Earlier this week, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and international online poker site GGPoker announced they were partnering up.
Together, the two will bring a second WSOP Online Super Circuit to the international poker community. Few additional details accompanied the announcement of the series that will start in early May and award 18 gold rings.
It’s surprising news, marking the first time WSOP has worked with the GGNetwork. The brand has a long-standing US alliance with 888 Poker, which provides the platform that powers the WSOP online poker rooms in New Jersey and Nevada.
Executive Director Ty Stewart said WSOP is “thrilled to partner with an operator on the rise who is both aggressive and passionate about growing poker engagement around the world.” Stewart made special mention of GGPoker’s “vast reach.”
At least officially, the fate of this summer’s 2020 WSOP is still up in the air. In the meantime, however, the company has canceled numerous stops on its live WSOP Circuit.
The concept of an Online Super Circuit was borne out of those cancellations. WSOP announced the first such series on March 13, the same day that it revealed that it was putting live Circuit events on hold.
That series proved to be a smash success. Every event at least doubled its guarantee, and the series as a whole brought in more that triple its combined guarantees. The Main Event prize pool reached $567,000, one of the largest single-flight online event prize pools yet seen in the US online poker market.
WSOP followed up on that success by expanding its annual Spring Championships to 100 events and $4 million in guarantees, a US market record.
Casino closures have driven online poker traffic to new heights everywhere, not just in the US. Player counts for major international sites are hitting levels not seen in nearly a decade.
The live WSOP Circuit includes European stops, some of which have also been cancelled. It’s therefore not surprising that it would want to run an online series for international players. We probably haven’t seen the end of special online series for US players either.
WSOP is entering new territory through this partnership with GGPoker.
On the surface, 888 would have been the obvious choice to host an international Super Circuit online. The two companies have a preexisting relationship, and they just finished running a similar series on their joint US network.
The popularity of 888 in the international poker market has been on the decline, however, while GGPoker is up and coming.
The latter has made a concerted push to establish itself as a go-to site for tournament professionals. It signed its first ambassador, high roller specialist Bryn Kenney, around the same time it began offering its own high roller tournaments.
Though it has no US presence and is essentially unknown to American players, its aggressive expansion and high profile in Western Europe should make GGPoker a valuable partner for WSOP.
Creating an online series to award Circuit rings has proven to be a good alternative for the cancelled live events. There’s been some speculation that something similar might be in the works for the summer series.
WSOP has remained mum about its plans for the summer, waiting to see how the crisis develops. It’s unlikely that it will move the entire series online in the US, however.
The schedule, which the WSOP released in February, includes 14 online bracelet events — 15% of the total. Both the number of online bracelet events and their attendance have skyrocketed over the years, but that growth relies on players from around the world who congregate in Las Vegas each summer.
Playing on WSOP/888 requires that players be physically present in Nevada, New Jersey or Delaware. Even if the duo launches in Pennsylvania before the summer (which seems unlikely) it won’t be part of that multi-state poker compact.
And, of course, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic puts leisure travel in doubt for the bulk of 2020.
One way or another, there will surely be more special series on WSOP/888 and GGPoker as long as casinos remain closed. Without a unified global platform to host it, however, the live series is more likely to be cancelled than moved online.