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Thousands Qualified Online for Main Event

At Least 4,400 Players Got in Through Internet

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There are 8,773 players playing for $12 million in this year's World Series of Poker, and many of those players earned their $10,000 buy-in into the biggest poker event ever to take place in the Universe through online poker sites.

With hundreds of online sites sending people to the WSOP main event this year, it's impossible to know exactly how many people qualified online. Not even Nolan Dalla, the media director and all around information man for the WSOP, knows the exact number of players who got in by playing online poker.

It's safe to say that more than 4,400 players who played in this year's main event got in it by playing online poker. To put it into perspective, that number is only 1,219 less than the total number of players in last year's main event, and dominates the 2004 figure of 2,576 players.

PokerStars, where the last three WSOP main event champions happened to qualify, has the most qualifiers in this year's event, with a little more than 1,650. PartyPoker is next with 1,023 qualifiers. Full Tilt qualified 423 players, Bodog qualified 396, Paradise Poker qualified 298, Ultimate Bet qualified 230, Ladbrokes qualified 95, and Pacific qualified about 150.

In 2003, Chris Moneymaker, with the perfect name and a down-home everyman demeanor, won the WSOP main event after qualifying in a $40 satellite at PokerStars, and everyone who plays poker - from hobbyists to the hardened professionals - knows about it.

In the spring of that same year he won, the World Poker Tour premiered on the Travel Channel. The high production values of the WPT - and the way it obviously captured a viewing audience - surely put pressure on ESPN to raise its own production values while covering the WSOP. Now the channel devotes an entire evening to poker.

Since then, the TV market has been flooded with poker shows, which not only spread the popularity of poker, but also are sponsored by many .net online poker sites. And the commercials they run between the action are slick, hip, and memorable, attracting huge numbers to the sites.

The massive Amazon Room at the Rio, which was filled with so many people on Friday that it momentarily risked becoming a fire hazard, is one of the results.