WSOP 2017 Overview

WSOP [World Series of Poker] is an annual event, now in its 47th year.   It is considered the biggest and most prestigious event of its kind in the world, as well as the longest running. In 2015, it had 103,512 people entered, from 111 countries, playing in a total of 68 events having a prize pool of over $210 million. It’s been said that the WSOP is an event which can change someone’s life in a positive manner, as well as provide invaluable experience and skill improvement through playing against renowned players from around the globe. The announcement for this year states “Anyone can enter, and anyone can win!” The winner of the Main Event is deemed the World Champion of poker.

While timing can vary, and dates generally are not announced until the preceding December, there are several things you can count on. One is geography: it will be in Vegas. Two, it is always held during summer … a hot time of year to visit Vegas, but what does that really matter if you are in an air conditioned casino? Three, big money is at stake but you don’t have to be a High Roller to play — there are avenues designed to allow “regular people” to get in on the excitement, even without any advance planning or heart-stopping buy-in costs. Best of all, if you are in Vegas at the time and are at least 21 years of age, you can watch for free! Souvenir merchandise is available too, without having to sign up.

The WSOP is headquartered at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, as it has been for the last 11 years. It is sponsored by Caesars Entertainment, which offers WSOP players discounted hotel rates for the Rio, Bally, Caesars, Flamingo, Harrah’s, Paris, Planet Hollywood, and The LINQ. The series is not restricted to any one type of casino poker (strip poker is out folks, sorry). Besides Texas Hold’em , this includes Omaha, H.O.R.S.E.. Stud, Lowball, Badugi, or even Dealer’s Choice which can be any one of 19 different variants. In fact, there is a Crazy 8’s event, and another event where you can play in teams [2-4 person tag teams, #61].

The tournament runs about seven weeks, May 31 to July 18, which wraps up everything except the finale of the 117 day long Main Event [event #68 A, B, C].   After narrowing the field to 9 players in mid-July, the WSOP takes a multi-month hiatus before returning to Vegas to finish it off in the fall. In the past three years, these players were called the “November 9”, a nice alliterative turn of phrase. That would be expected again but one wonders if they will become the “October 9”, as happened in 2012, since this is once again a national election year.   (The math: Kick off for #68 is Sat., July 9, day 191 of 2016. Another 116 days brings us to Day 307 which is Wed., Nov. 2nd. The finale should be good for several days, coming very close to Election Day on Nov. 8th.)

Here is some general information that might clear up a few mysteries. There can be several “flights” for popular competitions (subsequent day starts, identified by A, B etc.), enabling more entries.   Fee amounts span both entry and championship levels. They may range from hundreds of dollars to $25,000 [for the High Roller #62], and then up to $111,111 [for the High Roller One Drop charity event, #67]. Similarly, the duration of events can vary. There are tourneys as short as 1 day, some 2-day, some 5-6 days, and some running for 49 consecutive days. Most tend to be 3-4 days, allowing ‘weekend warriors’ to play for a stint.

Having mentioned One Drop, you should know that it is not necessary to be a High Roller to participate. There is a regular bracelet event called the Little One for One Drop No Limit Hold’em [#69]. This year it is in the spotlight as the final official event of the tournament (it lasts 5 days, so the Main Event actually closes the tournament). Buy-in there is only $1000 for 5000 chips, but if you add $111 you receive 5000 more chips.

One Drop is now an official WSOP charitable partner. Fundraising benefits an international organization which was created by Guy Laliberté, founder of Cirque du Soleil. One Drop seeks to improve living conditions which help make communities sustainable, since providing access to clean water is only one step of a collaborative intervention program. Recent projects have been in Burkina Faso, Honduras, and India. For more info see https://www.onedrop.org/en/

WSOP’s involvement first began in the 2012 tournament, with “The Big One for One Drop”, giving its 10% rake of entry fees as a donation ($5.33 million). All 48 available seats were filled, yielding a poker record for first prize: $18.3 million. Guy Laliberté donated his winnings from fifth place ($1.83 million), and Caesars Interactive CEO, Mitch Garber, was ineligible to play so made a $111,111 donation.   This single tournament game resulted in a total donation of $7.28 million.

If you are going to be in Vegas and have an itch to get in on some of the action, there’s something else you might want to know. Until July 10th you can play in games where winners earn tournament chips to use in any of the 2016 gold bracelet events. These are called Single Table Tournaments (STT), satellites, and range from $125 upward. They could have two options, either Single Winner (pays one finisher 100% of the prize pool) or Double Winner (pays two finishers 50% each). The rake structures are fairly flat (generally $15), but that also means they vary as a percentage of buy-in, if that matters to you.

There are also non-bracelet side events. You could find tournaments at the Rio with low buy-ins, starting at $75. Four daily deep stack tournaments ($135, $185, $235, $365) will be running for 49 days.

Cash games begin on May 31, 24 hours a day at the Rio, based on demand; look in the Pavilion Green section of the WSOP area, as well as in the Rio Poker Room (next to the Race and Sports book). No pre-registration is required, just see a Live Action Supervisor to sign up. The smallest cash games for Live Action will be $1-$2 No Limit Hold’em and $2-$4 Limit Hold’em.

