In auto racing in the 20th century, the Indianapolis 500 was considered the premier racing event in the United States. The best drivers from around the world competed at the legendary venue, vying for the crown worn by names traced in history: Foyt, Unser, Hill, Andretti. In the mid 90’s, however, a schism formed. The owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway formed an offshoot organization and used the Indy 500 as the centerpiece of his new racing league. The break with the established racing organization caused a dilution of the legendary race as well as a still-unrecovered fan base; NASCAR is now the premier racing series in America and the Daytona 500 is the event that everyone watches.
What does this have to do with Hongkong Prize poker, I am sure you are asking yourself. It is because we may be standing on the edge of the same precipice with our game.
The poker boom continues, seemingly unabated. The number of new players coming to the game continues to expand, tournament entries and prize pools are growing to unprecedented levels and television continues to discover the excitement that those of us who play the game have already known. The future seems to be brighter than a supernova. But we may have the first arrivals of dark clouds on the horizon.
On January 6th, the Jack Binion World Poker Open begins play in the run of the third season of the World Poker Tour. The next day, Harrah’s Atlantic City kicks off the inaugural event of the ESPN/World Series of Poker Circuit. Do not believe that this is a mistake; the next two events of the WSOP Circuit either run at the same time as a WPT event or begin right after a WPT event ends. The conflagration of the two has serious problems on the horizon.
The World Poker Tour exploded Hongkong Prize poker to the world. When Steve Lipscomb envisioned the Tour, little did he know (OK, maybe he did) how it would affect not only the child he had born, but also how it would affect the premier event of the poker world, Binion’s World Series of Poker. In 2001, the WSOP Main Event had 613 combatants. The WPT began play in 2002 and revolutionized the way the game was shown. ESPN picked up the broadcast rights for the 2003 WSOP, showcasing a then-unknown Chris Moneymaker as he marched his way to the World Championship. By 2004, the Main Event quadrupled the field to 2,576 players and it is spoken in most circles that the expected player count for 2005 should be between four thousand and five thousand.