WSOP Aims To Break Entry Record; Michigan Online Poker Can Help

WSOP Aims To Break Entry Record; Michigan Online Poker Can Help
By Bill Ordine
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

The 54th Annual World Series of Poker starts May 30 with a run that goes through July 18, at the Horseshoe Las Vegas-Paris Las Vegas casino complex on The Strip.

The top poker honchos are pretty clear about one of their main goals for the tournament, for which Michigan residents can try to qualify using the WSOP Michigan promo code to enter.

In 2006, the Main Event set a record for attendance in that specific tournament. Total Main Event participants that year were 8,773, a record that has stood for 16 years. WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart wants to set a new record.

Bear in mind, the Main Event, which is the $10,000 buy-in Texas Hold’em World Championship, is just one tournament among many in the World Series of Poker. The 2023 schedule lists 95 tournaments.

But the Main Event, July 3-17, is the headliner. And, fair or not, the attendance at the Main Event takes on outsized importance.

Breaking Record Has Been Elusive For WSOP

That number of 8,773 has been an elusive target for the WSOP. Last year, there were 8,663 runners in the Main Event, falling just short of the high-water mark.

The 2006 field was swelled by internet poker being at its zenith. However, as federal government actions in late 2006 and again in 2011 chilled online poker, the number of WSOP Main Event entrants fell and poker in general has been adversely impacted.

However, with legalized internet poker making a slow comeback in a handful of U.S. states, including online poker in Michigan, the WSOP Main Event might finally set a new record for participation this year.

How 2023 WSOP Qualifying Works, the online arm of Caesars Entertainment’s poker program, has been running tournaments that will let players qualify for live WSOP action in Las Vegas. The online qualifying tournaments are being held in Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Nevada. There are also live qualifying tournaments being held in the U.S., and internationally.

Stewart estimated that the Main Event will get at least 300 players just from online qualifiers in the four states where is running internet satellites.

Online poker can be vital to the overall health of the game. So Stewart was asked on May 17 during a virtual WSOP press conference about whether the legalization of poker could follow a path blazed by the successful legalization of online sports betting in many states, including on MI sports betting apps.

To date, in most states, poker has been tethered to other online casino games when advocates have sought legalization in state legislatures. That association has hurt poker.

Michigan Online Casino Among Few iGaming States

Apart from online casino Michigan outlets, only five other states (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware and Connecticut) have legalized iGaming. One state, Nevada, has legalized internet poker only.

“I would agree … (there has been) dramatic acceleration for sports wagering. That’s been wonderful to see for the industry and everyone that’s interested in sports betting,” Stewart said. “We’re hopeful that the same sort of efforts could be made for poker. I would only say that Caesars (Entertainment) is absolutely dedicated to the future of online poker and Caesars is very active in lobbying for increased regulations in additional states. 

“Any time there is potential, I’ll tell you we are on the side of promotion for it. Has it gone slower than we had hoped with some defeats in New York and Indiana and other places? Yes, it has. But we’re still very optimistic over time. We’re in the early innings of the future of online poker … so I would reinforce that we’re absolutely on the side of promoting legislation into additional states.”

Caesars also operates the Caesars online casino MI along with sports wagering.

Chris Moneymaker On What Poker Needs

One participant in the pre-WSOP press conference was the best advertisement possible for online poker as a catalyst for poker in general: 2003 Main Event champion Chris Moneymaker.

In 2003, Moneymaker qualified for the Main Event through an $86 online satellite tournament. He went on to win the Texas Hold’em title and $2.5 million and he was immortalized on ESPN telecasts that ran dozens of times.

“I’ve been trying to lobby for (legalized online poker) I don’t know how many years,” Moneymaker said.

“Most of the politicians, it’s hard for them to distinguish between internet poker and casino games. They’re still asking, are we still counting cards in poker?” Moneymaker said in illustrating the naivete of lawmakers as they confuse poker with a blackjack strategy. In addition to online poker, Michigan live dealer blackjack is available.

“They don’t really understand the difference,” Moneymaker continued. “So that’s No. 1, it’s been difficult getting people to understand there’s a difference between poker and blackjack and the other iGaming things. And the other thing is … when you talk about the money that’s generated in sports gambling versus poker. Sports gambling just produces so much more tax revenue. In poker, we started out in some of the smaller states. Poker is a game where you have to have mass quantities of people playing to really realize the tax revenues from that. When you’re doing it in states where you’re having 1,000 players, or even 300 players or whatever it is, you’re not (getting a big enough) prize pool … When you’re talking to politicians, they’re looking at the numbers.”

Focus on Regulations Important For Poker

Going back a decade or so, the assumption was that if internet gambling were ever legalized in the United States, poker would be the game to flourish on sites such as Michigan casino apps. Instead, as Moneymaker put it, “it’s crawled more than anyone imaged over the last 12 years.”

Stewart said that Moneymaker was exactly correct in identifying legislation as the key.

“It really is about regulations presently,” Stewart said. “The interest in the game is there, and when we get more favorable regulations for online poker in particular, it’s going to let a lot of the players that are interested in playing in an event like the World Series of Poker to do so.”

Keep following us at GreatLakesStakes for updates on the WSOP as well as other online options that players can participate in using our best Michigan casino bonuses.



A longtime reporter and editor who began writing on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened, Bill covered the world Series of Poker and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for a decade.

Cited by leading media organizations, such as:

Scroll to top