One thing to be aware of: Chips won are only useful for 2016 tournament buy-ins. They are not convertible to cash, nor will they be good beyond the July 18 closing date.

Get more detailed information for registration, schedules, rules etc. at www.wsop.com/2016/  If you are interested in following the results, check WSOP’s Twitter and Facebook pages. At various points, you might also find coverage on You-Tube, Instagram and ESPN feeds.

There are 69 official gold bracelet events this year, and 8 are new events. These are identified by number as well as title, so for brevity’s sake, here is a list of the new tournaments: #4, #12, #23, #40, #45, #53, #54, #61. One of the new events is called Crazy Eights Eight-Handed No-Limit Hold’em [Event #54 A, B, C, D]. This has an $888 buy-in, and a guaranteed $888,888 first place prize. Anyone wanting more detail can find it on the schedule at http://www.wsop.com/tournaments/

A number of popular events are returning, such as the Monster Stack [#41] and Millionaire Maker [#14], as well as some gender and age-specific tournaments. You don’t have to be female to play in the Ladies Championship although it is definitely a $9,000 benefit [#65, ladies receive a 90% discount on the $10K entry fee]. However, for two other No-Limit Hold’em Championships, you do have to meet an age qualification: age 50+ for the Seniors [#27], age 65+ for the Super Seniors [#31].

In fact, you definitely don’t have to be young to play in the WSOP. A fellow from Indiana, Jack Ury, first played in the Main Event in 2007 at the spry age of 94, and continued playing for the next four years. In 2010, he made it all the way to Day Three of that competition, and finished in the top 30% of the field, at the age of 97 years, 3 months. He was the oldest participant in WSOP history.

The tournament format changes each year, which keeps things fresh and allows for improvement. For 2016, start times are earlier and structures have been tweaked. Besides new types of tournaments, all $10K buy-in events will get 50,000 starting chips. Prize money will have a new format for distribution. Places paid have been revamped so payouts are increasing and players are reaching money earlier which will improve bottleneck congestion problems.

The $565 Colossus No Limit Hold’em was new in 2015, and was a huge success. With a low buy-in and $5 million guaranteed prize pool, it attracted 22,374 entries and the prize pool was $11,187,000. Of that, $638,880 went to the winner, which raised complaints that it was a relatively insignificant payout. It has been renamed Colossus II for 2016, and incorporated several changes. Chief among these, the pool has a $7 million guarantee and a $1 million first place prize. This is Event #2, beginning June 2nd, getting the juices flowing early.

The WSOP pays out about 15% of the field. Winners of each event get a cash prize, based on the number of entrants and buy-in amounts, plus a WSOP bracelet. All bracelets are custom to the event, but follow the same design standard, with the exception of the Main Event.

The largest Main Event win was $12 million, by Jamie Gold in 2006. In 2015, the amount was less but still an impressive $7.68 million. Cash payouts are popular of course, but capturing the bling has its own unique appeal.   The gold bracelets and bragging rights literally go ‘hand in hand’. The biggest and fanciest bling is reserved for the World Champion, created with 80 black and white diamonds. Ironically, some critics feel it’s gotten so oversized, it looks more like a mini-wrestler’s belt than a bracelet.

Players desiring a shot at the World Champion title can try to win their seat in the No-Limit Hold’em Main Event months before the tournament start date. This can be accomplished through an online poker qualifier, or satellite, which might then feed into a larger tournament, so winning a $500 satellite could be worth a $10K Main Event Seat. For people who prefer sitting across from their opponents, the WSOP Circuit holds a series of tournaments at casinos around the world. Alternately, if you lack the time or patience and have $10,000 to spare, you can just buy in directly.

Nonplaying enthusiasts are welcome as spectators, of course. As a bonus, you can register for Main Event Finals Table contests, and share in the excitement on their dime! Look for promos sometime in early fall, providing airfare, accommodation, VIP treatment, etc. These have been offered both by the WSOP (their contest for the November 2015 finale closed Oct. 18th, 2015) and other outfits which felt the demos to be a good fit.

The whole thing began back in 1970 as an invitational, when Benny Binion asked seven of the best poker players he knew to play No Limit Texas Hold’em at his Horseshoe Casino. The winner was Johnny Moss, as voted on by his peers, and the purse was not stipulated. In 1971 the tournament opened up to players with a $5K buy-in, doubling to $10K for 1972 (and staying at that max ever since). Johnny Moss won again in 1971 and 1973, so appears the peer vote was appropriate.

When Harrah’s Entertainment (later renamed Caesars Entertainment, while retaining the Harrah’s brand) bought The Horseshoe Casino in 2004, it also got the rights to the WSOP. The tournament was moved to the Rio Hotel & Casino in 2005, and has been held there ever since.

For more detail on this year’s WSOP, see their five pages of FAQ at http://www.wsop.com/2016/FAQ%202016%20WSOP.pdf