5 Things to Look Forward to at the 2010 WSOP
The 2010 World Series of Poker (WSOP) will be underway in less than three weeks at the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Here are five things to look forward to at the 2010 WSOP:
$1,000 No-Limit Events
Last year, the WSOP ran a tournament dubbed the 'Stimulus Special', a $1,000 buy-in event that effectively marked the start of the WSOP for everyone not sufficiently bankrolled for the $40,000 buy-in that took place a few days prior. An astounding 6,012 players came together for this event. Unfortunately, despite the obvious popularity of the $1,000 buy-in, this was the only such event on last year's schedule. It appears Harrah's got the message. This year's schedule features six $1,000 buy-in open-field events. Five of these events take place on the first five Saturdays of the series. The sixth is scheduled for Thursday, July 1st, just a few days before the start of the Main Event.
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Some players have complained that these events, due to their "low" buy-in, detract from the prestige of the WSOP. That's hogwash. Anyone who can navigate through a 6,000+ player field deserves to strap WSOP gold onto their wrist as much as any other winner. Additionally, these events are extremely attractive to casual players in the U.S. and abroad. By holding a $1,000 event each Saturday during the series, you'll see a lot more amateur, home-game types descending into Sin City to chase their WSOP pipe dream. More money pouring into WSOP prize pools and more participation from the general public is a great thing for poker. Nice move, Harrah's.
No More Tent Kitchen
If you've been out to the WSOP in the past couple of years, you've probably seen the 'Gutshot Grill', a food service area set up in a tent outside of the Amazon Room. This eatery was often the only option players had in order to grab a quick bite during a tournament break. To get to it, one had to walk about fifteen feet outdoors in the blistering desert heat before ducking for cover in the poorly air-conditioned food tent. The most frustrating thing about the tent was that it never seemed to have an evenly-balanced floor. It was like trying to eat on a boat: your food was liable to just slide off the table in some cases.
This year, the food tent is no more. WSOP organizers are moving the Gutshot Grill into the Miranda Room, which formerly housed tournament tables. Harrah's Communication Director Seth Palansky told the media that players can expect, "similar offerings as in years past, but there has been a heightened focus on some healthier and vegetarian offerings." The Miranda Room has a full kitchen attached to it which will allow food to be served fresh in a permanent indoor structure.
$50,000 Buy-in Player's Championship
Gone is the $50,000 buy-in HORSE event from the 2010 WSOP schedule. That event, usually positioned awkwardly in the middle of the WSOP schedule despite its hype and prestige, failed to attract even 100 players last year. Harrah's got the message: do something to resurrect the $50k event. They made two changes that should certainly help. First, the event is no longer pinned deep into the WSOP schedule where players are exhausted and less apt to put up $50,000 for a week-long, limit-betting grindfest. This event, now dubbed the 'Player's Championship', will take place on Friday, May 28th as the first open-field event of the year. The actual "Event #1" of this year's series is the $500 buy-in casino employees tournament which starts five hours prior.
The second major change to the $50k event is that it will no longer be played using HORSE rules. HORSE is so 2007. Instead, the 8-Game variant will be used. 8-Game is sexy. 8-Game is sooo sexy. In addition to the five games played in HORSE, 8-Game also incorporates no-limit hold'em, pot-limit Omaha, and 2-7 Triple Draw. This format is far more likely to produce a true Player's Champion. Plus, it's far more exciting. HORSE is all limit-betting. 8-Game has six rounds of limit-betting games and two rounds of high-action games where big stacks can turn to dust in a single hand. The final table of this event will be aired on ESPN and played exclusively using no-limit hold'em rules.
Never before has the $50k event made such a strong case for being more prestigious than the Main Event.
Phil Hellmuth's Entrance to the Main Event
Phil Hellmuth has a reputation for showing up fashionably late to tournaments. In 2007, he crashed a race car into a concrete light fixture in the Rio's parking lot before being escorted to his Main Event seat by 11 models (one for each bracelet he's won). In 2008, he arrived in a convoy while dressed in military gear including a general's helmet with 11 stars. Last year, Hellmuth was carried into the Rio on a bed while dressed as Julius Caesar along with about 100 supporting members in Roman gear including models in body paint.
So how will the Poker Brat made his grand entrance to the 2010 WSOP? He told fans last month on his twitter account that he will enter the Rio as an MMA fighter, "wearing gold or black robe (with) hood up." That doesn't sound like it will rival last year's Caesar entrance, but Hellmuth is a born showman so don't bet on him to disappoint.
Farewell to the Rio
Serving as home to the WSOP for its six straight year, this could be the Rio's last go-around. Harrah's is said to be seeking offers for the off-Strip property. If they are successful in their quest to sell the Rio, it is all but certain that the WSOP will have a new home next year. By and large, the Rio has been a great venue for the WSOP. Sure, it hasn't been perfect. Poker players have found many things to complain about. But the Rio will always be remembered as the place that took the WSOP from the dingy Binion's Horseshoe in downtown Las Vegas to the modern-world: a massive convention center located a stone's throw away from the Vegas Strip. Much of the success and popularity of the WSOP over the past five years is owed to the Rio. The Amazon Room, which holds nearly 300 tables, has served as the place where countless millions of dollars and dreams change hands every summer for six years. If this is indeed the Rio's curtain call, I think many in the poker world will look back on its era as home of the WSOP with nothing but fond memories.