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WCOOP Surpasses $10 million Guarantee

29 September 2006

The PokerStars.com World Championships of Online Poker (WCOOP) cash prizes exceeded the guaranteed prize of $10 million with four tournaments remaining, putting the online poker room on pace to hand out nearly $20 million.

More than 23,000 players have competed in the series so far, making it the largest online tournament series ever.

The series has also seen its first repeat winners. Spawng, a 2005 WCOOP bracelet winner, won the 2006 No-Limit Hold'em Match Play Event # 4, while kwob20 won two events this year, grabbing titles in Omaha High-Low and Seven-Card Stud High-Low tournaments.

Final Results

1st Place: area23JC
Prize: $650,042

2nd Place: Hannibalrex
Prize: $400,581

3rd Place: Lefort
Prize: $417,734

4th Place: GODFATHER 72
Prize: $540,793

5th Place: Numie2
Prize: $600,042

6th Place: DEEZZZ_NUTS
Prize: $353,164

7th Place: Annette_15
Prize: $163,150

8th Place: milkybarkid
Prize: $119,225

9th Place: Serb2127
Prize: $72,065

With four events remaining, including the $3 million guaranteed Main Event, the WCOOP has easily become the premier online series and has participation and prize numbers comparable to the world's largest live or online tournaments.

"The WCOOP grows every year," said Poker Stars Director of Communication Nolan Dalla. "A few years ago, the WCOOP was the fourth-largest poker tournament overall in the world (behind only the World Series of Poker, World Poker Open, and LA Poker Classic), and was on the verge of becoming the second-largest in terms of player numbers and prize money. At the end of this year's event, we will have updated figures and see if the WCOOP is second only to the WSOP. It will be close."

One unique element of the series and other major online tournaments is the ability to make final table deals. In large live tournaments like the WSOP and the WPT, players battle it out until the end, earning their prizes based solely on how they finish. At the WCOOP, players are allowed to make deals for the final table prize pool with a stipulation that $10,000-to-$20,000 be left on the table for the winner. In 2006, nearly every final table has seen a deal, with one event evenly splitting the pot six-ways.

"We believe that this tournament belongs to the players. It is their money," Dalla said. "They are free to make their own decisions and make deals. However, we do require that players leave a certain amount of prize money in the pool when competing for first-place. This is necessary to protect the integrity of the WCOOP championships. The winner will have earned the title."

In addition to the lucrative prize money, event winners receive a 14-Karat gold bracelet. Dalla said the bracelet is the online version of poker's most prestigious land-based trophy.

A serious growth spurt

The WCOOP began five years ago with 2452 players vying for a then record online prize pool of $799,050. This year's No-Limit Hold'em Event #2 drew 4,495 players all by itself.

The series has at least doubled in size every year since its inception. The largest jumps occurred from 2003 to 2004 and 2004 to 2005, when Poker Stars online qualifiers Chris Moneymaker and Greg "Fossilman" Raymer won the WSOP Main Event.

Although the increased participation is staggering, the most impressive growth statistic is the prize money. The winner of the 2006 WCOOP Main Event is expected to pocket nearly twice as much as the all of the 2002 WCOOP winners combined.

The only Internet site with a comparable tournament series is Party Poker. But even their Monster freeroll tournaments, which boasts a total prize pool of more than $30 million, is not set up to be a championship series. Monster tournament winners get serious cash, but WCOOP champions get gold bracelets and Internet fame.

"There are many fine events hosted by sites other than Poker Stars," Dalla said. "But nothing in online poker compares to the prize money and prestige of winning a WCOOP event and gold bracelet.

The most prestigious WCOOP tournament is the Main Event. This year's version is slated to kick-off at Sunday at 4:30 p.m. EST. The $2,600 buy-in may keep some players from entering, but Poker Stars runs satellites daily and the poker room expects to see more than 2,000 players. That figure would boost the prize pool to more than $5 million.

Poker Stars made several changes to 2006 series. For the first time, WCOOP competitors were able to play in Razz and H.O.R.S.E tournaments, with one of the main draws being Saturday's Event # 16, a $5,000 H.O.R.S.E event. Banking on seeing the same amount of success the WSOP had with their $50,000 H.O.R.S.E tournament, Poker Stars is hoping the prize pool exceeds their $100,000 guarantee.

