started researching this report, what did you think of seeing that they're only going to be allowed to play in either from Nevada or the state of New Jersey?
Frank Taddeo: Yeah, Bill, I think that's going to be the biggest hurdle, and that's obviously going to be the biggest complaint among all poker players, because obviously, if you're not in either one of those two states. It's gonna be a little bit difficult for you to play. Then we're seeing that we're finding out also from the World Series of Poker that if anyone is looking to share, possibly lodging together, maybe like looking to cut the course and traveling to either one of those two states and looking to spend maybe a couple of weeks or maybe even a month of starting on July 1st in either of those respective states, then I can be able to play in the same Wi-Fi area because the IP addresses, it's gonna be an issue. So that's definitely to be something that they're going to want to be looking at, Bill. But, you know, it is a new safety measure that's being implemented. It's another one of our favorite events that's being affected post the, you know, the COVID-19 pandemic. But modifying these this event right now, it looks like it's going to be something that's probably going to explode and it's going to give people the opportunity, but it's going to be interesting. Interesting to see, though, Bill, you hit it right on the head. I mean, people like Scott that have played before and played live. I mean, not a lot can be able to read people's faces. You know, a lot of the you know, the body language is not going to really come into play. So we're going to see what it's like on the, you know, changing this to a virtual format. But, you know, eighty five bracelets and one per day starting July 1st and extending all the way into the first week of September. Things are going to be interesting, Bill. The landscape is definitely changing.
Bill Enright: Scott, the people that you are familiar with, other poker professionals, what are they saying about the state guidelines either playing in Nevada or New Jersey? Have you ever heard of people not even playing this year or are they making plans for accommodations? What have your friends have been telling you?
Scott Blumstein: Yes. So a couple of people I've spoken to, they all kind of differing opinions, I think it kind of depends what stakes you play. I've spoken to a couple high stakes players that seem to not be overly happy with the schedule because, you know, the World Series is always kind of been centered around, you know, I call it to two different levels. Right. You have like your fifteen hundred buy-ins and then you're three thousand buy-ins and then you shoot all the way up to like ten thousand. And that's where a lot of the prestigious bracelets are kind of given out. So we're seeing a lot more lower buy ends, which is I think, great overall for the community. And I think you will see there are some recreational players within reason, maybe take a weekend down and play, you know, which should be still a pretty good schedule. But I do think it's interesting to see how the poker community decides to handle this, because there are definitely some people that do not live in these states. And it's going to be kind of, you know, a lot of logistics in order to be able to play it. So I like to think that when you attach bracelets to these events, it'll definitely be appealing enough and the prize pools will obviously be pretty juicy. So I think we'll see a decent turnout, but maybe not from, you know, people that played higher stakes in the past.
Bill Enright: Frank and Scott, we appreciate your insight. Plenty more gambling coverage from Sports Illustrated. You can find it by going to si.com/gambling.