I don’t need to tell you the World Series of Poker is about to start, do I? I mean, you’re here at WorldSeriesofPoker.com, so you knew something was up, and if you play this game you know the deal. This is it; the big enchilada; the celebration to end all celebrations; the stone cold nuts.

In a year of parties, WSOP is the biggest. This is a game, a community, an industry built on good times, good stories, good parties and good competition, and WSOP brings out the best in all of the above. Our goal at WorldSeriesofPoker.com is to be your host, so to speak; we’re here to make sure you know everything you need to know so you’re getting the full picture from home.

Like any good party, you can never fully predict exactly what’s going to happen, but if you bring the booze and people are willing, someone’s getting drunk and you can usually make a few educated guesses as to who that’s going to be. Consider the following then to be a look at a few of the stories that will shape the party-to-be.

The Final Table – This is more about what this year’s WSOP-main will be without; the finale of the $10,000 world championship. For the first time ever, the final table will be played four months after the rest of the tournament, allowing television to catch up, creating the effect of watching the final live. Last year, a lot of us knew Jerry Yang had won months before his triumph was shown on television. This time around, aside from the select few who attend live, you’ll have a chance to watch the final table play out without knowledge of who wins. Is the Superbowl the Superbowl if you know the winner in advance? Not knowing is half the fun.

Jerry Yang – Two years removed from having never played poker, twenty years removed from escaping Laos, Yang came out of nowhere to take the world championship and $8 million in 2007 and has barely been heard from since. Yang took advantage of the freedom afforded by his win by spending more time with his family and keeping poker on the hobby level. The question that lingers now is whether lightning struck; Yang hasn’t cashed in a major event since his win. We’ll find out in the weeks to come if he was a one time wonder or something more.

Cunningham’s Streak – There’s no doubt that Allen Cunningham is one of the best poker players in the world and he proved it a year ago when he won a bracelet for the third year running. That streak put him in exclusive company, with Johnny Moss, Doyle BrunsonGary "Bones" Berland and Erik Seidel the only players to have accomplished the feat previously. A bracelet for Cunningham this year, would move him into space previously reserved for Brunson alone.

The All-Time Bracelet Leaders – A year ago, Phil Hellmuth won his eleventh WSOP bracelet, breaking the tie between him, Brunson and Johnny Chan for the most bracelets won by any player over their career. This year, Brunson and Chan will be looking to even the score, while Seidel looks to win his ninth bracelet. Of course, if Hellmuth manages to win another one, he’ll all hear about it. Then hear about it some more. 

Outward Expansion – Poker has gone through monumental growth over the last five years, and one result of that has been its popularization around the world. A year ago, we saw enhanced success amongst players from outside North America and we expect that trend will continue as increased experience in poker’s younger nations continues to even the playing field.

The Arrival of Durrr – Has there ever been a more anticipated WSOP rookie than Tom Dwan? “Durrr” notches a 4th and 9th place finish on the WPT this year and then refused to be pushed around by Hellmuth on NBC’s National Heads-Up Poker Championship, challenging Hellmuth to monumental heads-up duels and backing the eleven-time champ down. Finally 21, one of the world’s best cash game players will finally test the WSOP waters.

A Professional Champion? – In each of the last five years, an unknown has emerged to take the world championship, and it’s left some wondering if this will be the year where a known professional finally takes poker’s biggest prize. There’s little doubt that anyone who triumphs over a field composed of thousands of players including poker’s elite will earn their way there, but a champion with an established resume would go a long way towards legitimizing poker in the eyes of the uninitiated.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on these stories while others emerge. Bookmark us and keep your eyes on this page throughout the next seven weeks; we’ll keep you up to date on the details, the stories and the personalities that make the WSOP the biggest event of the year. Welcome to the party.

Gary Wise will be reporting from WSOP all summer for WorldSeriesofPoker.com, ESPN.com and his home site, WiseHandPoker.net.