World Series of Poker Main Event Title Won By European as U.S. Loses Again

An idiot from Northern Europe, as Phil Hellmuth might say, is the new poker World Champion. Following an impressive performance in the World Series of Poker Main Event, Espen Jorstad, has taken poker’s most coveted bracelet back to Europe. 

The Norwegian’s win is just one of many talking points from the 2022 WSOP Main Event. It was the second largest Main Event in history, which is clearly a remarkable achievement. It was also the first Big Dance to take place inside Bally’s and Paris on the Las Vegas strip. 

However, there’s another talking point that not enough people are discussing and that’s where our latest World Champion comes from. Or, more specifically, where an increasing number of WSOP Main Event winners are coming from. 

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The Europeans Are Coming

Five of the 12 WSOP World Champions since 2011 have come from Europe. Another one was born in Vietnam, and another flew into Las Vegas from Argentina and flew home again with poker’s biggest prize. 

Those are some interesting stats, but what’s the point here? It’s that, since the infamous Black Friday shutdowns of 2011, Americans have lost their dominance in the Main Event. 

Even though U.S. players outnumber every other nation combined by a significant margin, they’re not winning at the same rate they once did.

This doesn’t mean players from other countries weren’t winning the WSOP Main Event before 2011. Jonathan Duhamel, Peter Eastgate, and Joe Hachem are among the most notable non-American winners from the past two decades. 

WSOP Main Event results

Position Player Home Winnings
1 Espen Jorstad Norway $10 million
2 Adrian Attenborough  Australia $6 million
3 Michael Duek Fort Lauderdale, Fla.  $4 million
4 John Eames  United Kingdom $3 million
5 Matija Dobric  Croatia  $2.25 million
6 Jeffrey Farnes  Dallas, Oregon $1.75 million
7 Aaron Duczak  Canada $1.35 million
8 Philippe Souki United Kingdom $1.075 million
9 Matthew Su Washington, D.C. $850,675
10 Asher Conniff Brooklyn, N.Y. $675,000

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Black Friday Puts Americans in the Shadows

However, in the wake of Black Friday, there’s been a noticeable shift in the Main Event’s dynamics. Why? The reasons are almost certainly many and varied, but one may very well be the availability of poker, particularly online poker. 

As it stands, online poker sites are legal and live in five states: Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Michigan. It’s also legal in West Virginia but right now there are no poker sites live there. 

Before the implementation of UIGEA in 2006 and the events of Black Friday in 2011, online poker was available in virtually every state. 

That not only meant more opportunities for Americans to qualify for the WSOP, it meant more opportunities to play tournaments regularly and conveniently. 

Across the pond in Europe, online poker is more widely available. For example, in the UK, where new WSOP World Champ Jorstad lives, there aren’t any restrictions. 

Players can visit all the major sites, including PokerStars, Partypoker, and GGPoker, and access international playerpools. 

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Freedom to Roam Gives Europeans More Opportunities to Play

It’s the same elsewhere in Europe. Although certain countries, such as France, Spain, and Italy have ring-fenced playerpools, most of the continent is borderless. 

When operators are free to connect countries and players can cross virtual borders, the conditions are more conducive to a thriving tournament scene. 

That’s not to say you can’t play online MTTs in the U.S. You can. However, because states are ring-fenced (unless you’re using in New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware), tournaments don’t attract as many players.

In turn, this means online festivals aren’t as lucrative. For example, NJCOOP on PokerStars New Jersey had a total guaranteed prizepool of $1 million in 2021. 

In contrast, WCOOP on PokerStars’ international network had a total guaranteed prizepool of $100 million in 2021. 

Yes, they’re different events and it’s not necessarily fair to compare them in this way. However, the point here is that WCOOP is available to a much larger group of players from multiple countries. NJCOOP is only open to players in New Jersey. 

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State-Based Regulations Could be Stifling WSOP Success

Thus, it could be the case that state-based regulations are stifling U.S. poker players. It could also be that poker is more popular outside of the U.S. and that’s causing world-class players from other countries to break through. 

However, even if that’s the case, it doesn’t take away from the fact U.S. poker players have less access to tournaments than their international counterparts. 

In a game where skills need to be honed and sharpened on a regular basis, this can only be a negative. The positive is that U.S. online gambling regulations are evolving. 

Although poker is trailing sports betting and online casinos in the political stakes, any changes are a step in the right direction.

If more states lift their bans on poker and liquidity pacts are formed, the online tournament scene would thrive once again. If that happens, it could prevent another European invasion in the 2023 WSOP Main Event.

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