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Poker News: January 31, 2007

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Copyright © 2007 Southwest Iowa News

HEADLINE: World Series of Poker lands in Bluffs

It's billed as the world's "richest sporting event," and Council Bluffs is its home for the next 10 days.

A World Series of Poker circuit event, projected to have a $1 million pool, opened Monday with its major kick-off at Horseshoe Casino. About 550 players took part in the $300 buy-in No-Limit Hold'em event that filled 30 tables in the Whiskey Roadhouse and 18 more in the Horseshoe's poker room.

The winner of the Feb. 7 championship event claims a seat at the 2007 World Series of Poker in Las Vegas in July and $1,000 plus the Main Event top prize that will be determined by the number of entrants who buy-in to register for each event. Harrah's owns the World Series of Poker brand and Horseshoe Casino.

The circuit event, one of 12 such qualifying tournaments, includes a seminar on effective tournament strategies hosted by world-class poker player and television commentator Phil Gordon, set for 11 a.m. Saturday.

WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack was at Horseshoe Casino Monday to help launch the local event. That's something he doesn't do for every tournament.

"This is a very special opening for us," Pollack said. "We're thrilled to bring the World Series of Poker here."

The World Series of Poker has become a highly visible event in recent years, as poker has exploded, a development Pollack largely credits to television's impact.

Pollack, a 42-year-old New Jersey native with a background in sports marketing that includes a stint as broadcast manager for NASCAR and as the NBA's vice president of marketing, feels this game will continue on its upward path.

In 2006, WSOP extended its deal with ESPN, something he calls similar to what the cable network is doing with the major pro sports leagues.

"We're doing all the things you'd expect any global sports business to do to expand its market," Pollack said.

That includes WSOP offerings to AOL subscribers and Miller Brewing signed on as the primary event sponsor. Pollack said Harrah's is part of the Council Bluffs community, and bringing the WSOP here is part of his grassroots marketing effort.

"Poker in the Heartland. You don't get much more grassroots than that," he said.

Contrary to what casual fans may believe, WSOP is not a new event.

"I talk about us as a 38-year-old start up," Pollack said. Television, as he said, and improved marketing have changed everything.

Most of the next week's events are qualifying for the circuit championship events that begin with a $5,150 buy-in No Limit Texas Hold'em Championship next Monday that concludes two days later. Pollack said a 2008 return is at the discretion of local management, but he appeared optimistic that WSOP and CB will be linked for some time to come.

"If it does well this year, I'm certain we'll be back," he said.

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