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Players counting down to poker's big event

| Friday, Feb. 22, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

The boys and girls of summer love this time of year.

Everyone starts out with an equal shot at winning the World Series. Players are sharpening their skills so they can play their best when it counts. After all, with a little bit of luck, anything can happen.

This isn't about baseball and the dreams that bloom in spring-training camps throughout Florida and Arizona. This is about Hold 'Em, Omaha and a variety of other poker games, including one called Chinese Open Face.

This year's World Series of Poker, a six-week extravaganza of tournaments, will draw tens of thousands of players to the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas from May 29 to July 15. Officials of Caesars Interactive Entertainment, sponsor of the 44th annual WSOP, last week announced the lineup of 62 tournaments awarding a coveted gold bracelet.

The 2012 WSOP had 74,766 entrants from 101 countries, including 99 players from Western Pennsylvania.

For the second year in a row, players apparently will not be able to qualify for the WSOP through satellites at casinos near Pittsburgh. Not even the Horseshoe Cleveland, which is managed by Caesars, will offer local tournaments that award the winner free entry to the $10,000-per-seat Main Event or other WSOP games. Table games supervisor Vaughn Myers says the Horseshoe plans to start the satellite tournaments next year.

WSOP satellites had drawn lots of local interest in the past, but Rivers Casino on the North Shore, The Meadows in North Strabane, Presque Isle in Erie and Wheeling Island and Mountaineer casinos in West Virginia did not offer them last year. Some said they were unable to make arrangements with Caesars.

Representatives of Rivers, Mountaineer and Presque Isle say they will not have WSOP satellites this year; spokesmen for the other two could not be reached for comment, but neither casino has announced plans for satellites this year.

In releasing the WSOP schedule, Caesars officials said they were accepting applications for satellite licensees. However, WSOP spokesmen have said only a handful of tournament participants come from satellites outside Las Vegas.

The vast majority of those who qualify through a satellite do so at tournaments in Las Vegas. WSOP organizers say the Rio will operate single-table, mega-satellites and turbo mega-satellites starting May 29, the day the WSOP opens. The satellites could run 24 hours a day, based on demand. Buy-ins will start at $75.

Winners of those satellites will receive tournament buy-in chips in $500 increments, plus “a small amount” of cash. The chips may be used for entry fees at any WSOP event or even another satellite. They cannot be redeemed for cash or saved for a future WSOP event.

The WSOP Main Event, which had 6,598 participants last year, gets most of the publicity, thanks to broadcasts on ESPN and its gargantuan first prize: $8.5 million last year to Greg Merson of North Laurel, Md.

But the poker is just as intense at the other 61 bracelet events and associated tournaments.

For example, a $1,500 buy-in tournament starting June 1 promises a first prize of at least $1 million. That will kick off a series of weekend events that organizers hope will entice vacationers. Each Saturday in June, the WSOP will have a $1,500 buy-in No Limit Hold 'Em tournament; each Sunday in June will feature a similar tournament with a $1,000 buy-in.

The seniors tournament, open to players 50 and older, starts June 14 and has a $1,000 buy-in. Last year's tournament had 4,128 players, with Allyn Jaffrey Shulman winning $603,713.

The ladies tournament is open to men and women, but male entrants this year will have to post a $10,000 buy-in while women pay $1,000. That addresses a long-running debate about whether men should be allowed to play in this event.

The WSOP will have two events benefitting the charity One Drop, which works to provide clean water to impoverished regions. The high-roller event has a $111,111 buy-in, with the 3 percent house fee going to the charity; the other one has a $1,111 buy-in, with $111 of that going to One Drop.

New to the WSOP this year is a nonbracelet tournament in Open Face Chinese poker, a game with heavy betting action in which players end up with 13 cards that they play in three hands, two of them with five cards and one with three. Tournament organizers will determine whether to add the game as a bracelet event in the future.

Poker players dreaming of winning big cash at the WSOP should keep this in mind: Only about 10 percent of the field finishes in the money in each tournament.

Mark Gruetze is administrative editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7838 or

N.J's revel to file for bankruptcy

Revel, the $2.4 billion casino that opened in Atlantic City less than a year ago, will file for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March, corporate officials said this week.

The company says the casino will continue to operate normally, and the action will not affect guests, employees or vendors. Revel will reduce its debt by more than $1 billion by giving part ownership to lenders, the company says.

Money trail

Pennsylvania added to its standing as the country's No. 2 gambling state by surpassing New Jersey in gambling revenue in January.

Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board figures show the state's 11 casinos made $247.6 million in January — $188.2 million from slots and $59.4 million from table games. Atlantic City's 12 casinos made $205.6 million — $138.5 million from slots and $67.1 million from table games. Pennsylvania unseated New Jersey for the No. 2 spot in 2012.

Pennsylvania's statewide slot payout rate is 89.94 percent since the fiscal year started July 1. For each $100 put in, the machines return an average of $89.94. Parx, near Philadelphia, has the highest rate, 90.61 percent; Hollywood Penn National near Harrisburg has the lowest, 89.36 percent. Rates for Western Pennsylvania casinos:

Rivers: 89.97 percent; slot win totaled $6.32 million for the week ending Feb. 17, down from $6.91 million in the comparable week last year.

Meadows: 89.83 percent; slot win totaled $4.76 million for the week, down from $5.83 million last year.

Presque Isle: 89.97 percent; slot win totaled $2.92 million for the week, down from $3.82 million last year.

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