Major live poker tournaments in Europe remain on hiatus as the latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic still has a firm grip on the industry. Most major operators are apprehensive about their potential return to live action, but a few are cautiously moving in that direction and the latest one to take the first big steps was 888poker. From January 6 to 17, 2022, the popular 888poker LIVE series returned to London and was a smashing success.
The operator returned to The Poker Room — formerly known as The Vic — in the heart of London for 12 days of live poker. Once the final river card was dealt, the series concluded with £1,032,168 in prize pools awarded across nine tournaments. These events attracted a total of 1,398 entries and kicked off the brand’s 20th anniversary year in style.
888poker’s first stops on the live poker circuit date all the way back to 2015 and all events until 2020 took place at the Aspers Casino Westfield in Stratford. In October 2021, the 888poker LIVE London Weekend moved over to the Vic and returned to the same location only a few months later.
During the recent London series, the operator unveiled British boxer Chris Eubank Jr. as its new cultural ambassador, kickstarting its big anniversary year with a landmark partnership. The global middleweight champion has been a fan of the game for several years and previously participated in high-stakes cash game competitions. Putting pen to paper and signing big-name celebrities and sports stars has certainly become a trend in the poker industry and 888 followed suit.
The host venue in London itself is one of the most well-known casinos in the city, and in England altogether. The festival came right out of the gate with promising numbers as the £444 Opening Event attracted a field of 581 entries and created a prize pool of £232,400.
It was the third-most-expensive event on the schedule and the next highlights followed soon after. In the £2,200 High Roller, Jamie O’Connor topped a field of 93 entries and took home the biggest slice of the £186,000 prize pool.
However, all eyes were set on the £888 Main Event, which reeled in an incredible 642 entries across five starting days. Only 122 runners made it to Day 2 and the top 68 finishers locked up a portion of £513,600 in cash prizes. As usual, the conclusion of the tournament was also streamed on the 888poker Twitch channel,
Unibet Poker ambassador and former Irish Open champion, Ian Simpson, reached the final tables in both the £2,200 High Roller and £888 Main Event but fell short of taking home the trophy. Simpson had to settle for 5th place and £19,520, while London regular Bhavin Khatri went on to secure the victory for a payday worth £126,340.
It was certainly a successful live poker series for the global operator, which has also been affected by the ongoing pandemic. Typically, four 888poker LIVE stops would take place every year, but that has not been the case in the past two years. In 2020, full stops in Madrid and Tallinn were accompanied by two Weekend series in London and Sochi.
With live poker still on hold for the first half of 2021, 888poker hosted the WPTDeepStacks festival on its global platform. At the same time, it ran the Iberia edition on the Spanish and Portuguese network as well as the Italy edition on its own ring-fenced platform.
The operator went to Russia once more in July 2021 for another 888poker LIVE stop in Sochi. In cooperation with Pokerfest, they also returned to Bucharest in August 2021 to conclude the previous year with two of the usual four headline festivals.
Apart from their own major tournament series, 888 has also been co-sponsoring regional live poker events in Italy and Spain as well. One of them, the Circuito Nacional de Poker (CNP888), is slated to host the final stop of the current season from January 21 to 30 at the Casino Gran Madrid.
As far as the global 888poker LIVE series is concerned, no further events have been announced yet for the remainder of 2022. For now, the primary focus of the operator in its anniversary year belongs to its online poker platform. The Ace the Slopes Freeroll promotion launched January 12 and will run all the way until April, while the XL Winter Series started on January 16 and concludes at the end of the month.