The World Series of Poker Main Event is a good barometer of the general state of the game. The rising playing figures over the years show how the poker industry as a whole is growing, and the increasing diversity of entrants reflects the fact that poker is starting to boom in different countries across the globe. For many years, the paramount poker tournament has been dominated by Americans, but now other nationalities are starting to challenge for the biggest prize in the game. Could it soon be South Africa’s turn to have a representative take down the jackpot?
Poker Becoming More Popular in SA
Prior to the days of the internet, poker was almost exclusively played in the USA. Even when the first online poker sites came about in the early 2000s, they were marketed predominantly to people in the US and the UK. Helping with the rise of the game’s popularity in these countries was the availability of televised Texas Hold’em games such as Poker After Dark in the USA and Late Night Poker in the UK. Before 2001, every single winner of the WSOP Main Event was either American or British.
In the last twenty years, diversity at the WSOP Main Event has become more apparent, and this has been helped by poker sites breaking out into different markets around the world. One country in which poker is on the rise is South Africa. This is reflected by the growing number of online casinos in the country offering poker games. These sites all have generous sign-up bonuses, highlighting how fierce the competition to attract players is.
SA Boasts Some Successful Players Already
The rise of poker in South Africa has helped to breed some highly successful players already, some of which have made a splash at the world’s biggest poker tournaments. Raymond Rahme from Johannesburg is probably the best-known poker player from SA. This is thanks to his final table appearance at the 2007 WSOP Main Event. The $8.25 million jackpot was ultimately won by Jerry Yang that year, but Rahme still walked away with just shy of $3 million. Indeed, the South African player was eliminated by the eventual champion. Rahme had pocket kings but decided to shove on a scary looking ace-high flop. Yang had the aces and busted his opponent.
South Africa also boasts one of the top female stars of the game. Ronit Chamani is 8th in the South African all-time money list, but she is ever-present at major tournaments and has accumulated earnings in excess of $600,000 to date. It seems like it is only a matter of time before Chamani takes down a major prize, and she may even have the potential to be the first ever female WSOP Main Event winner.
The abundance of places to play poker online, coupled with the fact that there are already a number of famous card sharks from the country suggests that the number of professional poker players from South Africa could be on the rise in the years ahead. The WSOP Main Event has been dominated by American players to date, and other nationalities need to come along and upset the applecart.