Expanded WSOPE set to begin in London on Friday

18 September 2008

The prize pool and number of entrants at the second annual World Series of Poker Europe that began Friday won't come close to matching that of the more established WSOP that's played each summer in Las Vegas. But that doesn't mean winning a bracelet in London rather than on U.S. soil has any less significance.

Just ask Norway's Annette Obrestad.

Annette_Obrestad

Defending WSOPE Main Event champion Annette Obrestad. (photo by Gary Trask/Casino City)

By winning the Main Event last year, Obrestad not only became the first woman to do so, but at 18 years old the Norwegian also earned the title of youngest bracelet winner in WSOP history and youngest Main Event champ. In turn, she is now considered one of the biggest and brightest stars in the poker world. (Click here to read our interview with Obrestad in Las Vegas during the WSOP in July.)

So will this year's WSOPE produce another unknown champion? Or will some more established players take home bracelets? That remains to be seen. But as of Monday evening, it's looking pretty good for the established stars. Denmark's Jesper Hougaard won £144,218 in Event #1, a £1,500 No-Limit Hold'em tournament. Hougaard won a bracelet earlier this summer in a $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em tournament (Event #36) at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.

Event #1 was one of two big changes to the WSOPE format this year. Last year there were three events and they were spread out among three different casinos. This year, the WSOP has added the three-day tournament Hougaard won – and all of the events will be played under one roof in the Casino at the Empire in Leicester Square. Event #2 begins Sept. 22 and is a three-day £2,500 - H.O.R.S.E. event. The third event is a three-day £5,000 Pot Limit Omaha tournament while the five-day £10,000 No-Limit Hold'em Main Event begins on Sept. 27. The Main Event's final table will be played on Thursday, Oct. 3.

What's more, ESPN has committed to airing eight original hours of the WSOPE in the U.S. ESPN360, meanwhile, will provide live coverage in the U.S., Europe, Mexico and Brazil. Harrah's Entertainment will distribute the programming in non-ESPN markets, which in 2007 totaled more than 100 million households, including U.K. host broadcaster Sky Sports.

WSOP Commissioner said that the decision to enhance this year's schedule was made to help "meet the growing demand of poker in Europe."

"If this year's World Series of Poker in Las Vegas is any indication, the level of tournament play is increasing worldwide and we expect WSOPE to be hotly contested," Pollack added.

Last year, all three of the bracelet winners were non-American players. In addition to Obrestad's landmark victory, Germany's Thomas Bihl took the first bracelet in the £2,500 H.O.R.S.E event, defeating Jennifer Harman, to claim the £70,875 first prize. Italy's Dario Alioto emerged victorious in the £5k Pot-limit Omaha tournament and earned a £234,390 payday for outlasting 164 opponents over two days.

As for Obrestad, the online prodigy won the inaugural Main Event the day before her 19th birthday after outlasting 361 players in the £10,000 No Limit Main Event and won £1,000,000 ($2,013,734). By comparison, this year's WSOP in Las Vegas drew 6,844 entrants and had a total prize pool of a $64,333,600 with $9.1 million going to first place.

Shortly after this historical win Obrestad signed an endorsement deal with BetFair, the title sponsor for the WSOPE, and then came close to a second major live title in November 2007 at the EPT Dublin, finishing in second place and earning €297,800 ($431,184). Her earnings in 2007 came to a staggering $2.5 million.

Some of the bigger names in poker are once again expected to be in London beginning Friday, including former WSOP Main Event champions Phil Hellmuth and Chris Ferguson. Also, three members of the WSOP final table that will be played in November – Ivan Demidov, Peter Eastgate and David Rheem – are also scheduled to be in London for the event.

Online casino PaddyPower has posted odds for the WSOPE Main Event and lists Negreanu, Hansen, Ivey and Patrik Antonius as the favorites at 33-to-1. Twenty-eight players are posted at 40-to-1. Hellmuth and Obrestad are listed among a group of eight players at 66-to-1.


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