Esports, meet poker. Along with the 78 bracelet events and millions in cash, this year’s World Series of Poker (WSOP) will give esports a significant presence at poker’s flagship event in 2018, in a coupling that makes more sense than might be obvious on first glance.
The gargantuan Pavillion Room at the Rio in Las Vegas — normally reserved exclusively for poker in the summer months — will feature a new centerpiece this year, as it will be the location of the UMG Esports Stage. For the first time, WSOP players will have a chance to step up to the big stage and compete in popular gaming titles like Fortnite, FIFA, and Hearthstone.
It’s a match made in heaven for the two sports, as each looks to feed off the buzz that the other creates.
Now For Something Completely Different
The marriage is a fresh concept for the Series, which attracts about a quarter of a million people to Las Vegas every year. While the event is legendary, it hasn’t seen innovation at this level in a while.
It makes sense that the WSOP would want to get a piece of a gaming industry that is expected to grow by about 38 percent in 2018 alone. Esports could approach a billion dollars in annual revenues this year.
From the perspective of UMG — a gaming website whose target audience is the esports demographic — it gives the company an opportunity to put its product in front of hundreds of thousands of potential new players.
“UMG will utilize its ground-breaking event management app to help organize the event and to constantly update participants of upcoming play and special events at the UMG stage,” said UMG CEO Dave Anthony.
The stage, which will be located across from the Pavilion’s main entry at the far end of the room, will feature free-to-play games for anyone who downloads the UMG app.
Poker Greats On Board
The partnership also gives esports a further foothold in a city that has already fallen in love with competitive gaming. The Luxor is now home to a 30,000-square-foot arena dedicated exclusively to hosting competitive esports events. Poker Central is expected to use its 10,000-square-foot studio to host live broadcasts of esports competitions in the future.
Some of poker’s elite were competitive gamers before making a name for themselves at the tables, including Elky Grospellier, who used to be a top-ranked Starcraft player. You might even see Daniel Negreanu, who is a noted hardcore Hearthstone player, up on the gaming stage this summer.
The crossover potential is clear. Both realms provide players with the opportunity to apply their skill and strategy to win big cash prizes. Even before this announcement, the poker world was already taking some cues from esports as it searched for better ways to “sportify” their game.
The UMG gaming stage will be open for the duration of the Series and will give the two sports the perfect opportunity to further build on that synergy.