CITY, MO - A few years ago, casinos across the United
States were closing their poker rooms to make space for
more popular and lucrative slot machines.
the improbable triumph in 2003 of a 27-year-old accountant
from Tennessee, who beat some of the world's greatest
professional players on national television, has sent
the country into a poker frenzy.
who watches ESPN probably already knows the story: A man
named Chris Moneymaker wins a $40 Texas Hold 'Em poker
tournament on the Internet, qualifies to play in the World
Series of Poker in Las Vegas, then outlasts a colorful
cast of characters to win $2.5 million.
the World Poker Tour got into television and used technology
to show the hole cards, it sparked enormous interest in
poker," said Gary Thompson, spokesman for Harrah's
Entertainment in Las Vegas. "Americans are very competitive
people. You can't compete with Tiger Woods on a golf course,
or a heavyweight boxer in the ring, but you can compete
at a poker table and knock out a world champion."
skyrocketing popularity of the game prompted Harrah's
to buy Binion's
Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas earlier this year, and
with it, the rights to the World Series of Poker. Thompson
said Harrah's, which owns 28 casinos nationwide, recently
opened poker rooms at three of its Midwestern casinos.
It plans to adds four more at other casinos.
has capitalized on Moneymaker's star status by giving
poker players around the nation a chance to compete against
the former world champion. Moneymaker is scheduled to
be at the Kansas City casino on Aug. 22, and recently
played at a similar event at the Harrah's
in St. Louis.
Kansas City casino opened a poker room on July 15,
two weeks after the Isle of Capri opened one at its Kansas
City property. Both casinos had poker rooms when they
opened a decade ago, but Harrah's shut its live poker
tables down in June 1998, and Isle of Capri closed its
room in 2000.
popularity of what we have now has mushroomed based on
what people see on television," said Tracy Owens,
spokesman for Ameristar Casinos, which operates a casino
in Kansas City.
Kansas City, the poker room is packed on weekends, with
100 to 150 people playing, and on a typical weeknight,
we have upwards of 80 to 100 people."
are signs that poker may have staying power.