There’s a bit less than a month until the biggest spectacle in poker kicks off in Las Vegas at the Rio Hotel and Casino. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the World Series of Poker, which runs May 28 – July 16.
This year’s series features 89 gold bracelet events highlighted by the prestigious $10,000 Main Event kicking off July 4.
Along with numerous high stakes events, organizers have also added 10 bracelet events priced under $1,000.
In a press release, WSOP Vice President Jack Effel said:
“We hope everyone who loves the game of poker comes out to experience our big 50th. We are confident you will find an event or two to your liking, and hopefully, one that allows you to raise the gold bracelet over your head at the end of it.”
All five West Virginia casinos offer poker rooms and those include:
- Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races
- Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort
- The Casino Club at The Greenbrier
- Mardi Gras Casino & Resort
- Wheeling Island Hotel
There are plenty of poker players in West Virginia, and no doubt many will be making the trek to Sin City. The gold bracelet remains the biggest trophy in poker, and here are some players from the Mountain State to watch.
1 – Jason Koon
When it comes to players from the Mountain State, Jason Koon is the GOAT. The West Virginia all-time money leader has $28 million in live tournament winnings.
That’s about $26.5 million more than the player in second place. That also puts him in eighth in the all-time money list overall.
This high roller originally from Weston had a big summer in 2018, cashing five times for $810,000. That came after finishing third in the $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl for $2.1 million.
While he’s yet to add a bracelet to his trophy case, Koon came close last summer. That included these two final table appearances:
- $100,000 High Roller – seventh place, $372,894
- $25,000 Pot-Limit Omaha 8-Handed High Roller – fifth place, $295,606
Koon is a beast at the tables and has numerous wins and final table appearances in a career that stretches back to 2008. This year alone, he won $4.5 million in four events at the Triton Poker Series.
The question isn’t if he’ll win a bracelet, but when?
#2 – Lee Childs
Lee Childs hails from Charles Town and has $1.5 million in live tournament winnings including just over $1 million on the WSOP. He doesn’t have a bracelet but he has amassed 33 series cashes.
A former software developer, Childs had a massive run in the 2007 Main Event. He finished seventh for $705,229.
Another big finish came in 2009 when he won a WSOP-Circuit ring in the $1,600 Main Event at Harrah’s Atlantic City for $63,733.
Childs hasn’t been as active in recent years, and it remains to be seen how much he plans to play. This West Virginian has some skins on the wall, however, and would be worth watching.
#3 – Taylor Wilson
Beyond those first two, there just aren’t a ton of big-name poker players from West Virginia. This pick is a bit of a shot in the dark, but Taylor Wilson notched some decent finishes recently.
That includes three cashes last summer in Las Vegas. Wilson has $ 487,543 in live tournament winnings and has built on that in recent months.
In February, he finished third in a $2,120 No Limit Hold’em event at the L.A. Poker Classic for $22,480. In the $3,500 WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open in January, Wilson finished 29th for $21,369.
His best showing in the WSOP came last summer when he finished third in the $3,000 Shootout. He’ll be a player who might have a shot to add to those winnings.
Online poker’s in the works for West Virginia
West Virginia poker players may see a completely different poker environment in the next couple years. The state recently legalized online gaming and that includes poker.
Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, and soon Pennsylvania, all offer regulated online poker. The recent Justice Department change in opinion on the Wire Act has thrown a wrench into these interstate compacts.
However, many in the industry believe courts will reverse that ruling. They argue the Wire Act specifically applies to sports betting.
Courts seemed to be leaning in that direction after the New Hampshire lottery brought suit against the Justice Department. The issue will play out in the coming months.
If interstate compacts hold up in court, West Virginia may be part of the action in the next couple years. Major online players entering the market would be good for the West Virginia poker scene.
Online qualifiers for WSOP events aren’t out of the question – eventually. When online poker does get rolling, many West Virginians will be ready to hit the tables.