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World Series of Poker Press Conference Call Report

WSOP Announces Live Streaming for 55 Bracelet Events and other Details for the 2011 WSOP

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Rio Hotel and Casino -- Host Site for the WSOPThe World Series of Poker hosted a press conference call today from Las Vegas and the WSOP officials on the call were WSOP Communications Director Seth Palansky, WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel, and WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart. There were many announcements made during the call but the largest news is that wsop.com will stream 55 bracelet events on a five-minute delay during the summer.

This is the first time in the history of the WSOP that all 58 gold bracelet events will receive some sort of video coverage (ESPN3 is streaming the $25K Heads Up, $50K Poker Players Championship and the Main Event).

A wide overhead shot of the entire table and its participants along with a flop camera will provide the visual sightlines, while audio from the event’s tournament announcer will describe the betting action as it occurs.

The wsop.com coverage will not involve any hole-card coverage. It will be delayed five minutes per gaming regulations, and be commentary-free (outside the announcer providing betting action). In essence, the coverage will allow those unable to witness the action in person, the ability to watch the event in similar fashion to spectators on-site.

“Last year one of the great injustices was that more people didn’t get a chance to experience the atmosphere when “Durrrr”, Tom Dwan got heads-up for the bracelet. Many people say that was the moment of the year in poker, it was electric. Obviously we can’t produce every WSOP bracelet event live for television, but we are committed to providing a visual account of the action,” said Stewart. “We are proud to provide video of the culminating action to a worldwide audience in real time,” said Stewart. “This online initiative will complement our spectacular television package on ESPN and deliver even more of this year’s WSOP to fans who want the most immediate coverage possible.”

On most days, two final tables will be streamed. The typical start times for these will be 2:30 or 3 p.m. Pacific time. The streams will last until the event concludes, and no video will be shown during the standard breaks in action. Beginning June 1 and running through July 7, there will be at least one stream a day except for June 2, June 7 and July 4-6, where no final tables are scheduled to be contested. All times and dates are subject to change without notice.

The World Series also expressed confidence that this year’s tournament will be a big success. They mentioned that hotel room bookings are high and they felt that reflects the nature of the Series as a destination for poker players.

“I believe this is the year when everyone will see just how big poker has become all around the world. This is the year where people will see what a juggernaut this World Series of Poker has become. It is a testament to the fact that the WSOP is more than a poker event, it’s an experience. It’s an annual pilgrimage; it’s a chance to run with the bulls. People save all year long and they plan their schedules around this summer series. The elephant in the room is that we’re not impervious to outside influences. We have seen the drawing power of the WSOP in the face of perceived challenges, like the passing of the UIGEA, and the pronounced global recession,” said Stewart during the opening statement of the call. He continued, “We think people love this game of poker and that they are starved to play. We expect this summer is going to give this industry its swagger back.”

Jack EffelThe call was then turned over to Effel who is back for his seventh WSOP. He said that the Rio was currently being set up for the summer and he then went over some changes on the tournament end of things. The layout will be identical to 2010, with the Amazon and Pavilion rooms hosting tournament action. A new addition at the Rio this summer will include smart-phone charging stations and free internet accessibility.

Effel highlighted two new events, the $25,000 heads-up no-limit hold’em world championship that kicks off on May 31 and the addition of a new $5,000 six-handed pot-limit Omaha event. He also mentioned that they were excited to include Badugi for the very first time in the six-handed 10-game mixed event.

Players will start with triple starting chips for every single buy-in, and payouts will be consistent with 2010, with roughly the top 10 percent getting paid. Late registration will be open for four levels for all events. The WSOP inked a deal with shuffle master to provide automatic shufflers for every final table, with an additional 12 shufflers for all bracelet events once they play down to the last few tables.

Effel also stated that there will be more satellites available to players than ever before at the Rio. “While many people may have focused on the gold bracelet events when the schedule came out in January they may have glanced over the increase in satellite events being offered at the WSOP this year.” Those satellites ran up to 7,000 events last year. He also mentioned that there will be daily deep stack events at 2 p.m. 6p.m. and 10 p.m. for players who want to participate in a cash tournament every day. “From 2 p.m. to midnight every day you will be able to play in tournaments all day long,” said Effel.

Stewart was up again next and he first reiterated that the WSOP television deal with ESPN is still a long-term contract that runs through 2017. “That is two episodes every week in prime time every Tuesday from July 26 through November 8. Tuesday night is poker night on the worldwide leader in sports,” said Stewart. “In addition to that we have an exciting new change that was just announced that we will have same-day coverage and additional coverage from the main event July 14-19 or as it is from the money bubble down to the November Nine. During six days we will have 36 hours of linear television coverage on ESPN in fantastic time slots…Sports fans simply won’t be able to ignore that there is a huge happening in Las Vegas that is being validated by their favorite channel night after night…Rumors of our demise on ESPN are greatly exaggerated. We occupy a very heavy footprint on the worldwide leader and we are happy about their commitment to brand,” said Stewart.

He continued, “I think that we will see that many networks will drop their poker shows because they saw them as means to an end to grab premium ad rates which were served up on a silver platter. ESPN is showing just how much they believe in poker and the WSOP’s ability to generate audience and stimulate demand.”

Stewart then gave an update on the WSOP sponsors for this year. He started by announcing the Jack Link’s Beef Jerky will be the presenting sponsor once again in 2011 as part of their multi-year agreement. Miller Brewing will be a sponsor again with one change. The brand that will sponsor the WSOP is their signature Miller Light brand. Klipsch Audio will be a sponsor to showcase their headphones and Blue Sharks Optics is another sponsor who makes poker eyewear. Another unique sponsor is Dearfoams slippers, which will provide a pair of their slippers for each player in the main event this year.

Stewart also announced two changes to the Poker Hall of Fame. The first is the inclusion of a new rule, called the Chip Reese rule. It states that you have to be at least 40 years old (the same age that Chip was when he was inducted) to be voted into the hall of fame. The process for the list of finalists will also be changed. They will still have the open nominations for the public but their will now be a panel of industry veterans who will serve as a hall of fame selection committee or jury to determine the finalists that will be given to the Hall of Famers. “We hope that instead of a pure popularity contest this process will be able to add some of the stories and true impact that may be lost on some of the mass audience. This will give some of the players and other figures who have really taken this industry forward the opportunity to be considered that they otherwise might not have received,” said Stewart.

Another change is that the 2011 WSOP POY award will take into account all WSOP Europe results. The WSOP Europe will be hosted for the first time in Cannes on the shores of the French Riviera. It will be hosted at the Hotel Majestic and feature more tables, more qualifiers, and more events (seven gold bracelets will be up for grabs) than ever before. Lastly, they reiterated the first-ever WSOP Grudge Matches. Players will come into those matches with the exact same chip stacks they had when the original matches began, but the chip stacks will be reversed.

After Stewart finished his announcements the press conference ended and the call was opened up to questions. The 42nd Annual WSOP will begin on May 31 at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and Card Player will bring you daily coverage from the event.