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Brace for the Bracelets

The 48-day forecast for the 2008 World Series of Poker

The World Series of Poker (WSOP) began virtually unnoticed in 1970. The inaugural event, an invitational competition to determine the best player by vote, took place at Binion’s Horseshoe in Las Vegas. When the chips settled, Johnny Moss was elected champion by a panel of his peers. Moss was quick to immodestly explain the referendum was moot since he had played in five different games and, in his words, “won them all” defeating 37 entrants and taking their money along the way. The facts have faded through the years, but we do know Moss did not receive prize money for ‘winning’ the initial WSOP. By contrast, the 2008 world champion will be set for life financially. More than 6,000 hopefuls will vie for the ultimate poker prize in the 39th annual Main Event. Let’s take a look at some of the things we can expect.

A 48-Day Marathon

The opening event begins on Friday May 30. For the first time in history, the kickoff tourney will cost entrants $10,000. Participants will receive $20,000 in chips and play pot-limit Texas hold’em for three days (if they make the final table). The takeout will be 4.2 percent of the total entry pool. An additional 1.8 percent of the pool will be withheld for tournament staff. The vigorish is even higher (on a relative basis) for those who enter more inexpensive events. For example, the second tournament begins on May 31. It is a four-day, $1,500 buy-in, no-limit hold ‘em contest that withholds 6.3 percent for the tournament organiser. Another 2.7 percent is earmarked for staff.

The Main Event is slated to start on Thursday July 3 at noon. The field will depart in four flights on consecutive days. If you know you’re playing in the championship, it pays to register early since players are allowed to select their first day of play (July 3, 4, 5 or 6) based on availability. Final table action will begin at noon on Wednesday July 16. Off days are scheduled for July 7 and July 15.

Event Overview

A total of 55 bracelet tournaments (in eight different games) will be conducted this year. The buy-ins range from $1,000 to $50,000 and include eight $10,000 buy-in tourneys and eight $1,500 no-limit hold ‘em contests. Getting proper rest is once again essential, since three-day events continue to dominate — 48 are scheduled.

Registering To Play

Early registration is recommended. That’s because, in 2008, alternates will not be part of the equation. When space fills up in the Rio’s Amazon ballroom (there will be no overflow playing area, as the hot/humid “Tent” will not be deployed this year), the tourneys will be closed. From now until two weeks before an event, you can pre-register by completing a form at worldseriesofpoker.com/registration/. Wire payment information along with how to pay by cashier’s check instructions are provided here as well.

When paying in person, the Rio will accept cash, cashier’s checks and Rio chips. And due to Title 31’s passage last July, entrants of $3,000 (or greater) events will be required to present their social security card or individual taxpayer identification number. If you do not have an ITIN, you can apply at irs.gov or obtain assistance at the International Player’s concierge window located in the Rio’s tournament area.

Soft Opening

One of the things that irked players last year was waiting in line for several hours to register for the first event. WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack has responded promising “… a soft opening on May 28 and May 29 that gets registration going early and gives folks a chance to come in and start playing satellites and cash games before bracelet events begin. Overall, we want every element of the customer experience to improve.”

Top Flight Dealers

Yesterday, a friend of mine passed her audition to deal in the 2008 WSOP. She was asked to demonstrate proficiency in hold ‘em, deuce-to-7 lowball, pot-limit Omaha and stud high-low. The former WSOP dealer related this was the most challenging tryout to date. That’s good news. We should see the best field of card pitchers to date when the action begins as Mr. Pollack is focused on dealer training and performance.

KNOW YOUR…Lee Munzer 2008 WSOP championship table prognostication

Seat 1: Phil Ivey
The 32-year-old, who many consider to be the best in the world, comes in hot, defeating 644 players to capture the LA Poker Classic in late February.

Seat 2: Gus Hansen
Well known for his ability to generate action and take risk, the ‘Great Dane’ is less acknowledged for his excellent adaptability to individual opponents and situations.

Seat 3: Men Nguyen
‘The Master’ is on fire with a world-leading seven final tables in 2008. Focus and finesse are among the four-time player of the year’s strengths.

Seat 4: Brandon Cantu
Just 25, the Vegas resident has already picked up WSOP and WPT titles. Calm, calculating and creative, Cantu burst onto the scene in 2006. He is an early-stage chip builder who bullies well when sitting behind a big stack.

Seat 5: Bertrand Grospellier
The 25-year-old Frenchman is red-hot, racking up more than $2 million in tournament proceeds during the first quarter of 2008.

Seat 6: Lee Watkinson
Steady and in quest of his second WSOP bracelet, Lee would be a repeat finalist. He is running well this year with five final table appearances.

Seat 7: Allen Cunningham
At 31, the Californian threatens records based on his consistent excellence. He has garnered five bracelets and amassed more than $9 million in lifetime tourney earnings.

Seat 8: Juha Helppi
My dark horse can move chips, read situations well and is physically fit for grueling events, but although cashing 10 times at the WSOP, the ‘Finland Flash’ is still looking for his first major win.

Seat 9: Gavin Griffin
The 26-year-old ranks 35th in all-time earnings (one spot ahead of the great Johnny Chan). Savvy and seasoned beyond his years, Gavin is my pick to win this year’s world championship.
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