American leads WSOP int’l series ahead of final

  • Joined ESPN in 2014
  • Journalist covering gambling industry since 2008

The largest prize pool ever for an online poker tournament — $27,559,500 — will be at stake this week, as the main event of the World Series of Poker international series heads to the finish line.

Out of 5,802 buy-ins, 38 players have advanced to Saturday’s final of the no-limit Texas hold ’em tournament. American Bryan Piccioli is the chip leader with 18,517,494 entering Saturday’s final. Michael “All Love” Kane of Scotland is in second with 15,907,969.

The top four players will win more than a $1 million, with the champion earning $3,905,686.

Brazilian soccer star Neymar and former heavyweight boxing champion Riddick Bowe were among the participants.

Kept out of Las Vegas by the coronavirus pandemic, the World Series of Poker moved online this summer. In July, it held a series of domestic events for U.S. players in New Jersey and Nevada, with Nahrain Tamero winning the main event.

The WSOP teamed with online poker platform GGPoker to offer the international series. Buy-ins for the international main event were $5,000, and players, who must be physically located in a jurisdiction that allows online poker, were allowed to enter a maximum of three times.

Paul Burke, head of public relations for GGPoker, said some American players had traveled to Mexico or Canada to participate in the record-breaking tournament.

“Players from all corners of the world have been logging in and playing,” Burke told ESPN. “We gave players all over the world, who maybe would’ve had to save up for years and years to go to Vegas or maybe never would’ve made it [to] Vegas, the chance to play in it.”

The first World Series of Poker was held in Las Vegas in 1970 and has since grown to the most prestigious poker tournament in the world. Last year’s main event attracted 8,569 entries, generating an $80.5 million prize pool. This year’s in-person tournament was slated to take place at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas but was postponed in April due to the pandemic, and has yet to be rescheduled.

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