Sports

World Poker Store hopes to cash on on Texas Hold'em boom

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

There’s no denying that poker has arrived as a mainstream “sport” in the United States. Any amount of channel surfing on any night of the week will tell you that.

Paul Krenik is hoping the popularity of poker translates into a successful business venture. Krenik recently opened the 6,000-square-foot World Poker Store inside The Commons at Federal Way. The store is located near Sears and sells things like poker chips, tables, card covers, apparel, books and art, including several variations on the “Dogs Playing Poker” series.

“Poker is such a big sport and something I like to do,” Krenik said. “And I had nothing better going on, so I looked into it and purchased a business license.”

The sport of poker, most notably Texas Hold’em poker, is now more popular than ever. Poker is on fire, and its popularity is due to a combination of television, technology and the allure of big money.

Industry estimates are that 50 to 80 million people in the United States play the game.

Television shows like the World Poker Tour and ESPN’s broadcasting of the World Series of Poker have brought the sport into the same sentence as mainstream sports in the United States like baseball, football and basketball. The Internet offers hundreds of Web sites where players can get into a game 24 hours a day and casinos now all offer a poker room.

“Poker is the great equalizer,” Krenik said. “Anybody from 18 to 80 can play and understand the game and you are on a pretty even playing field. I can go play golf against Tiger Woods 100 times and he’s going to beat me 100 times. I can go play poker against the world’s best players and beat them. That’s why its become so popular. It’s something everybody can play.”

A big part of the popularity on TV was the installation of lipstick cameras that show every players “hole cards.” The cameras let the audience know when a bluff is in process and exactly how the professionals play their hands.

Another key component was the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event, which was won by Chris Moneymaker. Moneymaker qualified for the tournament by winning a $40 Internet game and it was his first Hold ‘em tournament and he netted $2.5 million.

“Moneymaker’s win was huge for making poker more popular,” Krenik said. “It proved you could be a nobody and win millions.”

Krenik hopes the popularity of poker takes off in Federal Way. The World Poker Store franchise is based out of St. Paul, Minn. and has offices in Florida, Amsterdam and China.

But the Federal Way World Poker Store is going to be more than just a place to buy poker-related gear. Krenik will also be offering free Texas Hold ‘em poker tournaments and world class entertainment.

The World Poker Store franchise currently hosts a worldwide poker community on its Website www.theworldpokerstore.com and continues to add new player members. Currently running hundreds of tournaments per week, the World Poker Store offers a live, face-to-face poker tournament experience without the risk of gambling their own money.

“We are going to offer free poker,” Krenik said. “People will get the fun of the game and get to meet new people and socialize.”

Krenik also said he will be kicking off The Bar Poker League in mid-January, which will include free tournaments around the Federal Way area at bars, bowling alleys and country clubs.

“I think it’s just a great idea,” Krenik said. “Instead of going home and watching TV or sitting on the couch, people can go out and have some fun.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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