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4. For two reasons, the WSOP is dipping slightly in popularity.

If you were at the Rio in Las Vegas this summer, you would never think that the WSOP is having any popularity issues. There were more games and tables than ever before. However, behind the scenes the reality is that the festival isn’t quite living up to its potential. There are two primary reasons for this, both of them outside of the control of WSOP organizers.

First, there’s no more online poker in the U.S. This year, a majority of European countries sent fewer players to participate in the WSOP Main Event. I would speculate that the primary reason for this is due to players being unable to access the biggest online poker games from the United States.

The U.S. prohibition on poker has impacted how appealing the WSOP is to foreigners. One high-stakes playing French friend of mine stayed home during the WSOP this year. His reasoning? He didn’t want to abandon his access to the high stakes online games he is so profitable in. Being able to play in the WSOP just wasn’t worth it to him if it meant not being able to play online poker as well.

The second reason is that due to the poker prohibition in the U.S., there are no longer any significant sponsorship overlays for participating in the WSOP. Players used to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars for wearing a “patch” of an online poker room at the WSOP Main Event Final Table. I once received $5,000 just for appearing on ESPN briefly while wearing a Full Tilt Poker patch (see picture). Easiest money I’ve ever made!

Now, there is no longer nearly as much sponsorship money to be made in the poker prohibition U.S. culture. This has severely diminished the appeal of the WSOP to players like myself who rely on the expected equity of sponsorship money to justify the expense of playing in the WSOP.

When there is legal poker in the U.S. once again, I expect both the game of poker in general as well as the WSOP to experience a dramatic spike in popularity. It’s pretty incredible that the WSOP has remained as popular as it has in the face of a global economic recession and the U.S. government’s war on poker.

If you have any specific questions about the WSOP, I would be happy to answer them as best I can in the comments section below.

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