Home of the poker boom

During the excitement of the 2021 World Series of Poker final table last night, Caesars Entertainment slipped viewers a bit of news that one would think they would have trumpeted from the mountaintops: these are the final days of the WSOP at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. Starting next year, the World Series of Poker will be held at Bally’s and Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino. It will be the first time that the WSOP will have its home on the Las Vegas Strip.

Caesars also announced that the WSOP will be back in its late spring/summer spot on the calendar, May 31 through July 19, 2022.

“As we approach the Final Table, we look back on yet another successful Main Event that exceeded expectations,” said World Series of Poker senior vice president Ty Stewart in a brief news release this morning. “We are absolutely thrilled with this year’s turnout, both domestically and internationally. As we close out this chapter at the Rio, we are excited to have the iconic Vince Vaughn usher in a new era of WSOP at Bally’s and Paris next summer.”

Vince Vaughn swinging by

That’s right, Vince Vaughn. He is now a household name, but originally elevated his status in our consciousness in 1996 as Trent in the movie Swingers, showing off his quick-talk monologue skills and the now-iconic exclamation, “Vegas, baby, Vegas!”

Vaughn is an avid poker player and will serve as Master of Ceremonies for the 2022 WSOP. After a quick interview on the PokerGO live stream yesterday, he happily provided the “Shuffle up and deal!” starting command.

“Poker has long been one of my favorite sports, so to be a part of something as historic as the WSOP finally moving to the Strip is an absolute dream,” Vaughn added in Wednesday’s announcement.

Not a surprise

It had been rumored for years that the World Series of Poker was going to move out of the Rio. I was fortunate enough to start my poker industry career covering the WSOP live in 2005, the first year it was at the off-strip casino. That year, the Main Event ended at Binion’s in downtown Las Vegas, but the following year, the Rio had it from start to finish.

But over the years, the WSOP has grown, despite poker’s legal ups and downs in the United States, and the general view has been that while the Rio has had plenty of convention space to handle it, the property itself was not an attractive location anymore. The WSOP was better suited for greener pastures.

The nail in the coffin came two years ago, when Caesars sold the Rio to Dreamscape Companies for $516.3 million. Caesars kept the WSOP brand and continued to operate the property while paying Dreamscape rent, but that deal was set to run out by the end of 2023 at the latest, so Caesars was almost certainly going to have to find somewhere else for the granddaddy of all poker festivals.

Bally’s and Paris were likely the easy choice. They are next to each other in the heart of the Strip, both are operated by Caesars, and they have adjacent convention spaces.

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