Businesses are closing. Homes are being foreclosed. The country is in a recession, but don't tell that to poker players.
"Mostly, the whole recession thing is over," online poker player Joe Romano said.
Romano is one of a maximum 5,800 players who can sign up to play in fourth event of the 2009 World Series of Poker
- a $1,000 No Limit Hold'em tournament being called the "Stimulus Special" that starts this weekend.
"We decided in response to the global economic condition, we would lower the buy-in for this event" WSOP
commissioner Jeffrey Pollack
. "We also wanted to encourage our first timers to register to play in the World Series of Poker."
Despite a bad national economy, players have entered the first three events of this year's WSOP in record numbers. Friday's Omaha Hi-Lo Split-8 or Better $1,500 buy-in tournament had a the largest field for any Omaha tournament held at 918. The Special 40th Annual No Limit Hold'em $40,000 buy-in tournament to honor the 40th annual WSOP had 201 entries.
The $1,000 tournament has the lowest entry fee of any open tournament at the WSOP and is scheduled to have two Day 1s — one Saturday and another on Sunday. As of Friday night, the event set the record for most players registered for any non-Main Event tournament in WSOP history with 5,839, passing last year's record field of 3,929 in the $1,500 buy-in tournament with ease.
The Stimulus Special was originally designed to hold a maximum 5,600 players, but Pollack said more tables will be opened outisde the Amazon and XXX rooms where most of the events are being held to hold the extra players.
"We are using Buzios (Seafood Restaurant in the Rio Hotel) and the Rio poker room," he said.
Romano said the poor economy may be the driving force behind the large fields this year as people are hoping to strike it rich.
"(The Omaha tournament) is a good sign. That's not even no limit," said Romano, who entered WSOP events in 2005 and 2006. "Now I'm excited."
Professional player Adam White
said the big prize money that comes with a large field is what attracted him.
"It's a $1 million first prize," he said.
Despite the large field and rumors of a seven-figure prize, Pollack said the winner of the tournament will earn approximately $750,000 in addition to the coveted WSOP bracelet.
White said the he has seen the recession influence poker and the tournament fields by getting rid of more of the casual players, or "dead money."
But Cyndi Graflund
, a part-time poker player who enters the annual $1,000 women's tournament, said the low buy-in would bring in any and all poker players.
"There is no other (open) $1,000 event," she said. "Anyone who ever played poker will play (in the Stimulus Special)."