The Internet poker industry is becoming a full house: Caesars to launch WSOP online today

Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

Hundreds of amateur and professional poker players compete on the first day of the World Series of Poker Main Event on Saturday, July 6, 2012, at The Rio.5

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Carlos Mortensen of Spain, 2001 main event winner, competes during the seventh day of the World Series of Poker $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas Hold 'Em at the Rio Monday, July 15, 2013. Launch slideshow »

It’s time, and all hands are on deck.

Four months after Station Casinos rolled out Ultimate Poker, Caesars Interactive will enter the online gambling ring with its World Series of Poker site, the second fully-legal, pay-to-play poker platform in Nevada.

The site goes live at 9:19 a.m. today, a play off its release date. The buzz leading up to the launch is undeniable: more than 12,000 players already have signed up.

After four years of development, Caesars' all-star team of programmers and online specialists have been feeling the pressure of rolling out a new model tied to an existing brand, particularly one that's widely popular and hugely successful. WSOP is 43 years old and one of the best-known poker brands in the world.

“Sleep? This is poker,” said Seth Palansky, vice president of corporate communications for Caesars Interactive. “Even when we sleep we dream about poker … Everyone understands that the bar is very high in terms of expectations, and we all feel the need to try and deliver to meet the expectations. But the pressure is good for us. It has kept the team focused on not settling.”

Palansky said the lack of sleep and building excitement hasn’t been too sapping. The team has been preparing for this launch for four years.

“We are ready,” Palansky said. “It is culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication, and now it is time to step on the field and complete the job.”

Caesars Interactive has had a 24-hour command center open since Sept. 14 to monitor glitches with the site. Among them: a mobile phone provider’s geolocation system hasn’t been working properly; an Internet provider’s IP address is having problems; and some deposit mechanisms are being declined by certain banks.

“There are some issues that are causing us issue,” Palansky said. “They all actually are third-party related.”

But Palansky said such problems are common with a launch. Some can be fixed only once the site goes live.

“We anticipate some bumps in the road because it will take being live and these companies hearing from their customers before they understand the magnitude of the problem,” Palansky said.

Caesars’ platform features the usual poker suspects: Texas hold ‘em, stud and Omaha hi-lo. Offerings include penny buy-ins and tournaments that cost $1.10 to enter. Players also will have a chance to compete for a seat in the live WSOP tournament.

The program is available both for Macs and PCs.

Gaming Control Board members will be watching closely for a 30-day trial period to make sure the platform adheres to state regulations.

And while thousands of players already have signed up, Caesars is banking on interstate compacts being approved, which would allow players from surrounding states, such as California, to join the action.

Tom Breitling, co-founder and chairman of Ultimate Gaming, the parent company of competitor Ultimate Poker, said Caesars' entrance into the online market signifies healthy growth for the industry.

“I have to congratulate the folks at Caesars,” Breitling said. “This news, along with the 15 million hands Ultimate Poker has dealt since April 30th, is a clear indication of the strong market for regulated online poker. It’s all positive momentum, and we look forward to the continued growth of the industry.”

Four things you need to know about playing WSOP online:

• State law allows only Nevada residents and visitors to play.

• Players must be at least 21 years old.

• Players must transfer funds via credit card, debit card or automated checking account.

• Players can’t deposit or withdraw cash from casino cages.

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