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World Series of Poker to Relocate to Caesars Forum in 2020?

The World Series of Poker Main Event final table

For nearly 50 straight days every summer the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino is the beating heart of the poker-sphere thanks to the often imitated but never duplicated World Series of Poker.

The WSOP has resided at the Rio for over a decade but nearly every year there are rumors that it will make the move to a new venue. There may finally be some validity to those rumors as several outlets have reported that WSOP parent company Caesars is contemplating selling off the Rio.

For now, organizers are saying the series will stay where it’s currently located but there are definitely some signs that the Rio’s reign as WSOP host may come to an end over the next few years.

One of the defining features of the Rio is that it is located off the famous Las Vegas Strip. That makes it easier for locals driving to the WSOP but it also hides it from the extra exposure it might gain on the Strip.

The Brazilian-themed Rio is also starting to show its age – it was built in 1990 – while Caesars (which is just across the highway from the Rio) remains one of the crown jewels of the Caesars empire and a natural pick for talks of relocation.

Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that Caesars just broke ground on the site of the new 550,000-square-foot Caesars Forum convention center that is within walking distance of the Strip. The project is scheduled to be complete by 2020 and would be a natural fit for the WSOP.

The Road From Downtown Vegas to Rio

The lumbering WSOP has an expansive history that dates all the way back to 1970 when Binion’s Horseshoe owner Benny Binion came up with a concept for a poker championship.

Binion wanted to bring more attention to his downtown casino and eventually settled on the idea of a freezeout No-Limit Hold’em tournament that eventually became known as the World Series of Poker Main Event.

The WSOP grew steadily over the years but it was the internet boom of the early 2000s that truly shifted the game into overdrive.

Binion’s group made the decision to sell the casino and WSOP brand to Caesars in 2004 for $37 million. That was just one year removed from Chris Moneymaker’s iconic victory in the 2003 WSOP that saw the amateur take home $2.5 million for winning the Main Event after qualifying for $40 online.

The following year Caesars moved the WSOP to the large convention center at the Rio and has since expanded nearly every part of the brand, including more tournaments, bigger prize pools and a world-wide presence with various circuits and the WSOP Europe.

Just this last summer the 2018 WSOP attracted a record 123,865 entries, proving once again that it’s truly in a league of its own when it comes to poker festivals.

WSOP Organizers Flatly Deny Rumors

Last month popular Vegas insider blog VitalVegas said the Rio sale rumors were the real deal on Twitter and three entities were already seriously interested in the hotel casino.

That post set off a whirlwind of interest from various poker media outlets as it finally appeared there might be a confirmation of a long-awaited relocation.

A Caesars rep quickly quashed the excitement, however, denying there have been any discussions to move the WSOP from the Rio. Still, it’s doubtful organizers would admit to discussions if the potential move was that far out.

One intriguing advantage of having access to more convention space would be the potential for the WSOP to shorten some of its events.

It would theoretically be possible for organizers to eliminate some of the starting days for the 13-day Main Event if every player in the tournament could be accommodated on a single starting day. The logistics would need to be worked out but it’s an appealing concept nonetheless.

Combine the larger space with the potential for more foot traffic and Caesars Forum becomes a tantalizing option for both organizers and poker players.