Murphy James - The World Series of Poker
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The World Series of Poker
by Murphy James

The World Series of PokerAsk any poker player what the “Big One” is and you will hear, The World Series of Poker (WSOP).  The World Series consists of many versions of poker played over six and a half weeks under Vegas’ blistering summer sun.  The money is huge but the players love to wave the gaudy bracelet that comes with a first place finish in each event.  When Academy Award nominee Jennifer Tilly bagged one last year, she dangled hers for the cameras and cooed: “Better than an Oscar.”

From a small gathering of friends at the inaugural event at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino in 1970, the World Series last year set record upon record.  For example, in 2005, 29,000 players competed for a total prize pool of $103 million dollars, with the top prize for the No Limit Texas Hold ‘em championship event going for $7.5 mil.  Expect record breaking numbers again in between the June 26 start and the August 10 finish.  2005’s Numero Uno was Aussie Joe Hachem, a former chiropractor. Joe’s lucky streak did not end with his multi-million dollar swag.  An Australian tax court held that he did not have to pay taxes on his winnings!  How’s that for a winning hand?  Also in 2005, poker legends Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan each bagged their record, tenth World Series wins.  For Doyle it was an especially sweet year as his son and fellow-pro, Todd Brunson, snagged his first piece of jewelry, making them the first father-son team to show off bracelets.  Phil Ivey was rousted out of bed by Barry Greenstein to get his tail feathers down to the registration desk and sign up for his best event: Pot Limit Omaha.  Phil won it, adding another bracelet to the four he already owns and stuck $630,685 into his back pocket to boot.  Hope he bought Barry a beer (or a bar of his own)!

The World Series of Poker is owned by Harrah’s and will be held again at the Rio (a Harrah’s property, of course).  Last year, admittedly, Harrah’s and the Rio struggled with the crush of players, media, and onlookers. Management also listened hard to the complaints that resulted.  In response, Harrah’s appointed a Commissioner, Jeffrey Pollack.  They also appointed a Players’ Advisory Committee. WSOP main event champions Chris “Jesus” Ferguson and Scotty Nguyen will join bracelet winners Jennifer Harman, Howard Lederer, Daniel Negreanu, and Robert Williamson III in accepting a one-year post.  The players will work with Harrah’s executives to help enhance player experience at WSOP events.  Another change: Harrah’s has initiated a new event with a $50,000 buy-in, called (H.O.R.S.E.).  HORSE is an acronym for a series of “mixed games” including Hold'em, Omaha, Razz, Stud, and Stud/Eight-or-Better.  The top players view this event as the measure of the best all-around poker-playing ability.  The steep buy-in should weed out most of the amateurs.  Look for the clash The World Series of Pokerof titans here!

And who is going to win the championship event this year, the No Limit Texas Hold ‘em event that will pay out $8-10 mil to the player who triumphs over all others?  The last three champs, Chris Moneymaker (2003), Greg Raymer (2004), and Hachem, all unknowns, came charging unexpectedly out of the pack, leaving hundreds of the best players in the world to shake their heads, murmur “wait until next year,” and head for the exit.  So, perhaps the easiest way to handicap the main event is to put 6,000+ names into a hat and . . .oh, yes, one more very, very important change.  In response to perhaps the greatest complaint, there will be shorter restroom lines (for a change, ladies, the men suffered) in 2006.   SLV