WSOP's Keystone Classic guarantees $500,000 over the course of 21 events

WSOP Employs A Tournament-Heavy Strategy In Pennsylvania, Even In The Absence Of Interstate Traffic Sharing

It’s been barely a month since launched in Pennsylvania. Nonetheless, the site is already in the midst of its second special tournament series.

WSOP joined PokerStars, BetMGM and Borgata Poker in the Keystone State with a full launch on July 15. This followed the state-standard three-day soft launch testing period, during which the site operated with limited hours.

Of those sites, PokerStars has been around far longer than the others, having launched in November 2019. BetMGM and Borgata, which are skins on a single network, beat WSOP to the market by only a few months, arriving in late April.

That’s left WSOP with some catching up to do, and without the help of its primary advantage: Interstate traffic sharing. The ability to play against opponents in Nevada and Delaware has given it a dominant position in New Jersey, but other states like Pennsylvania and Michigan have not yet done the regulatory work needed to make that possible. Its July revenue was less than $250,000, less than BetMGM’s, but this was all in the latter half of the month of course. When this month’s numbers come in, it will almost certainly be the second-place operator, though far behind PokerStars.

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Fortunately, WSOP has a second advantage, which is its name and its reputation as a live tournament brand. Its strategy in Pennsylvania seems to be to focus on this, starting with the Pennsylvania Online Bracelet Series shortly after launch. It has now doubled down on that with what it calls the Keystone Classic, a series of 21 events which got underway on Sunday. The series guarantees $500,000 and wraps up on Monday, Aug 31. in total.

The Main Event will take place this coming Sunday and features a $100 buy-in and a $100,000 guarantee.

Pennsylvania Online Bracelet Series recap

One of the reasons WSOP’s tournaments are so popular is the WSOP bracelets and Circuit rings they sometimes award. There aren’t very many things other than money that poker players care about winning.

Online operators have mostly given up trying to offer any kind of trophy. PokerStars, for instance, discontinued WCOOP bracelets in 2016. Players still care about WPT and EPT titles for Main Events, but aside from those, the hunt for WSOP bracelets and rings is a phenomenon that’s unmatched elsewhere in the poker world.

Surprisingly, there hasn’t been much debate as to whether the eight Pennsylvania bracelets count as “real” WSOP bracelets. Restricted entry events at the live series like the Casino Employees, Ladies and Seniors events sometimes get the side eye in this regard. However, no one – or at least not Pennsylvanians themselves – seems to have minded the limited field for these. They were simply excited to be able to play for a bracelet from the comfort of their own homes, in their own state.

All told, the eight events pulled in nearly $1.5 million. By comparison, this year’s Pennsylvania Spring Championship of Online Poker (PASCOOP) at PokerStars brought in $2.6 million, but over the course of 123 events. The per-event average of the WSOP bracelet series was about nine times higher than PASCOOP, showing the power of those bracelets.

Of course, the buy-ins were higher too, starting from $400 and ranging up to a $3,200 High Roller. Some PASCOOP events charged as low as $10 for an entry. The average field size for a WSOP bracelet event in PA was just over 300 entries, including re-entries, and the most-attended event got 421. PASCOOP’s Main Event exceeded 800, and the Mini Main Event broke 1000.

How is WSOP stacking up in Pennsylvania to date?

If WSOP’s August performance matches July’s, we’d expect a minimum of a half-million in revenue for the full month. That’s likely to be a big underestimate, however.

Entry fees alone for the bracelet series will add six figures to WSOP’s August revenue in Pennsylvania. However, the associated increase in cash game traffic may be worth even more. Add to that whatever the site reaps from the Keystone Classic, and it might be getting close to $1 million. That’s about half of an average month for PokerStars, but well ahead of BetMGM/Borgata, which brought in less than $400,000 combined in July.

That bodes quite well for WSOP’s long-term prospects, and for the popularity of its new Poker 8 software, which hasn’t yet rolled out in other states.

If and when interstate traffic sharing arrives in Pennsylvania, that should propel it higher still. Michigan is in the process of negotiating to join the compact. Pennsylvania has been mum on the subject but will probably follow suit eventually. Of course, this will allow PokerStars and BetMGM to set up interstate networks of their own, ending WSOP’s exclusive claim to that luxury. However, only WSOP’s network will include Nevada and Delaware, so it still works in their favor.

WSOP Keystone Classic schedule

Living in Pennsylvania or just visiting? Want to play in the Keystone Classic? Here’s what the schedule looks like.

1Aug 224 p.m.Vanilla NLHE$25$25k
2Aug 226 p.m.Vanilla NLHE$100$75k
3Aug 228 p.m.Turbo Deep$50$15k
4Aug 227 p.m.PLO 6-Max$100$15k
5Aug 226 p.m.PKO$20$5k
6Aug 237 p.m.PKO$50$20k
7Aug 247 p.m.Vanilla NLHE$215$30k
8Aug 248 p.m.6-Max Tb. Deep$50$10k
9Aug 248 p.m.PLO$100$10k
10Aug 257 p.m.PKO$100$15k
11Aug 267 p.m.PKO$215$25k
12Aug 268 p.m.Turbo Deep$50$10k
13Aug 277 p.m.6-Max Turbo$100$15k
14Aug 287 p.m.8-Max Deep$100$25k
15Aug 294 p.m.Vanilla NLHE$25$25k
16Aug 295 p.m.10 for 10$10$10k
17Aug 296 p.m.Main Event$100$100k
18Aug 307 p.m.Freezeout$100$10k
19Aug 317 p.m.High Roller$500$35k
20Aug 318 p.m.PKO$215$25k
21Aug 319 p.m.PLO 6-Max$50$10k
- Alex is a journalist from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. Now site runner for Online Poker Report, he has been writing about poker and the online gambling industry in various capacities since 2014.
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