Poker's biggest spectacular, the World Series of Poker, launched for the 41st time as the US Memorial Day long weekend started, kicking off 52 days of enthralling poker, played by the leading exponents of the game and ambitious up-and-comers through 57 action-packed tournaments.
Top players have been arriving in Vegas for the past few days for the event, which was officially started just after 5pm Vegas time Friday by veteran Doyle Brunson and WSOP director Jack Effel when the 'shuffle up and deal' call was made for the $50,000 buy-in mixed game Player's Championship tournament.
Earlier in the day a competition for casino employees drew 721 entrants.
Brunson paid tribute to poker star Chip Reese who passed away last year, before triggering the Player's Championship, which features limit Texas Hold 'em, Omaha high-low split, seven-card razz, seven-card stud, seven-card stud high-low, no-limit Texas Hold 'em, pot-limit Omaha and deuce-to-seven triple-draw lowball.
Key WSOP personalities seen at the tables as play started were Brunson, a 10-time WSOP bracelet holder, and Phil Hellmuth, who has 11 bracelets in his trophy cabinet.
Other aces around the tables at the Rio included Jason Mercier, former WSOP champ Greg Raymer and Aussie star Jeffrey Lisandro, arguably the world's best poker pro Phil Ivey, Jennifer Harman, Daniel Negreanu, Scotty Nguyen, Freddy Deeb, last years HORSE winner David Bach, Mike Matusow, Alex Kravchenko, Bill Chen, Greg Mueller, Tom Dwan, Nick Schulman, David Benyamine and Team PokerStars Pro Canada member Pat Pezzin.
Registering late were Full Tilt Poker pros Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson, along with Robert Williamson III, PokerStars pro Barry Greenstein, Party Poker front man Tony G, Doyles Room's Todd Brunson, Eugene Katchalov, Huck Seed, Amnon Filippi, and World Poker Tour (WPT) co-founder Lyle Berman.
Last year, 95 players turned out to the $50,000 HORSE Championship, which the Player's Championship replaces. This year, that number was eclipsed when entries closed at the dinner break with an official entry figure of 116 players.
Only one player, Dan Shak, had been eliminated by the dinner break, when InfoPowa went to press.
Source: InfoPowa News