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PokerStars has a signature tournament series called the World Championship of Online Poker, though most people simply know it as WCOOP. And this year’s schedule was just released, chock full of 82 online poker tournaments and more than $50 million in guarantees, and is set for September 4-26.

From the WCOOP, many other PokerStars tournaments have come. The Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) has become quite popular, the Turbo Championship of Online Poker (TCOOP) is a hit, and the latest child of the original is the PlayWCOOP for play-money competitors. But WCOOP remains the top dog. And for the month of September, online poker players scramble to play their satellites and get in on the action.

This year, however, the WCOOP has competition. Both 888poker and PartyPoker have chosen to run online tournament series at the same time, with many of the options overlapping with the PokerStars offerings. And it just might hurt a little this time.

In This Corner: 888poker

The series that has become the signature of 888poker is the Super XL Series. This year, it is set to run 40 tournaments with a total of $4 million in guarantees from September 17-25, during the last week of WCOOP.

Super XL ran in April of this year and offered $3 million in guarantees, which means the upcoming events are raising the bar. The Main Event alone is set to offer a $1.5 million guarantee and take a chance that players will be looking for big action that day. The events are wide-ranging in poker variations as well as buy-ins, all in the hopes that they will lure some of the players away from PokerStars with opportunities to play many qualifiers and get to compete alongside the new stable of 888 pros.

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In That Corner: PartyPoker

PartyPoker has a favorite series as well in Powerfest. It was introduced early in 2016 and became a quick hit due to its wide selection of tournament buy-ins. It ran again in May with nearly double the number of tournaments and a few million more in guarantees. With that success, PartyPoker wants to put it up against WCOOP, running 198 tournaments from September 4-25 with $10 million in total guarantees.

Not only is PartyPoker betting on the popularity of the series continuing to rise, but the site wants to directly take players from PokerStars. With buy-ins ranging from $5.50 up to $5,200, there will be something for every type of player. And just to get a little edge, there will be a warm-up series from September 1-4. Powerfest Mini will showcase 12 events, all with buy-ins at $2.20 or lower but with a cumulative guarantee of $60K.

In the Center: PokerStars

It is tough to compete with PokerStars and its $50 million in guarantees. PokerStars also has tradition on its side, as many players consider September the month of WCOOP. There are no European Poker Tour stops to get in the way for many of the players, and the schedule of 82 events keeps players plenty busy throughout the month.

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In addition, PokerStars stepped up its game this year. Not only did they ask for player feedback before coming up with the final draft of the schedule, but they added something called Mini WCOOP. Taking a page from the formerly successful Full Tilt Online Poker Series (FTOPS) that always ran a miniature version with an identical schedule but buy-ins set at 1/100th of those of the main series, WCOOP looks to do the same. While the Mini WCOOP schedule has not been released, it looks like it may run alongside the primary series in an attempt to attract more recreational players and ones that typically cannot afford WCOOP buy-ins.

PokerStars is taking a few risks this year. Not only may the Mini WCOOP take some players away from the main series and its satellites, a decision was made to no longer award WCOOP bracelets to the winners. Bryan Slick of PokerStars noted that the bracelets were not a motivating factor for most players and represented “a significant cost” to the company. Finally, there will be no more 2nd Chance tournaments included in the schedule.

And the Winner Will Be?

Of course, the winner will be PokerStars.

However, this is the first year that the WCOOP will have serious competition from two other major online poker sites that have made significant progress in growing their player bases. What remains to be seen is how much of the traffic 888poker and PartyPoker will take away from PokerStars and what impact it will make.

WCOOP remains near and dear to many players, but the last year of changes at PokerStars has left a sour taste in the mouths of some. The mid-stakes and high-stakes players who were most disappointed in the VIP program changes have been seeking alternatives to PokerStars. While Super XL and Powerfest don’t offer exact substitutes, players may be more likely to diversify and spread the wealth.

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.

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