Since its purchase of the World Series of Poker back in 2005, Harrah’s Entertainment and WSOP officials have been highly aggressive in driving for sponsorship opportunities for the largest poker event in the world. On Thursday, it was announced that the WSOP and the online gaming developer Zynga have joined forces to push the WSOP brand name even further into the worldwide consciousness.

Zynga, who developed a free Texas Hold’em application that is one of Facebook’s top game application and features over twelve million monthly active users, will be offering two seats to the $10,000 Championship Event of the WSOP. Zynga will host several “Shootout” tournaments via their online application with a sizeable prize package for the two winners of the event. The “Shootout” tournaments begin on June 8th and will run through June 22nd.

Eighteen winners from these tournaments will be randomly selected to play in the Final Showdown on June 29th and 30th and the final two will be determined on July 1st, in time for the opening of the Championship Event on July 3rd. The WSOP package will include roundtrip airfare to Las Vegas, three nights’ accommodations at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino, a backstage tour of the WSOP venue and a day pass to the VIP player’s lounge.

“We built our Texas Hold’em poker game into the largest game on Facebook by keeping an eye on what is important to our players”, Mark Pincus, CEO of Zynga, stated during the announcement. “We know that poker is a lifestyle which includes playing online, offline and watching it on television. This partnership is an opportunity to bring those worlds together.”

“Any poker player knows the Holy Grail is to win the Main Event of the World Series of Poker”, echoed Craig Abrahams, World Series of Poker vice president, in the announcement. “Now for the first time, we’re reaching fans in a new way through Zynga’s platform. Players from all over the world can play the free Texas Hold’em game from the convenience of their own living rooms and win a seat to the biggest poker tournament in the world.”

This business move is only the latest in what has been a huge undertaking by Harrah’s and the WSOP to market the game to different corporations and beyond just the poker mainstream. Since 2005, such companies as major sponsors have included Miller Brewing’s Milwaukee’s Best beer brand (which will continue to be the main sponsor of this year’s event), Corum (who crafts the bracelets that winners take home), Pepsi’s SoBe Adrenaline Rush energy drink, the Helene Curtis’ Degree deodorant, the United States Playing Card Company’s Bicycle Pro Cards, Levitra erectile dysfunction medicine, chocolate maker Hershey’s and Planter’s Peanuts. Poker magazines have also invested in sponsorship of the WSOP, usually in return for “exclusive” coverage of the event. It is estimated that these sponsorships and other licensing outlets – such as playing cards, chips, apparel and video games – bring in more than a million dollars to Harrah’s yearly.

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