Most will argue that it’s only a matter of when, not if, online poker will come to California. The big question is whether an agreement will allow PokerStars to operate in the state. Let’s assume for a moment that the best-case scenario happens for PokerStars and they are allowed to come into the state immediately. PokerStars will be then partner with Bicycle Casino, Commerce Casino, and Hawaiian Gardens, the state’s three largest card rooms.
While this partnership will clearly give the card rooms a competitive advantage over the rest of the state, it could also cause some conflicts of interests in terms of several live tournament events that run at the casinos. Below are some major changes you could see in the California live tournament scene should PokerStars come to California.
Legends of Poker and LA Poker Classic Could Leave the World Poker Tour
Each year, the Bicycle Casino hosts Legends of Poker while the Commerce hosts the L.A. Poker Classic. Both are stops on the World Poker Tour with televised Main Events. The LAPC is one of the stops on the World Poker Tour’s “California Swing.”
There’s just one problem. The World Poker Tour is affiliated with partypoker. In all likelihood, we will see bwin.Party in the state in some form and it seems unlikely they will want to drive business to a PokerStars competitor. This conflict of interest could force the WPT to abandon two long-standing events.
In years past, even pre-UIGEA, this would not have been an issue because the casino was not in partnership with an online site. This is why you can see the WPT and the WSOP operate events at the Bike. Legalized online poker will change this.
Bicycle Casino Could Lose Circuit Event
The World Series of Poker Circuit runs an annual event at the Bicycle Casino. This past year’s event was highlighted by Mike Leah‘s two circuit ring victories in a 24-hour period. He went on to win Casino Champion and qualify for the National Championship.
If PokerStars enters California, odds are you will see the Bike’s circuit discontinued. WSOP.com will certainly have a prescience in the state and like the World Poker Tour, it is hard seeing them sending business to a partner casino. In this case, we could see the WSOP choose another California card room as the Bicycle stop.
NAPT Could Replace Sponsorship
With the return of PokerStars to the United States, this opens up the possibility of resurrecting the North American Poker Tour series. Both Legends of Poker and the L.A. Poker Classic could switch over to become NAPT events with Resorts in Atlantic City possibly hosting an event. Pick up a couple of stops in Canada and PokerStars could legitimately resurrect the series.
The most likely scenario would see Legends of Poker and the L.A. Poker Classic become NAPT events with a couple of smaller tournament series at the Bike and Commerce hosting satellites into the events. The Hawaiian Gardens could also be an option for a smaller satellite series but it’s unlikely they will host a major event due to space limitations.
Other Tournament Series Likely Unaffected
While the World Poker Tour and WSOP Circuit are among the most popular series with stops in California. They are not the only games in town. The Heartland Poker Tour has multiple stops at the Commerce each year while the CardPlayer Poker Tour hosted Big Poker Oktober. These series should remain unaffected and could actually benefit from PokerStars coming into the state.
In the case of the Heartland Poker Tour, they would be a great option to replace the WSOP-C stop at the Bike. Move one of the events from the Commerce to the Bike or maybe event create a completely new event. HPT at the Bike would be a great addition to an already awesome schedule.