The Big Deal

The 8,000 player, $10,000 buy-in, 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event beckons

The internet revolution has changed the shape of big money tournaments

This is it – the place where the real action kicks off! While most of the country is weathering the depression of another four years until they can watch the best footballers in the world battle it out for the World Cup, you can start rubbing your hands in glee as the World Series of Poker prepares to shuffle up for the Big One.

The WSOP is a multi-event festival that has stood as the unrivalled centre point of the poker calendar since 1970. For six weeks this summer all eyes, chips and cards will be focused on the Rio Hotel and Casino, where the WSOP celebrates its 37th year having now permanently moved from Binion’s Horseshoe Casino, where it was originally conceived and played for 36 years. This year, thousands of poker players will battle it out over 45 events with hundreds of millions of dollars – and the all-important bragging rights that a winner’s bracelet affords – at stake.

The first batch of this year’s events, including the hotly contested Tournament of Champions, the traditonal curtain-raiser to the WSOP, have already been played, but as always it’s the Main Event that everyone’s waiting for with baited breath.

The winner of the $10,000 No-Limit Texas Hold’em World Championship event, otherwise known as the Big One, will be crowned World Champion on August 10 (or the early hours of the following morning) after nine long days of gruelling play. It’s a title that’s been held by a horde of poker legends since the World Series started in 1970, including Johnny Chan, Doyle Brunson, Stu Ungar, Johnny Moss and Phil Hellmuth. The last three years, however, has seen relative unknowns burst out from the exponentially swelling fields to steal the stars’ thunder and nab the coveted bracelet.

Big incentives

The internet poker revolution has undoubtedly changed the shape of big money tournaments by putting the Main Event at the fingertips of players – rich or poor – the world over. Last year a record-breaking 5,619 players entered the Big One creating a tournament pot of $52,818,610, which saw Australian poker pro Joe Hachem rake in $7.5m. Those figures are set to be eclipsed this year with around 8,000 players gunning for the estimated $10m first prize. Some operators such as Full Tilt and PokerStars are also offering additional sums of cash (up to $10m) to the winner if they qualify through their respective sites, making whoever triumphs in the Main Event as rich as a National Lottery winner.

Although the Main Event is still the undisputed daddy of poker tournaments, there’s a growing sentiment among the top pros that the winner of the Main Event doesn’t deserve the title of World Champion. The Main Event’s buy-in has remained stagnant since 1973, effectively lowering the cost of entry, which has led to the creation of the $50,000 buy-in H.O.R.S.E. event. This three-day tournament will see the best all-round players in the world clash over alternating rounds of Hold’em, Omaha Eight-or- Better, Razz, Stud and Stud Eight-or-Better, with the final table reverting to purely nolimit Hold’em.

Watch out for our H.O.R.S.E. tournament report and an interview with the winner Chip Reese. And in the meantime you can keep upto- date with the winners of all the events by checking the news section of this site.

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