It is the type of enthusiasm typically seen in children. The kind of feelings they get in anticipation of Christmas morning. Or, more fittingly, the nerves that come the night before the first day of school, where the new year brims with promise, but no guarantee reality will live up to the hype. It is a mixture of excitement, anxiety, hope, and nerves that only comes along once or twice a year.
For poker players, that enthusiasm and anticipation comes one night every July: the night before the big show, the tournament of the year, the WSOP Main Event. Last year, there were 6,865 hopefuls who put up $10,000 and took their seats on the felt. Of those, 693 experienced the stress and relief that comes with approaching the money bubble, then surviving as it bursts. Of that elite group, nine had that sense of eagerness extended a couple of months as they basked in the glory that comes with making the November Nine.
And out of all of those, one got to feel what it was like to see the dealer burn and turn a more than $8 million river card.
The reigning WSOP Main Event Champion Pius Heinz may have ended last year’s event on the highest note, but any poker fan will tell you the fun and excitement of the Main Event extends beyond just the crowning of the new World Champion. It is a ten-day long three ring circus with the Brasilia, Pavilion, and Amazon Rooms serving as the venue for all sorts of poker antics.
The festivities have a little something for everyone. Heinz will be back to defend his title, as will several other Main Event winners seeking a chance to repeat their miraculous runs. The big names in poker like Ivey, Seidel, and Negreanu will each be taking their shot at the big one too. And seated next to these big name pros will be a range of players from amateurs fulfilling their poker dreams to grinders looking to hit the big time to celebrities and athletes like Kevin Pollak, Ray Romano, Jennifer Tilly, UFC star Georges St. Pierre, cricketer Shane Warne and hockey player Roberto Luongo, all of whom are expected to take part in this year’s event. There will be people in their workout clothes, people in their finest Sunday duds, and even some folks who decide to come in costume and they will all be seated side by side in pursuit of a spot at the final table.
For some, Saturday begins their quest for poker glory as the first group of Main Event hopefuls show up, put up $10,000, and try to chip up over the course of the first five two-hour levels. If players elect to skip Day 1A on Saturday, there is always Day 1B on Sunday, or even Day 1C on Monday. There is no Day 1D this year though. With over 475 tables, there is enough room to accommodate everyone with just three starting days, then two Day 2s, followed by Days 3-7 where the field will be together under one roof, whittling itself down to the final table. If you would like more information on the Main Event structure, the structure sheet is available on WSOP.com.
Whether you are playing on Day 1A, Day 1B, or Day 1C, the drill remains the same. Cards go in the air at 12pm PT and registration for the day is open through the first two levels of play (roughly 4:40pm). Each level will last two hours, with a twenty-minute break at the end of each level. There will be a ninety-minute dinner break at the conclusion of Level 3 from roughly 6:45pm-8:15pm. Then players will be back for two more levels of play before bagging up around 12:45am. All of the action will be updated on WSOP.com.
In addition to live updates, we will also be providing periodic video recaps throughout the day from the ESPN crew, so keep checking back to WSOP.com and keep following us on Twitter @WSOP to know as soon as the latest video update hits the web.
For some, the five level grind will continue for several more days until the November Nine is set. For others, their Main Event glory will only last a day or two. For the thousands that take part in this year’s tournament, no matter the result it will be something they look forward to and, once the bust, most will already start thinking ahead and anticipating next year.
Get some rest. It is a big day tomorrow.