Lou Kreiger asks on cardplayer.com, How big can the World Series of Poker become? From modest beginnings in 1970 the World Championship Event with a $10,000 buy-in saw 839 entrants in 2003 and a staggering 2576 in 2004.
In case you've been hibernating on a deserted island with Robinson Crusoe or the cast of Survivor and haven't heard the news, last year's event marked the coming of the online gaming community into poker's premier event. When a 27-year-old accountant by the name of Chris Moneymaker parlayed a $40 entry fee in an online satellite event into a $2.5 million payday when he won the 2003 World Series of Poker, it helped set the poker world on its ear.
If the first few days of next year's event are moved to another Harrah's property, such as the Rio, you can expect attendance for the final event to dwarf what you saw here. After all, the Horseshoe ran headlong into space restrictions, but the Rio has a convention center, and the event could easily accommodate many more players. Perhaps the player base, lured by TV coverage and a bigger facility, will double. Maybe it will even triple. Can you imagine a poker tournament with 5,000 entrants? How about 8,000? It's all quite possible.
Poker's riding the crest of a tidal wave right now, and this is just the beginning. Most of the game's growth was fueled by TV and the increasing popularity of Internet poker, along with the compelling human-interest story of Chris Moneymaker. In achieving his dream, he democratized poker and showed its accessibility to everyone who sat up and took notice.