It was announced last week that the World Series of Poker Europe would be moving from London to Cannes, France. Here is a look at why it should be a welcomed move.
If You Build It, They Will Come
Two years ago at the Partouche Poker Tour Main Event Final Table, amid the fanfare of the shuffle up and deal at the broadcasted final table, sitting in the front row was Ty Stewart. To most casual observers, he could have been yet another casino boss in a suit; however, over two years later the rumors and innuendos have been confirmed; the World Series of Poker Europe is moving from London to Cannes.
Over three years ago in my previous tenure with Bluff Magazine, I was in the first wave of poker media to make the trek out to The Casino at the Empire in London. The question on everyone’s mind was whether any players would show up or not. Sure, the WSOP is easily the most identifiable poker brand in the world, but it is conversely synonymous with Las Vegas. Would people buy-in and play a European sister event? Three years later, one of the major stimuli for the move of the WSOPE from London to Cannes is an overwhelming response of yes.
Cannes I Get a Witness?
I have been based in Europe and covering the croissant-loving-check-calling-scarf-wearing variety of poker players for a good while now, and on behalf of Europe, I say this, they don’t need a WSOPE to validate their existence. However, they would like some respect from the poker world. When the WSOPE was announced so many eons ago, the response from some in the poker world was akin to proselytizing the great unwashed in the Old World to the ways of Texas hold'em. But frankly, poker in Europe has not needed saving. Europe has far outstripped the U.S. in terms of per capita growth and legalization. Proof? I give you Caesars Entertainment partnering with Barriere Casino both live and online in France.
Most folks would not be familiar with Barriere, unless of course if they played EPT Deauville a few weeks ago that garnered just under 900 players. The ability to host and handle large fields, though not on par with the WSOP in Las Vegas, is increasingly par for the course in Europe. Let me put it this way, it is only news if a tournament does not increase exponentially in numbers. Barriere is the backbone the WSOPE needs to vault to the profit margins Caesar’s is expecting. Those profit margins require the 80-plus tables expected in Cannes. A boutique tournament over 32 tables is nice, but the Europeans know its being pitched a soft ball with such a small venue.
The announcement and media rounds done by Caesars Entertainment regarding the shift from England to France has left some people I have spoken with quite baffled. Why France? Although the possibility of having to deal with chain-smoking malcontents on a daily basis just to win a WSOP bracelet may seem like asking a lot from the American contingent; look at it this way, many if not most of the 20-something breed of poker player has already played their share of tournaments in Europe due to the over-18 laws in most of the European Union. A fair share of them, including Jim Collopy and Mike McDonald, prior to turning 21 split their time between the European tournaments and school. In fact, I would wager a marginal percentage of the fresh-faced 21-year-olds at this upcoming WSOP in Las Vegas have already played €10,000 or £10,000 buy-in events before showing up at the Rio. Europe is, in essence, the training ground for the next big players regardless of nationality. I applaud the WSOPE for recognizing the need to expand the tournament to fulfill the potential of not only the tournament but also players in their own right.
The French Connection
Cannes is an expensive city and is impossible to pronounce correctly by anyone who is not a Frenchman. But let’s look at the upside, the WSOPE is not breaking ground by shifting to and partnering with French market, and no one should go to the WSOPE expecting the an easy field. The WSOPE and Caesars Entertainment is validating the long road that France and Europe overall are undertaking to solidify their revenue streams, broaden their player base and move for legalization of the game, and that is almost as good as the best reason to go Cannes for the WSOPE - nude beaches.
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