- Dave Tuley, ESPN Insider
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LAS VEGAS -- It's often been said that Benny Binion, who invented the World Series of Poker in 1970 by inviting seven poker pros to play a game, wouldn't recognize what his creation has turned into with the 46th annual WSOP starting next week.
For one thing, it's held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino instead of his downtown Binion's Horseshoe. Instead of one event, there are 68 bracelet events. And the games are different.
Boy, are they different.
For decades, the WSOP would offer the usual menu of some no-limit Texas Hold 'em events mixed in with some Omaha games, some stud and other variants. The menu has slowly expanded over the years, but recent events have seen a lot more variety with a virtual explosion this year.
"We have 11 new events on the schedule," said Seth Palansky, vice president of corporate communications for Caesars Interactive Entertainment Inc., which owns and runs the WSOP. "They're mostly geared toward getting new players to the game. We really took a hard look at everything we offer and wanted to make the WSOP more accessible to recreational and home-game players.
"Our tournament director, Jack Effel, deserves a lot of credit. He keeps a log of every player who comes up to talk with him during the World Series. Whether it's a complaint or a suggestion for a new tournament, he takes this input and brings it back to us to make the changes to make the World Series a more enjoyable experience for everyone."
One of the first notable changes for players will be the increase in starting stacks from the previous 3x entry fee to 5x. For instance, a player in a $1,000 buy-in event will now get 5,000 in chips instead of 3,000; a 5,000 buy-in will now get you 25,000 in chips instead of 15,000. Another change in low buy-in events is the addition of 250-500 and 2,500-5,000 blind levels.
"These changes were due to player requests," Palansky said. "The added chips gives them a lot more play and the added levels help players last longer, too."
But back to the actual games.
The first new event starts on May 29 and is expected to be the biggest in terms of number of entries. The Colossus No-Limit Hold'em event has a low price point of $565 but has a $5 million guaranteed prize pool. There are four starting flights (10 a.m. PT and 6 p.m. PT on May 29 and the same times on May 30). Players who bust out in an earlier flight can rebuy into the tournament in a later flight.
The goal is to break the record of 8,773 entries from the 2006 main event. Without giving any actual number, Palansky said there has already been more than 8,773 pre-entries for The Colossus, though he points out that a lot of people are prepaying to enter multiple flights in case they bust out of an earlier flight so they don't have to stand in the massive registration lines that weekend. WSOP organizers have been getting the word out that preregistration is the way to go because of the colossal Colossus.
"Our audience is pretty well-informed," Palansky said, "but it's the new players that we want to get the information out to so they have the best experience possible."
Unfortunately, online preregistration for The Colossus is now closed, but you can click here to preregister for later events.
The other new events:
May 31 (Event No. 6): $1,000 Hyper no-limit hold 'em (two-day event)
June 20 (Event No. 42): $1,500 Extended Play no-limit hold 'em (longer 90-minute levels)
June 21 (Event No. 43): $1,000 Super Seniors no-limit hold 'em (ages 65 and up)
June 26 (Event No. 53): $1,000 Turbo no-limit hold 'em (two-day event with higher buy-in)
June 27 (Event No. 55): $1,500 DraftKings 50/50 no-limit hold 'em (half the field gets paid)
June 28 (Event No. 60): $25,000 High Roller eight-handed pot-limit Omaha
July 1 (Event No. 62): $1,500 Bounty no-limit hold 'em (every player has a bounty on them worth $500)
July 2 (Event No. 64): $1,000 WSOP.com online no-limit hold 'em (final six will play live at Rio)
July 3 (Event No. 65): $777 Lucky 7s no-limit hold 'em (treated like $1,000 event with 5,000 starting stack)
July 3 (Event No. 67): $10,000 Dealers Choice (features 19 variants of poker)
As you can see, it's an eclectic list.
Of note, the DraftKings event combines the WSOP with one of its sponsors in DraftKings (a daily fantasy site) with a poker tourney that has a payout structure like a popular daily fantasy sports game. It's obviously another change toward the future. Another modern innovation (and, again, it's fun to think of what Binion would think of this) is poker on smartphones and tablets. In response, the WSOP (which also has legal online poker games in Nevada through its WSOP.com website and app) is holding its first online bracelet event on July 2.
"We have a generation of players who have grown up playing online," Palansky said, "so it's time to reward that type of skill. It's truly its own variant. And I'm sure there will be more online events in the future."
Last year's most popular new offerings are back: the Millionaire Maker (June 5, Event No. 16) and the Monster Stack (June 12, Event No. 28). The Millionaire Maker has a $1,500 buy-in and a guaranteed $1 million first-place prize, while the Monster Stack gives players 10 times their $1,500 buy-in and was expected to draw about 4,500-5,000 players but ended up having 7,862 (further anecdotal proof that players like to get more bang for the buck).
The $10,000 Dealer's Choice is a spin-off of last year's $1,500 Dealer's Choice, which returns this year as Event No. 52, and is clearly aimed toward the pros, as is the $25,000 High Roller eight-handed pot-limit Omaha offering. "We still have a tract for the pros," Palansky said.
Right. Lest anyone think the World Series of Poker has turned into amateur hour, the pros still have plenty of options and certainly more than back in the old days.
Of course, there's the $10,000 buy-in main event with four starting days beginning on July 5. The Poker Players Championship/Six Handed starts on June 21, has a $50,000 entry fee and includes a dozen poker variants. The High Roller for One Drop starts June 30 and costs $111,111.
So the WSOP has something for every poker player of every level. Follow along here at ESPN Chalk through the events starting next week and running through the November Nine being set on July 14 and then for the final table on Nov. 8-10.
Dave Tuley examines the various changes to the World Series of Poker this year, including an online-only bracelet among 11 new events.