The 2018 World Series of Poker kicks off later this month and hundreds of thousands of poker players (not to mention their significant others, families, and friends) will descend upon Las Vegas and the Rio for weeks and weeks of poker excitement. This year, though, people can play more than just poker at the WSOP, as the WSOP has partnered with UMG Media Corp. to bring competitive eSports to the world’s largest poker festival.
UMG is one of the world’s foremost eSports companies in North America, with live competition centers in several cities across the United States, including Las Vegas and Reno. UMG also hosts contests online, allowing players to risk money – similar to what we do in poker – to win cash prizes playing games like Fortnite, Overwatch, Rocket League, and PUBG. Because these are skill-based contests, they are legal.
“Last year we watched our initiative to grow esports in Las Vegas grow by leaps and bounds,” UMG CEO Dave Antony said in a press release. “Bringing the UMG Esports Stage into the World Series of Poker events is an amazing next step in continuing this initiative into 2018 and beyond. 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.”
The UMG Esports Stage* will be setup right there in the Pavilion Room at the Rio, the main tournament room of the World Series of Poker. The app referenced in the above quote will be available for download from both Google Play and the Apple Store “prior to the beginning of the WSOP event.” Hopefully it will be improved from what it is right now, as nine reviewers give it an average of 1.4 stars out of 5 on its Google Play page. It has only garnered 1,000+ downloads. The main complaint is that people are unable to login to the app. It appears that the purpose of the app is to register for eSports tournaments, buy tickets, check out a floorplan of the venue, and review tournament brackets and match histories.
The UMG Esports Stage will be open every day of the World Series of Poker (the press release calls it the “WSOP Tournament,” so the writer was clearly not a poker player) and will feature games on the Xbox One and PC. Event schedules have yet to be posted online, but should be before the Series begins.
It remains to be seen if poker players will enjoy having a totally separate gaming event running in the Pavilion Room, but poker and eSports have certainly become close cousins in recent years. Many online poker players are also online gamers and both eSports and poker grown their audiences significantly via the Twitch streaming platform.
*Yes, I know that I fluctuate between writing it as “eSports” and “Esports.” The former tends to be the standard format for the term in general, while the latter is how UMG specifically names its stage at the WSOP.