Thursday, June 19, 2008 | 5 p.m.
Probably starting with the very first poker game, players have debated what was luck and what was skill. But arguably it's the most skilled ones who are cleaning up at the World Series of Poker, which began last month at the Rio. Unknowns have won many events at the famed tournament since the Internet gave amateurs without easy access to poker rooms a chance to hone their skills.
For six years in a row, amateurs have bested the pros in the final, premiere tournament of no-limit hold 'em.
Pros have won 23 of 30 tournaments so far this year, however.
The line between amateurs and professionals is blurry. Some pros don't stay in practice like they once did before they got famous, while some with other day jobs who are arguably as skilled as the few hundred full-time pros. After all, the World Series of Poker is popular for its ability to make stars, and therefore, pros, out of unknowns.
Tournament spokesman Nolan Dalla says unknowns will still clean up at the tables, topping cash rankings for events because prizes are paid to many players and amateurs far outnumber known names.
The 55-event tournament has so far attracted 24,642 entrants, ahead of last year. The first no-limit event attracted a record 3,929 players, the highest for a non main event.
A record 87 countries and territories are represented at the World Series this year.
Most people will register for the main event days before it begins July 3 or even after because four groups of players will start on different days.
Registrations for some poker tournaments around the country are down so the increases are encouraging, Dalla said.
"The World Series is special," he said. "People will come here even though the economy is not as strong."