WSOPE - World Series of Poker Europe

World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE)

Having purchased the World Series of Poker brand in 2004, Harrah's poised themselves for a global presence with the acqustion of London Club International soon thereafter.  LCI operates three casinos in the London Area - The Sportsman, Fifty and Leicester Square...all of which would take part in the first steps toward making the WSOP a truly global phenomenon.

The World Series of Poker Europe is the first in what will likely be a world-wide expansion of the WSOP brand of tournaments.  Since 1970, the World Series of Poker has been awarding the highly coveted championship bracelets each summer in Las Vegas.  For the first time in its history, the WSOPE held three tournaments outside the US with events slated for September of 2007 in London, England.  “This is the first time bracelet events will be awarded outside of Las Vegas,” said Jeffrey Pollack, World Series of Poker Commissioner. “The World Series of Poker Europe will have a unique identity, style and flair, but will remain true to the 38-year tradition and heritage of the WSOP.”

“This new tournament has been designed with European players in mind, but registrants from every country are welcome,” said Pollack. “We hope it becomes an annual tradition for poker enthusiasts and a home for WSOP fans after the action concludes in Las Vegas each summer.”

The WSOPE entered a crowded field as many major poker tournaments are already established in Europe. Pollack, however, believes that brand recognition of the WSOP and that the "WSOP bracelet is the most recognized poker hardware globally will allow the WSOPE to quickly catch up."  On July 5, 2007 Harrah's announced an alliance with Betfair, one of the largest online gaming companies in the world located in England. The agreement, the largest-ever union of an online and offline gaming company, is intended to play off of Betfair's European reputation in advertising the WSOPE.

The inaugural WSOPE consisted of three events, starting with a £2,500 buy-in World Championship H.O.R.S.E. event.  The first champion was crowned on September 8th, 2007.  After three days of play, Thomas Bihl bested a star-studded field of 105 entrants to win the bracelet.  That first WSOPE final table showcased several well known poker pros including Chris Ferguson, Kirk Morrison, Joe Beevers and eventual runner-up, Jennifer Harman.  Bihl took home £70,875 and cemented his place in WSOPE history by becoming it's first-ever champion.

Event #2 of the WSOPE was a £5,000 buy-in Pot-Limit Omaha event that drew a field of 165 runners in the quest for the 2nd WSOPE bracelet.  When the chips settled on September 9th, Dario Alioto was the champion and pocketed £234,390 for his efforts.  High profile poker pros, Tony G and Andy Bloch fell short of the PLO WSOPE bracelet, finishing 3rd and 8th respectively.

The first two WSOPE events were held at LCI's newest casino in Leicester Square, which first opened for business in April 2007.  The third and final WSOPE event would be a £10,000 buyin No-Limit Texas Hold'em Championship.  362 players started the tourney with the Top 36 being the first ever to cash in the WSOPE Main Event.  The final event started on September 10th with poker players spread out over all three LCI casinos.  The seven day event would see players consolidated at Leicester Square starting on the 13th for the final stretch run.  Players started with 20,000 in tournament chips and the blind levels lasted 120 minutes each.  The final table included players from across Europe and the £1,000,000 (US$2.01 million at the time of the event) top prize and first-ever WSOPE Main Event bracelet would go to Annette Obrestad.  Better known as Annette_15 online, Obrestad would pull off the huge victory while also making history as the youngest WSOP bracelet winner ever.  On September 16th, 2007, the day before her 19th birthday, Obrestad became WSOPE's biggest winner and capped-off a hugely successful inagural series of events with her monumental win.  Runner-up was British poker player, John Tabatabai.  Tabatabai won £570,150 ($1,147,770 USD) for his second place finish in the Main Event at the WSOPE.

On the final hand of the WSOPE Main event, Obrestad had the chip lead with 3,851,000 over Tabatabai with 3,381,000.  Tabatabai in the small blind called Obrestad in the big blind, Obrestad raised the pot from 68,000 to 138,000, Tabatabai flat called bringing the pot to 208,000. The flop came 7♣ 6♣ 5♥, Obrestad lead out with a 250,000 chip bet bringing the pot to 458,000.  Tabatabai reraised an additional 750,000, Obrestad then reraised all-in and was called by Tabatabai who flopped two pair, holding 5♠ 6♦.  However Obrestad had flopped top set holding 7♥ 7♠.  Tabatabai, nearly drawing dead, was in need of two running cards for quads to win the hand or two running cards for a straight on the board for a chop.  When the turn brought the 2♣, it locked up the win for Annette Obrestad.  The inconsequential river card was the Q♥ wrapping up the historic WSOPE Main Event final table.

Although the next WSOPE has not yet been scheduled, the series was considered a great success and rumors include the possibility of further expansion of the WSOP to other continents.  With Harrah's owning casinos in countries such as Egypt and South Africa, WSOPE might just be the first step to championship bracelets being won around the world.

WSOPE by Linda R. Geenen

As the World Series of Poker has grown through the years, exceptionally so during the current decade, there have been thoughts of expansion. With Harrah’s at the helm of the WSOP ship, the tournament series is nearly at its event capacity with 55 tournaments during the Las Vegas summer, so the natural progression has led to something on a more international level. Thus, the World Series of Poker Europe was introduced in 2007.

Announced in early 2007, the first WSOPE was held in London in September of the same year to bring the tournament series to the ever-growing European market. The inaugural series hosted three events at three different casinos. Attendance was positive, as players throughout Europe joined some of the most notable pros in the game to participate, though the casino-hopping idea was anything but a success. Overall, however, for the first foray of the WSOP onto non-American soil, it was well-received and encouragement enough to continue with the project.

The 2008 WSOPE grew into four events and was consolidated into one casino in London’s Leicester Square, which seemed to make the experience more positive for everyone involved. Not only was the small series again popular with the players, but the main event champion was a well-known pro, John Juanda, which hasn’t been seen in a World Series main event in a number of years. On the heels of an 18-year old woman, Annette Obrestad, winning the main event in 2007, Juanda winning the second WSOPE championship title could only help the series’ popularity and future growth.

Hosting the World Series on European soil has allowed the series to expand in a new direction, as the legal gaming age in that country is 18-years old. Many players who long to participate in the WSOP are given the chance to win a gold bracelet and WSOP title at the WSOPE, which brings new faces to the game.

WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack acknowledged at a 2008 press conference that the intention of Harrah’s is to expand into other growing poker markets in the future as well. He mentioned Asia and Latin America as possible areas of expansion as the World Series heads to its 40th year of tournaments in 2009, and as Harrah’s is a worldwide corporation, there are numerous possibilities for the World Series of Poker Europe to simply be the first of many forays into other parts of the world.