Tournament coverage Poker

What to see at WSOP

Written by Pai Yao

This article first appeared in the May/Jun 2015 issue of WGM.

The 2015 World Series of Poker is just around the corner as the eyes of the poker world get ready to focus on the Rio in Las Vegas. WGM takes a look at what’s new at the world’s most famous tournament series this year.

As much as we’ve loved seeing poker explode in Macau with the likes of the Asia Championship of Poker becoming a prestigious global event in its own right, there is still nothing quite like the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas. Dating back 46 years now, this annual tournament series remains the one all players aspire to. For the pros, a WSOP bracelet stands as the ultimate validation, while amateurs simply dream of one day taking their seat in the WSOP Main Event.

And for us media types, the WSOP continues to keep us intrigued with new heroes and story lines inevitably emerging each year. Twelve months ago, the 10th anniversary of the WSOP’s move from Binion’s to the Rio saw a US$10 million first place guarantee in place and with it one of the most compelling final tables in recent memory as Sweden’s Martin Jacobson etched his name in the record books.

So what can we expect in 2015? Let’s take a closer look.

This year’s WSOP, which begins on 27 May, will feature a record 68 bracelet events with organizers heeding the suggestions of players with a number of significant changes and additions.

We’ll start with the Main Event, which will start on 5 July and play down to the final table on 14 July, at which point the November Nine will take their near four-month hiatus. Originally planned to boast another US$10 million first place guarantee, the WSOP has instead gone the other way with a flatter pay-out structure that will see the top 1,000 players paid out (assuming a field of at least 5,000) as opposed to the 693 players who comprised the top 10 percent of the field in 2014. This is an excellent move that will open up the tournament to more amateurs or part-timers hoping for a significant payday by their standards.

Assuming the field at least matches the 6,683 who took part last year, the nine players who reach the final table will also have their achievement better recognized with a guaranteed US$1 million payday.

The 68 bracelet events include 14 US$10,000 Championship events plus 11 brand new events including two with a buy-in of well under US$1,000. The most notable of these is the US$565 Colossus which comes with a mammoth US$5 million guaranteed prize pool and is therefore almost certain to break the record for the largest ever field in a WSOP event. The current record stands at 8,772 for the 2006 Main Event.

The US$1,500 DraftKings 50/50 NLHE will see exactly half the field make the money, while the WSOP will give away its first ever online bracelet with the running of the US$1,000 Online NLHE. Play will be paused when the tournament reaches heads-up with the final two players to fight it out for the bracelet at the Rio the following day. Let’s hope there isn’t a three-way all-in before they get a chance to finish the job live!

The Big One for One Drop is on hiatus in 2015 with a US$111,111 High Roller for One Drop to run instead, although the cream of the poker crop will no doubt have their eyes firmly set on the highly sought after US$50,000 Players’ Championship from 21 to 25 June.

Perhaps the most significant changes this year, however, are to the starting stacks whereby all events with buy-ins under US$10,000 will see those starting stacks increase to allow for more play. In most cases, stacks will be up 66 percent on previous years including US$1,000 buy-ins up to 5,000 from 3,000 and US$1,500 up to 7,500 from 4,500.

We look forward to an intriguing few months