Online poker will once again be a prominent feature of the World Series of Poker this summer in Las Vegas when the iconic poker series celebrates its 50th…
Jayne Furman

Online poker will once again be a prominent feature of the World Series of Poker this summer in Las Vegas when the iconic poker series celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Doubt about the status of the online events started to swirl last month after the US Department of Justice announced that it had adopted a new interpretation of the Wire Act that views online poker that crosses state lines (among other forms of online gambling) as illegal.

Questions about what the new interpretation means for the health and future of online poker in the US began to morph into questions about whether the WSOP had abandoned the popular form of poker after organizers issued a press release last week announcing the “the final pod of gold bracelet events” with no online events appearing on the schedule.

A closer look at the title of the press release which read “Final Pod of Live Events for 2019” left the door open for online events to be added.

“I think we’ll have some good news soon for players looking to play online bracelet events this summer at the World Series of Poker,” Vice President of Corporate Communications for Caesars Interactive Entertainment and the World Series of Poker, Seth Palansky, told pokerfuse.

“There will be an increased number of online events over last year,” Palansky added.

WSOP.com operates on the All American Poker Network (AAPN), currently the only interstate online poker network in the US, with players in Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey able to sit at the same virtual tables and compete in cash games and tournaments.

A Successful Track Record for Online Events

The first WSOP online bracelet event took place in 2015, and by 2017 it was clear that the new format was a hit with players.

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“We’re constantly surprised at the numbers,” Rini told pokerfuse at the time about the online bracelet events. “The prize pools just seem to grow and grow, and we keep introducing more and more online events to meet the demand.”

In the month leading up to last year’s World Series of Poker, the AAPN added its New Jersey players to its exiting interstate player pool that consisted of players in Nevada and Delaware. The addition of New Jersey took the population for the player base from approximately 4 million people to more than 13 million, an event that WSOP.com’s Head of Online Poker Bill Rini deemed “a monumental day for online poker in the United States.”

WSOP.com marked this “monumental” event by running a $1 million guaranteed online tournament series available to players in New Jersey and Nevada.

The excitement for the online game continued through to the Series with four online bracelet events on the schedule, three of which included guaranteed prize pools, a feature not commonly associated with WSOP events.

All three of the online events easily surpassed their guarantees and the one event without a guarantee (the $565 WSOP.com ONLINE 6-Handed Pot-Limit Omaha event) produced the first player to win a WSOP online bracelet from New Jersey.

The Future of Shared Liquidity

If the DOJ moves forward with plans to enforce the Wire Act under its latest opinion, it could mean the end of shared liquidity in online poker in the US, but currently the DOJ has not provided any additional clarity on its broad sweeping reversal and has not issued any enforcement guidelines.

As a result of the uncertainty surrounding the department’s position on enforcement, it is unclear whether the 2019 WSOP online bracelet events will include players from New Jersey.

The final decision will likely be out of the hands of tournament organizers with high ranking corporate executives likely to make the final call if Nevada gaming regulators don’t step in and make it for them.

Strong opposition to the DOJ’s position on internet gambling began to mount this week with push back coming from the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries (NASPL) and the Attorneys General from New Jersey and Pennsylvania.