"This is the fifth year of the WCOOP. It is now establishing a tradition," Dalla said. "Within a few more years, we expect this tournament to develop a sense of history that compares to the WSOP. However, the WCOOP is truly unique -- since it has an even greater worldwide level of interest. Our event is the most international competition in all of poker. Players have registered from 188 different countries."

Poker Stars is broadcasting radio shows during each final table and allowing an unlimited number of observers to watch the tournament. Raymer, Moneymaker, 2005 WSOP Main Event Champion Joe Hachem, Barry Greenstein and 1984 WSOP Main Event Champion Tom McEvoy are among the stars providing commentary for the WCOOP.

"For a period of over two weeks, I am playing in one of the biggest poker tournament series in the world," Raymer said. "Despite the fact that every player is sitting in his or her own home, and that we live in places all over the world, we all get to play one another for millions of dollars. It is simply amazing that I can play simultaneously against players from the United States, Europe, Asia, and everywhere else."

Dalla said anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 observers log on to watch the WCOOP events. While table chat is limited to those who can afford the tournament buy-ins, observers are allowed to talk with the players, including the professionals who are competing in all the events. Raymer, always the poker ambassador, takes the time to answer the hundreds of questions observers continue to fire at him.

Poker Stars professionals Raymer, Moneymaker, Hachem, McEvoy and Greenstein join other known professionals Humberto Brenes, Isabelle "No Mercy" Mercier, Victor Ramdin, William Chen and Cliff "JohnnyBax" Josephy in the player fields as well. In Event # 14, a Seven-Card Stud High-Low tournament, Brenes, Raymer, Greenstein and McEvoy all finished in the money, with Raymer carrying the pro flag by finishing 19th.

For Raymer, the best part about competing in a major online tournament series is the fact that he never has to leave his native North Carolina.

"When I take a bad beat and get knocked out, I can go upstairs and get a kiss and hug from my daughter, and then help her do her homework," Raymer said.

Poker Stars encourages their professionals to play in the tournaments because their presence increases the event's prestige and drawing power.

"All of the events generate a significant amount of attention. However, when stars are involved, the interest in the event is higher," Dalla said. "A few months ago, Greg Raymer had the chip lead at the Poker Stars Sunday Million, and ended up finishing second. While he was playing, many poker message boards and forums picked up that Raymer was in the lead. This fueled great interest in the tournament and inflated the observer numbers. However, in the main event final table, we expect tens of thousands to be watching at any given time. It is quite possible that this year's WCOOP main event will have more live viewers than any poker tournament in history"


Mucking McLane
WCOOP Surpasses $10 million Guarantee is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Ryan McLane
Ryan McLane

Ryan McLane was a poker reporter for Casino City. Although he has a strong background in reporting, the same can't be said for his poker skills. He has never won a major tournament nor is he a professional player. He applied for this job thinking it was a joke, only to find it out that it's true, people will pay you to write about poker. His favorite word is ridiculous.

After receiving his BA in History from Stonehill College in Easton, MA, he somehow ended up freelance reporting for a couple years before being deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom III with the Massachusetts National Guard. He's back now and is a strong advocate of the phrase "God Bless America."

Currently, Ryan lives in Boston and occasionally makes international treks to cover tournament poker and news. Feature writing is his passion and there is no need to ask for his opinion, he'll probably offer it first - free of charge.
Ryan McLane
Ryan McLane was a poker reporter for Casino City. Although he has a strong background in reporting, the same can't be said for his poker skills. He has never won a major tournament nor is he a professional player. He applied for this job thinking it was a joke, only to find it out that it's true, people will pay you to write about poker. His favorite word is ridiculous.

After receiving his BA in History from Stonehill College in Easton, MA, he somehow ended up freelance reporting for a couple years before being deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom III with the Massachusetts National Guard. He's back now and is a strong advocate of the phrase "God Bless America."

Currently, Ryan lives in Boston and occasionally makes international treks to cover tournament poker and news. Feature writing is his passion and there is no need to ask for his opinion, he'll probably offer it first - free of charge.