During a media call, officials from the World Series of Poker provided a preview of their ambitious plans to merge the live WSOP experience with the online poker experience available at WSOP.com.
This year will mark the first WSOP where online play is also available at WSOP.com. Legal online poker launched in Nevada in April of last year when Ultimate Poker opened its doors, but WSOP.com didn’t enter the market until September of 2013.
So how will the live / online crossover look in practice? A few highlights from the call follow.
According to Bill Rini, head of online poker at WSOP.com, players will be able to deposit into their online accounts at the live cashier by the start of the WSOP. There will apparently be some dedicated lines solely for the purposes of funding an online account, but it sounds like players will also be able to make deposits at the general cage.
Players will also be able to cash out from their accounts at the cage, but not at the opening of the Series. Rini said that withdrawals will roll out “shortly after” deposits.
To encourage players to deposit during the Series, WSOP.com will be offering a 100% up to $1000 first deposit and reload bonus. Terms and starting date for this bonus are not yet available.
Players will be able to take their shot at winning a Main Event seat on WSOP.com in a variety of ways with a variety of price tags. Rini said he anticipated another 100 or so Main Event seats being awarded between now and the start of the Main Event.
A big chunk of that number will come during the Main Event Scramble on July 5th, which is guaranteeing 25 seats. But Rini indicated that satellites of nearly every flavor – including $5k heads-up SNG satellites – would be available on WSOP.com.
In addition to Main Event seats, WSOP.com will also be running a series of next-day satellites online. These satellites will target events scheduled to run at the Rio the following day and will run for a number of events.
The full schedule is expected to be released on May 25th.
One of the more interesting initiatives revealed during the media call was the so-called “Grind Room” that WSOP will be making available to players at the Rio. The room will be equipped with computers, separate WiFi, power banks and other amenities meant to encourage players to take a break from live poker … by playing some online poker.
WSOP.com will also be running online events timed to coincide with the live action at the WSOP. For example, you’ll be able to play turbo tournaments online scheduled to line up with the dinner breaks built in to the live tournaments at the Rio. And the High Roller Series at WSOP.com is designed to provide a little extra action for those who roll into town during the opening week of the Series.
One final point of note on this topic: In response to a question, WSOP officials clarified that players are welcome to bring their laptops or other devices to their table to squeeze in a few hands online between hands at the Rio. The only relevant rule is that players cannot be on the device while they’re in a live hand.
I asked WSOP officials if there had been any talk of a live/ online hybrid event for the 2014 World Series of Poker. WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart said there had been quite a bit of consideration given to that sort of tournament, and that we may even see a bracelet event structured in that manner in the future.
But then Stewart made an additional comment, saying that “you never know” about hybrid tournaments and noting that the WSOP has a history of making “surprise announcements.”
So there may well be something in the works that ties the online and live experiences at the WSOP even more closely together.