3pips   THE POKER SURGE (7/20/10)

The Poker Surge

I just returned from Vegas where the World Series of Poker was playing. Beyond the great action, I was encouraged to see all the neon signs proclaiming, Poker is again on the upswing!

Well, they didn’t really say that, but it sure felt that way.

Signs of a poker uptick were everywhere.

First, there was the throng that swarmed the Rio for the World Series.  The crowd filled three separate expansive areas with poker tables. Players came from 117 countries. Total WSOP attendance rose 20 percent from last year’s super number.

e. mark with kimberly lansingThen I stopped by an industry event organized by the prestigious World Poker Tour. At a press conference at the Bellagio introducing its upcoming ninth season, the WPT unveiled several exciting new features. Among them, the lovely, engaging and poker-savvy Kimberly Lansing (see photo) was named studio anchor and Matt Savage took over as Executive Tour Director.  Anyone familiar with bigtime poker, knows Savage’s impeccable reputation. A players’ favorite, he’s recognized for his fairness, listening ability and operational efficiency.

The WPT also announced three events outside the U.S., including their upcoming London Poker Classic Aug. 30-Sept. 4, which is brand new to the schedule.

e. mark with royal flush girlsFlush with optimism following the WPT event -- which also served as the debut of the stunning Royal Flush Girls (check them out at worldpokertour.com) -- I checked in with industry friends in Vegas and elsewhere.

Howard Lederer, the “Poker Professor” of Full Tilt Poker, is planning for an even better tomorrow. Thus, he has become a political activist. On Full Tilt, he greets players with a video message urging them to contact their Congressmen in support of HR 2267, a poker-friendly piece of legislation. I can’t think of a more thoughtful, eloquent spokesman for our shared cause than Howard.

Of course, we have increasing momentum. France recently passed a bill to legalize and regulate online poker. PartyPoker and other poker sites have quickly obtained licenses to offer online poker play in France. 

Meanwhile, in British Columbia the government launched a major expansion of its online gambling operations — planning an upcoming opening of the first government-run online poker room in North America.

In Paris, there’s a new sense of personal freedom. In Vegas, the card rooms are hopping. And in my mind, those neon signs are all screaming: Poker is surging!

E. Mark the "e-Shark" Gross