The PokerStars World Cup of Poker (WCP) is being held in a play money format this year, eliminating the live final and any cash prizes. The move may be a result of the delays in Amaya Gaming’s efforts to bring PokerStars to New Jersey, which could potentially have led to an Atlantic City finale for the tournament.
The tenth edition of the WCP is, in basic terms, similar to previous editions of the tournament. Players from the 96 countries allowed into the tournament are allowed to enter events, with the player who wins each individual tournament advancing their country through to the next round. Traditionally, that format would carry on until the final round, in which smaller teams would be chosen to represent the remaining countries and duel for the World Cup title. This year, the event will remain online throughout the entirety of the WCP, and anyone from the countries in contention will be allowed to participate right through the finals.
The WCP began on November 22 and 23, when the participating nations were divided into eight groups of 12 countries each. Each group held two play money, Heads-Up No Limit Hold’em tournaments with a 1,000 chip buy-in. The play money format allowed even nations where PokerStars doesn’t offer real money play, including the United States, to participate.
The winners of those two tournaments moved their nations on to the Round of 16. Qualifying nations including the United States and Canada, who are scheduled to play against each other, along with Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia, Venezuela, Australia, France and Poland, among others.
That next round will take place on November 29, when nations will go head-to-head in 10,000 chip buy-in heads-up tournaments. The individual winner of each tournament will again advance their nation through to the next round. That process will continue each week through December 20, with increasing (play money) buy-ins in each round. The final (and a consolation third-place match) will be held on that final day, with each player requiring a 100,000 buy-in to participate.
The new format could prove to be a lucrative one for PokerStars. With no real money prizes or a live event to manage, costs will be down significantly. Plus, the relative prestige of the event makes the WCP a more serious event than most play money tournaments. That could encourage more players to purchase play money chips; the site advertises chip sales starting at $1.99 for 350,000 chips.
But the real reason for the completely online, no real money format for this year’s WCP might be rooted in New Jersey. When Amaya appeared to be on the verge of having the PokerStars brand approved by state regulators, there was talk that the return of the largest online poker site to the state could lead to international events being held in Atlantic City. State Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union County) even said that PokerStars could bring events similar to golf’s Ryder Cup to the city, which appeared to be a direct reference to the WCP.
However, the delays in the licensing process for PokerStars may have put an end to those aspirations, at least for this year, which may have necessitated a change of plans. According to reports, an approval from New Jersey regulators won’t be coming until at least early next year.