Can a WSOP Champion Help US Online Poker?
The short answer is yes. And the reason is that the new World Series of Poker Main Event champion is a New Jersey native and credits legal, regulated online poker for his $8.15 million victory.
Scott Blumstein may not be the next Chris Moneymaker. The global online poker environment has changed too much in the past decade to allow for another poker boom on that type of scale. But Blumstein has the potential to spur growth in the United States poker market due to the unique circumstances surrounding his win and the current status of the game’s legality.
Who is Scott Blumstein?
The 25-year-old poker player hails originally from Morristown in New Jersey but now calls Brigantine home. He played football in high school before moving on and graduating from Temple University in Philadelphia with a degree in accounting.
Blumstein has been playing poker since his college days, as his first live tournament cash came in the summer of 2012 in an Empire State Poker Championship tournament, in which he finished second in the $165 No Limit Hold’em tournament for $3,817. He returned the following year and won that event while winning daily tournaments at Parx Casino.
It wasn’t until he really began to put in the serious time and effort as a poker pro that he scored big. That happened at the 2016 Borgata Summer Poker Open in Atlantic City, where he won the $500 buy-in event that kicked off the series for $199,854. Not even two weeks later, he finished 14th in the $2,500 Championship in that series for another $13,507.
All the while, Blumstein had been playing online poker via the regulated sites available to New Jersey players. He won more than $147K in total since the sites became available, scoring 23 wins and multiple final tables on the Borgata, PartyPoker, and WSOP New Jersey sites.
New Jersey Grinder Roots
While Blumstein described himself as “just a kid who loved to play poker,” he also called himself a grinder. He put in years of online and live play, learning from his experience and especially the plethora of hands available to play online. He enjoyed cash games and tournaments, both of which require unique sets of skills. And all of those skills worked together to bring him to his first WSOP Main Event, first cash in such a large tournament, and ultimately to the final table where he dominated most of the play. His opponents were tough, but Blumstein took his chip lead to the top and won the biggest, most prestigious tournament of the poker year.
Still in shock & I'm not sure when it will sink in completely but for right now I'm just enjoying the moment. All the support means so much!
— Scott Blumstein (@SBlum2711) July 23, 2017
As he told the Associated Press, “The best way to get better at anything is through repetition and practice. When you play online in New Jersey, it’s hard for any live pro to see even close to the amount of hands I’ve probably seen in the last two years.”
While he seemed to play quite a lot of online poker on Borgata, PartyPoker, and WSOP sites, Blumstein took a sponsorship deal at the WSOP final table to wear the 888poker patch. (888poker is the lead WSOP sponsor, and the two companies often collaborate in poker ventures.)
The Blumstein Boom?
There is no guarantee that Blumstein’s success will catch on and create a poker boom of any kind, as much of that remains in his own hands. However, he has many of the qualities that make for a standout poker ambassador; he seems to be a humble, grateful, intelligent, college-educated, family-oriented, hard-working, friendly, and down-to-earth person.
In all post-game interviews, he was also quick to point out that he was prepared for the WSOP Main Event because of the online poker he was able to play legally in New Jersey. Blumstein clearly knows how important it is that the game be allowed to grow in the United States and the obstacles that currently stand in its way.
The possibility of a poker boom is not only in Blumstein’s hands, however. Should 888poker choose to embrace the champion and invest some marketing dollars into a campaign, there are numerous opportunities to grow poker on many levels. Based on the success of 888 in many betting arenas around the world, the company knows what it takes to capitalize on an event and use it to grow the brand.
It remains to be seen if 888poker will use everything in its repertoire to make the most of the moment, and if Blumstein will be willing to take the opportunity if given to him.
There are many possibilities to grow online poker in the US. His home state’s neighbor, Pennsylvania, is currently struggling with gambling expansion that could include the legalization of online poker. Other nearby states like New York and Massachusetts have also recently debated and considered it.
Meanwhile, however, there are several dangers lurking on the federal level that could outlaw online poker in the entirety of the country. Members of Congress and the current US attorney general seem willing to do what it takes to satisfy casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who wants nothing more than to ban online gambling everywhere it is possible. Whether a bill like the Restoration of America’s Wire Act or a Department of Justice decision to redefine the Wire Act, dangers to online poker continue to lurk.
A poker ambassador who hails from the online poker sites of New Jersey, where the games are safe, regulated, and based on skill, may hold the ability to influence the general public as well as political figures. There could be ad campaigns, lobbying efforts, legislative testimony, and any number of other ways to change minds and create awareness.
As with everything else in politics and poker these days, time will tell.
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