US Players often skip WSOP Europe
Americans have never turned up for WSOP Europe events in droves and they won’t this year either. The WSOP first made the trip across the Atlantic in 2007. However, entry numbers have never been anything to write home about. Perhaps that’s why they started rotating annually with the other fledgling WSOP expansion effort, the World Series of Poker Asia Pacific. Last year they appeared to give up on both.
However, a plan to revive WSOP Europe was announced in October 2016. That’s when organizers announced the series had found a new home for 2017 and beyond at King’s Casino Rozvadov.
At the time, even WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart admitted the multi-year deal, which aims to see King’s host numerous WSOP-branded events, was more about buying into casino owner Leon Tsoukernik‘s vision than growing the WSOP brand outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Leon Tsoukernik’s vision
Tsoukernik’s ambitious vision includes turning the tiny town of Rozvadov into the Las Vegas of Europe. This despite the fact it is literally in the middle of nowhere and has a population of around 820 people.
Tsoukernik has certainly built the biggest poker room in Europe there. Of course, Europe was previously a continent better known for having some of the world’s smallest. Over the past 18 months, it seems like every European poker series that is, ever was, or ever will be, has been trotted through the property. All this in an effort to convince the world King’s is the home of poker across the pond.
It only makes sense that Tsoukernik would want the WSOP next. One can’t really call itself the Las Vegas of anywhere without it.
But the truth is that Stewart and his team of WSOP yes men are probably the only group of Americans really buying into Tsoukernik’s vision.
King’s underwent an expansion in the lead up to the WSOP Europe kick off. They added 1,800 square-meters of casino space with 40 more poker tables, making the total almost 200. A 218-room hotel with three floors of four-star accommodations and a fourth with 18 five-star luxury suites was also built.
WSOP Europe numbers start small
However, if the first day of the first event on the WSOP Europe schedule is any indication, the vacancy sign will stay lit throughout.
The first tournament is the €1,100 No-Limit Hold’em Monster Stack. On Thursday, the first starting flight drew just 90 entries. To put that in perspective, the first starting flight for the 2017 WSOP $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em Monster Stack event in Las Vegas drew 2,676 entries. In fact, it edged out last year’s 2,420.
WSOP Europe is probably only a slight favorite to draw over 2,676 entries throughout all 11 events. It’s doubtful that Tsoukernik, who has recently appeared in more stories featuring accusations he welshed on a pair of multi-million dollar gambling debts than anything highlighting his efforts in Rozvadov, envisioned that.
Watering down the bracelet
By filling up the annual Las Vegas schedule to the point where it’s about to burst — There was a record 74 bracelet events held this year — The WSOP has been watering down the value of the once-vaunted WSOP bracelet for years. Adding 11 more in Rozvadov is just another drop in the bucket. It’s not likely to change anyone’s mind about anything either way.
In other words, the number and the small size of the events, make it hard for anyone to care about WSOP Europe.
The WSOP Player of the Year race
If Americans were looking for something to get invested in at WSOP Europe this year, the WSOP Player of the Year race might be it. The events at WSOP Europe will count towards determining the 2017 WSOP Player of the Year and, as it happens, the award is now being sponsored by King’s.
Several high profile players who put themselves in contention for the title in Las Vegas this summer, including Daniel Negreanu, have been highly critical of the new points system used this year. The complaint is it over-values the min-cash in large events and under-values deep runs in smaller $10,000 Championship Level events.
Partly as a result, Negreanu has decided to skip WSOP Europe. Others have joined him. However, the clubhouse leader has turned up in Rozvadov. This comes as no surprise, considering the leader after the Las Vegas leg of the 2017 WSOP was given free entry into the WSOP Europe Main Event.
POY leader Chris Ferguson and the Full Tilt Fiasco
However, it might come as a surprise that leader is former Full Tilt Poker founder and board member Chris Ferguson.
For the most part, Ferguson disappeared when Full Tilt executives were accused of turning the site into a Ponzi scheme. A scheme that bilked the poker community out of close to $450 million in 2011. Five years later, after PokerStars bailed the company out and the US Department of Justice was done giving US players most of their money back, he showed up again. Without a word to players, fans, or media, Ferguson started playing events at the 2016 WSOP. Now he’s leading the 2017 WSOP POY race.
So if you’re really looking for a rooting interest in the WSOP Europe this year, that may be one. Even if it’s just to root against Ferguson.