The Final Table, Part Five: The Crystal Ball of 2006
As we make our preparations for the New Year, we've looked at the best and the worst that 2005 had to offer. Now, with 2006 dawning, it's time to peer into the crystal ball and see perhaps what 2006 will bring the world of poker.
1. The World Series of Poker 2006 - Harrah's is prepared to have 8,000 players step to the felt for the $10,000 Championship Event, which will commence play with the first of four starting days on July 28th. While this number is a great target, it will not have that many players.
In 2003, over 800 runners came to the line for the Main Event. That number tripled in 2004 and, from 2004 to 2005, it doubled again to over 5,000. Poker is still on that rush of players wanting to participate, but to expect a 60% raise for the 2006 incarnation of the tournament may be a little bit of a stretch. What is perhaps more realistic is between a forty to fifty percent raise in the numbers, which would result in the field being between seven thousand to 7500 players. The Crystal Ball says the number will be right at 7,213, which would still be a great achievement for the World Series.
With that said, overall participation in the WSOP will rise tremendously in the preliminary events. Expect such $1,500 and $2,000 No-Limit events to have perhaps three or four thousand competitors, as people look to participate in the World Series on the cheap (and with the potential to make their way into the pantheon of poker royalty). The Seven Card and Omaha events will be well attended as well, breaking their previous records and continuing to show the sport of poker isn't just restricted to No-Limit. The Crystal Ball also says there will be some revisions to the schedule before play commences on June 27th, meaning there will be at least one mixed event at some point added.
Finally, the World Series will see another foreign born player win the World Championship, like the current reigning champion, Australia's Joseph Hachem. Expect that player to come from the burgeoning poker realm of Europe and, more specifically, from the Nordic region, perhaps Denmark, the Netherlands or Norway, where the players have an attacking style and ice in their veins! As the World Series ends, expect it to crush the bounty that was 2005 in both number of players and purses awarded (it will break $200 million in 2006).
2. Goodbye, Paris? - It is with lament that the World Poker Tour may not make a return to the Aviation Club de France and the Champs Elysees for the only WPT tournament conducted in Europe. With the World Series pushed to its late June start and conclusion in mid-August, the traditional mid-July championship at the Aviation Club may be bereft of the big names that it has drawn in the past. The Crystal Ball says that it might take a tremendous rescheduling for the WPT to return to the City of Lights and, thus, 2005 could have been the last time we'll see the cream of the European players vie for such a prestigious championship on American television. This is unfortunate but, alas, it is part of the growth of the game.
3. Less Is More - The Crystal Ball says there will be a reduction in the number of World Series of Poker Circuit Events as well. While the first season of the Circuit, and its five tournament schedule, was well attended, some stops during the expanded twelve stop second season have been less than populated, especially the Championship Events at some locations. Look for the Circuit to scale back the tournament schedule to either eight or nine events, knocking off their repeat stops in Las Vegas and Atlantic City more than likely.
4. The Players' Club - In 2006, there will be some players' organization that steps to the forefront and becomes the motivating force behind the players and their goals. The biggest names in the game are coming around to the realization that there is a need to have a central voice, rather than the status quo of the prattling of many. The organization will be able to make several of the changes that the players are looking for in the game of poker, from scheduling to rules and many other areas the players deem important.
This organization will be a player driven one, featuring many of the biggest names in the game and looking at the world of poker, rather than just country by country. The Crystal Ball has even seen that the leader and perhaps the guiding force of the group as president will be Howard Lederer. With his business acumen, analytical mind and love of the sport of poker, the Crystal Ball says he is the man that would be the logical choice as the International Poker Players Association makes its mark.
5. Online Poker Remains A Force - While there are many who clamor for regulation or outright shutdown of the online poker world, it won't happen in the coming year. The Crystal Ball says that there will be fewer rooms and more poker networks coming, but the continued drive of the online game will be there. With the miniscule buy-ins for the chance to play on the greatest stages in the game, online poker is the choice of an ever expanding market.
There is a continued drive to move the online game into the Asian market and new players come to the game daily through the online poker rooms. For many, the online rooms are the only way they can get close to playing the game of poker. While there will be some poker rooms that do not make it, the networks will ensure the survival of many and 2006 will eclipse the record profits (around $60 billion) that poker saw in 2005.
The Crystal Ball is growing dark now, so in twelve months we'll see what happens come December 2006. Will all it mentioned occur or will we be even more surprised by the poker road of the coming year? Either way, it's time to bid adieu to 2005 and embrace 2006! Happy New Year to all the readers of PokerNews and here's hoping to see and meet all of you along the way.
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