The biggest spectacle in poker kicks off Sunday. The 2012 World Series of Poker promises to be bigger than ever. The annual event will now feature 61 gold bracelet events, up from 58 in 2011, and the annual Casino Employees Championship kicks off the festivities on the first day at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
“This year's WSOP schedule is very exciting,” said WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel, who will oversee the event for the seventh consecutive year. “We're introducing some fantastic new events, while bringing back many successful stalwarts that our players love. We will expand our footprint this year to include extra tables dedicated to cash games, as well as plenty of satellite and single-day tournament space, so players will have an easy time finding a desirable game without ever having to leave the Rio Convention Center.”
This summer's festivities mark the 43rd year for the tournament series, and the first open WSOP gold bracelet event begins on Memorial Day with a $1,500 No-Limit Holdem tournament. The annual poker extravaganza is televised on ESPN and runs from Sunday through July 16. An additional 92 poker tables will be added for about 470 poker tables in use throughout the events in the Rio's Convention Center. It was also announced that WSOP.
WSOP spokesman Seth Palansky said much of the WSOP's continued growth is attributable to international growth of the game.
“When I worked my first WSOP in 2008, we had 220 tables in play and a bunch of the convention space was taken by other conventions,” he says. “In 2010, I recall we sold out 11 of our bracelet events. We simply didn't have any more tables to seat players that wanted to play. So we knew the demand existed. We just couldn't meet it. While U.S. growth has slowed, the game's growth is coming from around the rest of the world.”
Holdem events continue to be the most popular tournaments by a wide margin, Palansky says, and games like 7-Card stud “are going the way of the 8-track.”
“The reality is 99 percent of the players look for affordability combined with high upside,” he says. “When you can enter a $1,000 event and win $600,000 in three days, players like the risk-reward associated with that. You can even satellite in for $100. We are seeing tremendous growth in short-handed events — events that play either six, four or heads up format. It creates a wider range of hands that players can play, and thus more action and excitement.”
Throughout June, weekend action will cater to the “weekend warrior” players, with affordable buy-in No Limit Holdem tournaments for gold bracelets at $1,500 on Saturdays and $1,000 on Sundays. The June 2-3 weekend features a re-entry $1,500 No-Limit Holdem tournament where players can play on Saturday and re-enter on Sunday if knocked the first day. July 4-5 will feature a multiday start $1,000 No-Limit Holdem tournament just before the biggest poker tournament in the world — the $10,000 WSOP Main Event Championship beginning July 7.
One of the biggest events will take place July 1 — the Big One for One Drop featuring an unheard of $1 million buy-in with $111,111 of each buy-in going to the One Drop charity, which provides fresh water wells to Third World countries. The event has attracted many pros and business executives and the number of entries will be capped at 48.
For Oklahoma poker fans, many may be tracking the success of Tulsa's Ben Lamb, who took third place in the Main Event last year for a whopping $4 million. He also took home $1.3 million in preliminary tournaments, including his first gold bracelet and WSOP Player of the Year honors. Lamb has become one of the superstars in the poker world. If he plays his cards right and with a little luck, it could be another big summer for this Oklahoma card shark.
Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Rockwall, Texas, and his new book, “Raising the Stakes: True Tales of Gambling, Wagering and Poker Faces,” will soon be available at www.