Back at the WSOP
If you've been around the online poker world for a while, you may remember the days when PokerStars was a powerful presence at the WSOP. Of course, there was the magical year of 2003, when Chris Moneymaker shocked the other poker players, the pundits, and likely himself by winning the main event.
From there, we piled on success. The next year, PokerStars had qualified four of the nine players at the final table, and when it came down to Greg Raymer and David Williams, we were freerolling to say that one of our qualifiers won the whole thing.
In 2005... in 2005, PokerStars qualified 1,116 of the 5,619 runners in the main event - almost exactly 20% of the field. Those were heady times, and they were accompanied by a heady presence. Our parties started to feature household name headliners, and became the hot ticket for everybody in attendance at the WSOP.
Then, well, if you were there for those times, then you know what came next. The chill of UIGEA in the autumn of 2006, and then the deep freeze of Black Friday in April of 2011. Initially PokerStars was unable to do direct buy-ins to the WSOP, so we were forced to hand qualifiers $10k (or more) and say "Please go play the WSOP" (and/or offer them bonuses to actually play).
Ultimately, the situation became untenable and PokerStars simply stopped offering WSOP satellites. And with that, our presence at the WSOP dropped to an almost shadow presence - just the handful of people needed to support our Team Pros, who are out here in force every year.
Right up until this year.
We got to talking about it and said: "Well, we're the biggest and arguably the most prestigious poker operator in the world. The WSOP is the grand gathering of the poker clan every year and arguably the single most prestigious poker festival in the world every year. It's silly that we're not there in any meaningful way."
So we came to our old friends at the Palms Hotel and Casino, right across the road from the Rio, and set up a suite. Suite #27-201 to be specific and we've turned it into the PokerStars Playhouse.
We're demo'ing our software so if you're one of our American friends who hasn't been able to play for real money the last few years, you can see all the new bells and whistles in the software (not to mention a major upgrade in the form of the PS7 client).
We've got comfy chairs, foosball, Wii, billiards - a place to relax and visit with your friends and chat with the PokerStars staff.
We're giving away various PokerStars merchandise, and even running live Spin & Go's.
We're even doing Twitching from the special Twitch Booth that we've set up. Jason Somerville, Jaime Staples, and ElkY are already confirmed and we're hoping to get others in.
And to make the whole thing sparkle, we've brought in Team Pros, Friends of PokerStars, Friends of Friends of PokerStars, so you can meet and greet some of your poker heroes.
Finally, if you're a credentialed media person at the WSOP, we've got a couple of special offers for you - so be sure to drop by (or reach out electronically) and find out what's in store.
It all starts today, Friday, July 3rd - right there in Suite #27-201 in the Fantasy Tower at the Palms Hotel/Casino.
Oh, and one final thing: to celebrate the opening of the Playhouse, we are giving away five seats to the $777 tournament at the WSOP. That's right:
On Friday, July 3rd, at the PokerStars Playhouse at the Palms Hotel/Casino, we're giving away five seats to the second flight of the WSOP's $777 "Lucky Sevens" tournament.
It's a pure drawing - we're going to hand out a limited number of tickets, then "draw" five "tickets" from a "hat". I did those quote things so you'd understand that we won't be using actual tickets. Or a hat. It was a metaphor.
The fine print is pretty much what you expect it to be:
1. You have to be physically present to pick up a ticket, but you don't have to be here to win.
2. You have to be 21 or older to win
3. If you win, you have to actually play the event.
4. If you win, you agree to let us take pictures of you, follow you around at the WSOP (within their rules of course), and generally make a bit of a fuss over you.
5. If you already have a seat in the Lucky Sevens tournament, please don't participate in this drawing.
6. Whatever other rules and requirements we think of to make sure this whole drawing is fair and reasonable.
We will start handing out tickets at noon when the Playhouse opens. Around 4:00pm we'll stop handing out tickets, or when we run out - whichever comes first. At 4:30pm we'll do the drawing to pick the five winners. Then we'll Tweet the names of the winners so they know who they are. Those five people will meet us at the registration window at the WSOP and we'll sign them up so they can play in the 6:00pm flight of the Lucky Sevens event.
But please, we're going to be open from about noon until about 8:00pm every day through Thursday the 9th, with the exception of Saturday the 4th and the evening of the 9th. Come by, say hi and let us show what we've been working on since we were last in the U.S. for real money. Play against Jennifer Shahade in a chess "simul". Play me at Scrabble and pick up a nifty (and somewhat retro) PokerStars t-shirt, win or lose.
We're back at the WSOP, and we want you to come help us celebrate that. It all starts at noon, Pacific Daylight Time, today, Friday July the 3rd. Palms Hotel and Casino, suite #27-201.
See you soon.
Lee Jones is the Director of Poker Communications at PokerStars and has been part of the professional poker world for over 25 years. You can read his occasional Twitter-bites at @leehjones