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October 2, 2014

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World Series of Poker looks ahead to 2010

With 60,875 players this year, plans are in place to accommodate more

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WSOP/Harrah's

The $8.5 million grand prize of the World Series of Poker.

World Series of Poker

Joe Cada, a 21-year-old poker professional from Michigan, holds bundles of cash after winning $8.5 million in prize money at the World Series of Poker tournament at the Rio Tuesday Nov. 10, 2009. Darvin Moon, a 45-year-old logger from Maryland, came in second. Launch slideshow »

Despite the economic downturn that World Series of Poker officials figured would decrease registration numbers in 2009, the tournament enjoyed another record-setting year.

In the series’ 57 events this summer, a total of 60,875 players participated. That’s an increase of more than 2,000 registrations from a year ago — and nearly 57,000 more than competed only nine years ago.

As officials plan for the 2010 World Series of Poker and beyond, they are still looking to expand.

“We expect to find a way to increase participation,” World Series of Poker spokesman Seth Palansky said. “But I don’t think you’ll see the record growth you have since 2000.”

Palansky said much was learned from this year’s World Series. While the numbers dropped for higher buy-in events — such as the $10,000 Main Event — they exploded for the cheaper events.

For example, the $1,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em event drew more than 6,000 entrants. Palansky said next year’s schedule would reflect the success of the lower buy-in events.

“Price yourselves right and the people will come,” Palansky said. “We do expect to offer a better variety of buy-ins to meet the demands of the marketplace.”

Palansky and his team are also making preparations to avoid the shutouts that occurred on the fourth starting day of the Main Event this year. Hundreds of players were turned away when the tournament reached its daily capacity of 2,809 players.

Part of the problem was one of the four starting dates landed on the Fourth of July, which predictably attracted the fewest numbers of entrants. In 2010, Palansky said, there will be no poker played on the holiday.

The Main Event will either start after the Fourth of July or take a break for the day. Additional plans are also being made to accommodate more players.

“We hope to address it somewhat with an expanded footprint for this year, which means more poker tables so we can have more players,” Palansky said. “But it’s more important to make it abundantly clear to register in plenty of time.”

The World Series of Poker staff is moving forward with its plans without Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack, who resigned last week. Pollack created the position of commissioner in 2005 when he felt the tournament needed to be represented by a public face.

The tournament will now revert back to operating without a commissioner.

“There’s no plans to replace the commissioner role, nor do we feel that there’s a void there,” Palansky said. “We feel that the brand has grown and the staff that has been here throughout is here and ready.”

ESPN will be along for the ride as well. The World Series of Poker and the network signed a contract in August that runs through 2017.

The Main Event continues to draw strong ratings, as 2.1 million viewers watched this year’s final table when Joe Cada won the gold bracelet.

“There seems to be more and better understanding of all that this sport has to offer,” said George McNeilly, ESPN’s senior director of communications on a teleconference.

And with that understanding, perhaps more players than ever will sign up in 2010.

That’s what Palansky is hoping for. If 2009 was any indication, it should happen.

“I think the staggering thing is how resilient the poker community was in relation to the global economy,” Palansky said. “We did prepare for a down year in the number of participants, based on how the economy was. We thought that it would have a bigger impact on us than it did.”

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