Friday, September 13, 2013

WCOOP Back in Action

The 2013 World Championship of Online Poker is well underway over at PokerStars, having begun last Sunday. This week in fact marked 12 years of real money games on the site, and this year’s series marks the 12th year of the WCOOP, with a record 66 tourneys on the schedule this time (up one from last year’s 65).

The WCOOP remains the biggest online tourney series around, and the prestige associated with winning WCOOP bracelets has increased considerably as well.

Over the last couple of years whenever the big series crank up at PokerStars I’ve found myself looking back to those pre-Black Friday days when the U.S. could participate and comparing figures. In 2010, for instance, Americans comprised about a third of the 141,126 entrants in the 62 events of that year’s WCOOP. With no U.S. players the next year there came a dip to 119,832 (again, in 62 events), then in 2012 there were 126,041 entrants (in 65).

I’d expect this year’s total either to hold steady or nudge up further to rival the pre-BF number. Indeed, the total prize pools for in the Spring Championship of Online Poker have gradually increased to the point that they now exceed the pre-Black Friday amounts (with a few extra tourneys added over the years).

The U.S. being on the rail for SCOOPs and WCOOPs also gets me curious about how countries whose players are able to participate are faring in the series, relatively speaking. I’ll resist slipping back into complaint mode about my country’s convoluted, often hypocritical attitude toward gambling in general and poker in particular, and instead look at Canada -- where a number of U.S. players have fled to play on PokerStars -- and see how that country is doing with regard to continuing its recent success in the COOPs.

The 2012 WCOOP was fairly dominated by Canada with the country claiming top honors for bracelets won (14), final tables (80), total cashes (2,166), and total winnings ($9,567,359.96). This year’s SCOOP also saw Canada crushing, finishing that 132-tournament series first in cash won ($12,016,956.34), first in final tables (133), and second in titles with 18, which was just one behind the U.K.’s 19 wins. Those stats were fresh in mind this summer, actually, when Canada jumped out to a quick start at the WSOP, ultimately collecting 10 bracelets before the summer was done.

Just looking at the first 10 events of this year’s WCOOP, the U.K. has gotten a headstart on Canada and everyone else, winning no less than four events. Toby “810ofclubs” Lewis was one of the Brits to win a title, just a few days removed from having won a piece of Tom Middleton’s victory at EPT Barcelona as I was mentioning earlier this week and as Rick Dacey writes about over on the PokerStars blog. Jonathan “OMGjonyctt” Concepción, Dave “CrabMaki” Shallow, and “Aduobe4” also have all earned WCOOP wins as U.K. players so far (although I believe technically speaking Concepción is from the Canary Islands).

Through the first 10 events the U.K. also led other categories, too, including “Money Won By Country” ($1,497,970.05) and “Final Tables by Country” (10). But Canada finally broke through to grab it’s first WCOOP title of the year in Event #11 (won by “Tha Giggy”) and ranks highly thus far in most categories along with Russia and Germany. Indeed those four -- U.K., Canada, Russia, and Germany -- have the most participation by a wide margin currently in PS series, and thus unsurprisingly produce the most success.

Of course, when looking over these results one also has to note how besides the U.S. being missing, so, too, are Italy, Spain, and France not part of the equation as Stars has separate licenses for each of those countries with segregated sites (.it, .es, and .fr) for each. There are a number of other countries for which Stars has players register on separate domains (Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Sweden, Poland, Romania), plus a handful of countries go through the .eu domain (Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Slovenia). But I think in all of those cases the player pools are shared with the .com and thus players in those countries can participate in WCOOP.

So again, while it’s not quite the entire world playing in the World Championship of Online Poker, it’s a lot of it. I’d tend to think Canada will probably forge a comeback here to challenge the U.K. Meanwhile, unscientific, occasional monitoring of the other big tourneys on Stars over the last year or so suggests Russia has moved ahead of everyone when it comes to supplying players -- and winners -- on the site. (Russia currently leads w/the most entrants in the WCOOP and will probably continue to do so.)

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