One of the great innovations that Benny Binion brought to tournament poker, other than the World Series of Poker itself, was the opportunity for players to earn their way into the greatest event in poker through smaller buy in tournaments called satellites. Traditionally, they have been held in Las Vegas (first at the Horseshoe and now carried on to the Rio by Harrah's) around the time of the WSOP starting. Over the past few years, this has changed and will face another change starting this year as well.
Online satellites have been one of the most popular ways that the World Series has expanded the field. Those first online entries came in 2003, which brought over 800 players to the felt, a record at that time. In 2004, it tripled the field to over 2500 players and, in 2005, set the record at an astounding 5619 players. What hasn't been seen, though, is satellites in brick and mortar casinos that players can earn their way into the Main Event through.
This changed Monday with the announcement that Harrah's has entered into several agreements with casinos in Latin America, Europe and Australia to grant World Series $10K seats to the champions of respective tournaments in those countries, essentially making several highly respected worldwide tournaments a "satellite" to the Main Event that starts in July of 2006.
The latest agreement was reached with Holland Casino in Amsterdam. On November 9th-11th, the Master Classics of Poker Championship will be conducted at Holland Casino and, for the 5000 Euro ($6,000 US) Championship Event, the champion will receive not only the accolades of poker players from around the world but will also receive a seat to the 2006 World Series of Poker, along with the cash from winning the event.
"The Master Classics of Poker is in its thirteenth year and has been the biggest poker tournament in Europe during that period," said Ron Goudsmit, vice president of Holland Casino. "Last year we awarded 985,000 Euro ($1.2 million US) in prize money just for the Texas Hold 'Em event, and the 2006 World Series of Poker seat will be a great additional bonus for this year's winner. Total prize money was 1.8 million Euro ($2.2 million US) in last year's tournament entirety."
Not only is Holland Casino in Amsterdam getting in on the action, but many other prestigious casinos from around the world are as well. Both the Crown and Star City Casinos in Australia have been added to the program, as well as CIRSA Casinos' properties in Venezuela, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Panama, and the Conrad Punta del Este in Uruguay. Expect the announcement of other casinos in the near future, according to Jeffrey Pollack, vice president of sports and entertainment marketing for Harrah's Entertainment.
"This is an early step in our development and execution of an international growth strategy for the World Series of Poker," Pollack stated. "We're very pleased that Holland Casino, whose Master Classics of Poker is Europe's most popular annual gaming event, is including a seat in the World Series of Poker as part of its prize package. This alliance will help drive new, incremental exposure for the World Series of Poker."
While other sports may call their championship a "World Championship" or "World Series", only the world of poker actually brings the greatest players from around the world to compete for the World Championship! With this latest step, Harrah's recognizes the worldwide appeal of the sport of poker and is honoring the players who show their excellence with a chance to take, along with their prestigious national or casino championship, the gold bracelet symbolic of poker greatness. It is only taking Benny Binion's satellite idea to the next step. You would have to think that Binion would be looking at this with a smile as poker truly shows its worldwide appeal!
Ed note: Lots of film, and TV stars playing at Hollywood Poker