Top prize at World Series of Poker nears $9M with time left to enter; prize pool tops $68M

By Oskar Garcia, AP
Thursday, July 8, 2010

Top prize at World Series of Poker nears $9M

LAS VEGAS — The top prize at the World Series of Poker neared $9 million on Thursday as the main event reached its second-most entries ever.

More than 2,300 players entered the no-limit Texas Hold ‘em tournament on the last day to buy in for $10,000, pushing the tournament past 7,200 total players with registration open until its fifth hour of play.

“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 a more than $68 million 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 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 will have more than 10 percent more entrants than last year, but will fall short of the field of 8,773 seen in 2006. Jamie Gold won that tournament for $12 million.

Alexander said he thinks the increase 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.

Tournament officials this year expanded tournament space and steered players toward earlier starting days. 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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