Top prize at World Series of Poker $8.94M with 7,319 entrants; total prize pool $68.8M

By Oskar Garcia, AP
Thursday, July 8, 2010

Top prize at World Series of Poker $8.94 million

LAS VEGAS — The top prize at the World Series of Poker main event is $8.94 million as the no-limit Texas Hold ‘em tournament reached 7,319 entrants, its second-best showing ever.

A field of 2,391 players entered poker’s richest event on Thursday, the last of four starting days to buy in for $10,000.

The total prize pool for the tournament is $68.8 million.

The main event is up 12.7 percent with 825 more players than last year, when Joe Cada won $8.55 million for first place.

Last year’s prize pool was $61 million.

“In this era, it feels like a record,” said Ty Stewart, World Series of Poker vice president. The main event’s biggest tournament was in 2006, before laws restricted Internet poker.

“I just think that the main event continues to transcend the (poker tournament) category,” Stewart said. “People are pretty obsessed these days about fame, fortune and celebrity, and that’s something that’s 100 percent guaranteed at the main event.”

Tournament director Jack Effel said 747 players will make money in the tournament.

Tournament officials this year expanded tournament space, started the tournament after the Fourth of July and steered players toward earlier starting days to avoid selling out at the last minute.

“More for my pot,” said actor Jason Alexander after finishing the first level of play with a full house.

The “Seinfeld” actor, along with NFL great Emmitt Smith, actress Shannon Elizabeth and former “The Real World” reality star Trishelle Cannatella mingled with opponents and dealers while hoping to earn some piece of the prize pool.

“I’m giving you this one — giving it to you,” Alexander told an opponent after folding to his bet. “I somehow didn’t think my ace-three off was going to hold up.”

Earlier, Cannatella high-fived a tablemate and said, “Good job,” after he won an all-in gamble.

And Emmitt Smith was warned by a dealer not to talk about hands in play after the former Cowboys running back wondered aloud whether one of his opponents had made three jacks.

The tournament fell short of the field of 8,773 seen in 2006. Jamie Gold won that tournament for $12 million.

Alexander said he thinks the increase from last year shows interest in poker didn’t wane as Americans faced tough economic conditions the past few years.

“I’m glad people are feeling like the economy’s back enough that they can do it,” Alexander said. “It wasn’t because the interest in poker went away, so I have to assume people weren’t willing to speculate.”

Lower consumer spending has particularly hurt tourism and gambling since 2008, the backbone of the Las Vegas economy.

Entries in the World Series of Poker fell after 2006, the same year federal lawmakers passed a bill restricting online gambling. The bill caused many Internet poker sites to stop accepting American players.

The tournament would likely have improved on its 2008 numbers last year, but some 500 players were unable to enter the main event on its last day because it ran out of space.

On Thursday, lines were far slower for players seeking a seat.

With roughly three hours left to enter, a tournament official announced to cash game players that a final satellite tournament was available for $1,000, with the winner getting one of the last shots at poker’s richest prize.

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