WPT , Online Poker Legalization, Vegas Poker, & More

Online poker has seen huge numbers around the world. One year after the Coronavirus pandemic began, the industry continues to thrive.

Several states have made some noise about legalization as well. Live poker is also slowly returning with the World Poker Tour and other properties seeing nice results.

One WPT player also had a shot at two titles in two days. This month, Chip Chatter takes a look at some of these issues as well as some of other news in the world of poker.

States to watch for online poker legalization

The January Wire Act ruling seems to have quickened the pace of states looking to legalize real money online casino games, including poker. Budget deficits caused by the Coronavirus pandemic play a big part of that as states search for revenue.

Illinois appears to be one of the most likely. The legislation even includes wording to fast-track potential operators.

“It’s been discussed over the past few years,” bill co-sponsor Rep. Jonathan Carroll (D) told USPoker. “But with the success with online sports wagering it seemed like an appropriate time to further explore this idea.”

Connecticut also seems likely to legalize online poker. Gov. Ned Lamont (D) supports online gaming and also reached an agreement with the Mohegan Tribe, which owns and operates the Mohegan Sun casino.

The Mashantucket Pequot, owner and operator of Foxwoods Casino, may be close to a deal as well. That could clear the way for eventual passage of a bill.

“Assuming all parties agree and a bill passes in the legislature, the deal would allow both tribes to offer sports betting and online casino games,” notes Online Poker Report. “In return, the state’s lottery would get to offer certain products online, as well as open its own sportsbooks.”

North Dakota legislators are also considering legalization with a statewide referendum possibly in the works. Missouri has also introduced legislation giving the go-ahead to sports betting as well as online gaming and poker.

It’s not all good news for online poker in the US, however. Kentucky’s bill has been delayed for at least a year. Legalization in Indiana also seems unlikely this year. The good news for players is that the issue is suddenly seeing some traction.

What’s next for partypoker and WSOP.com?

Real money online poker in Michigan is now live, but PokerStars remains the only operator in the state as of now. No timetable has been given for when partypoker/BetMGM and WSOP.com might enter the market.

Neither operator has gone live in Pennsylvania, where GGPoker is also working to be a player. With the Wire Act in the rearview mirror, interstate compacts are inevitable.

It’s a good bet WSOP.com and partypoker will enter either of the markets this year. WSOP.com has even alluded to adding another state to the 2021 WSOP Online Circuit schedule.

Party, WSOP.com, and PokerStars are all in position to greatly expand their player pools. Adding Illinois and Connecticut could only add to the momentum.

WPT live events continue crushing guarantees

Another event, another major prize pool. The WPT held its second major US event March 5-9 since restarting.

The $5,000 WPT Venetian attracted a field of 937 entries for a $4.3 million prize pool. That’s a huge leap over the $1.5 million guarantee.

That comes after the Lucky Hearts Poker Open at the Seminole Hard Rock brought in 1,573 entries in January. That produced a prize pool of $5 million, a massive increase to the $1 million guarantee.

In Las Vegas,  Qing Liu came out on top for $752,880 and now has a chance to win his second tour title in two days. After winning on Tuesday, Liu plays in another final table on Wednesday.

Qing Liu won more than $750,000 at the WPT Venetian. (photo by Joe Giron/WPT)

The WPT recently announced that delayed final tables from 2020 would now be played in March and May. Liu also qualified for the final table of the WPT Gardens Poker Championship.

That event was set to be played on Wednesday and Liu has a chance at back-to-back titles. Liu overcame a 2-to-1 chip disadvantage when heads-up to win the title. Can he do it again on Wednesday?

“I don’t think so,” Liu told WPT.com. “I used up all my luck today. Tomorrow I won’t be so lucky.”

That remains to be seen. Liu will sit fifth in chips when the Gardens action resumes in the PokerGO Studio. Chance Kornuth returns as chip leader. Here’s a look at the remaining final tables left to play:

  • Borgata Winter Poker Open – May 16
  • LA Poker Classic – May 17
  • Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown – May 18 

Report shows number of Vegas poker rooms continues declining

Despite big numbers at live tournaments, poker rooms continue to close. The Las Vegas Sun recently reported a steep decline in Las Vegas area poker rooms.

After casinos reopened in June, several properties decided to keep their poker rooms closed. Some major rooms not returning include Mandalay Bay, Excalibur, and Mirage

The Sun notes that in January 2020, 35 casinos in Clark County reported revenue from 418 tables. January 2021 saw only 21 casinos with earnings from 282 tables. That’s a decrease of about 33% and other states are seeing rooms stay closed as well.

While some consolidation may take place, fewer opportunities to play means less poker and fewer jobs for staff. An end to the pandemic may help.

More players appear to be heading to the safer online poker tables and US online poker revenue remains strong. February numbers should be released soon. With several major events running on all platforms, February has a chance to see big numbers as well.

McKeehen comes up just short in bid for WPT title

After winning the 2015 WSOP Main Event for $7.6 million, Joe McKeehen has shown impressive staying power. He has two other WSOP bracelets and more than $17 million in live tournament winnings.

That includes some big numbers on the WPT with $1.1 million in winnings and five final table appearances. Adding a WPT title would be a nice to addition to his resumé but he came up just short on Tuesday.

Joe McKeehen battling in the WPT Venetian. (photo courtesy Joe Giron/WPT)

McKeehen finished runner-up for $491,960 after coming into the final day as chip leader. He now also has two third-place finishes and has also finished fourth twice.

Throw in two ninth-place finishes and it’s quite an impressive record of success.

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