The WSOP's transformation from 2005-2015

AP Photo/John Locher

Year after year, I’m always amazed that the World Series of Poker (WSOP) creates such intriguing storylines. This year’s 46th annual WSOP has been no exception.

Starting with the opening weekend’s record-breaking Colossus event, the 2015 WSOP has been filled with continuous excitement, including Phil Hellmuth capturing his 14th bracelet, two multiple-bracelet winners during this series (Brian Hastings and Max Pescatori), 2010 WSOP main event champion Jonathan Duhamel capturing the $111,111 Big One for One Drop, several established pros adding more jewelry to their trophy cases and multiple players fulfilling their lifelong dream by winning their first WSOP bracelet (including veteran pros Shaun Deeb and Ben Yu).

Returning to the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino this year, I can’t believe it has been a decade since I arrived at the WSOP for the first time. I can still remember being in utter awe of the hundreds of poker tables that lined the Amazon Room and the multitude of players who filled the tables, while thousands of spectators hugged the rail. After a truly surreal run to 13th place, I will always look back fondly at the 2005 WSOP. So much has happened to me in the world of poker since then, and the WSOP has changed in so many ways as well.

Let’s look back at how the WSOP, especially the Main Event, has transformed over the past decade.

Over the past decade, the number of bracelet events during the WSOP has steadily increased, including different types of games. The majority of the games are still no-limit hold ’em; however, there has been a rise in mixed game events such as the Dealer’s Choice (introduced in 2014 and currently has 19 different game variations) and the $50,000 Poker Player’s Championship (PPC).

Introduced in 2006, the PPC was initially captured by the legendary David “Chip” Reese. After his passing in December 2007, the WSOP named the PPC trophy in Reese’s honor. Today, the PPC is one of the most coveted titles of the WSOP, captured this year by 2015 Player of the Year leader, Mike Gorodinsky.

In 2005, limit hold ’em was the second-most popular event, where today pot-limit Omaha has taken over that title. Also, in 2005, most of the championship events were $5,000 buy-ins, of which there were seven, not including an additional $5,000 no-limit event. There were two $10,000 buy-ins, including the main event. This year, the championship event buy-ins are $10,000, of which there are 14, including the main event. There are also three additional events greater than $10,000.

One unusual fact about 2005 was that three bracelet events occurred after the main event began. However, the fields for these events were relatively small, as none had more than 1,000 players in any event. In 2006, six bracelet events started after the main event, but the last three didn’t field more than 500 players. The WSOP eliminated these post-main event tournaments after the 2006 series.

The WSOP officially moved to Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in 2005. All 42 events were played at this new property. While the Amazon Room still is the ultimate destination for players -- with the ESPN final table, nicknamed “The Thunderdome” -- the Pavilion Room has the most tables and is the starting location for most Day 1s.

Finally, entering 2005, Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan and Phil Hellmuth were tied with for the all-time lead with nine WSOP bracelets. That year, though, the two elder statesmen both won bracelets within days of each other, taking over the lead. This dual celebration seemed to incite Hellmuth. Since then, the Poker Brat has won five more bracelets, including one this year, and now is the all-time leader with 14.

Back in 2005, the amount of starting chips was still equivalent to the buy-in. In 2008, the WSOP decided to double the starting stacks and, in 2009, the starting stack amount was increased to triple the buy-in amount. This year, all the events less than $10,000 were increased to five times the buy-in amount. However, the main event will remain at 30,000 starting chips.

With the Moneymaker Boom and online satellites, the 2004 main event had two starting Day 1s for the first time in history, ending with 2,576 entrants. In 2005, the WSOP anticipated another huge increase, especially with the abundance of online qualifiers (Pokerstars reported to have more than 1,100 players qualify on its site alone). Thus, the WSOP had three Day 1s. With 5,619 players in total, director Johnny Groom was concerned that they would not have enough room to bring back all the players on Day 2. So, with levels only lasting 100 minutes, he continued to play 20 minutes into Level 8, ending Day 1 around 3:30 a.m. PT in the morning, after beginning at 11 a.m. the previous day. Due to the extra levels played, the remaining players came back to Day 3 with only nine people left until the money.

This year, the WSOP is fully prepared with three Day 1s, with the additional rooms such as the Amazon, Pavilion and Brasilia. There will also be two Day 2s, with all of the players finally coming together on Day 3. Last year, the money broke early in Day 4, but with 1,000 players making the money this year, I predict that the money will break around Level 14, which will be the end of Day 3. The bubble should also not be very long, as last year it only took a few hands.

Although 10 percent of players cashed in 2005, the minimum cash was $12,500, only slightly more than the buy-in, which was fairly customary a decade ago. This year, approximately 15 percent of the players will cash, with a minimum of $15,000.

In 2005, the WSOP main event took seven days, including a one-day final table. The first five days were held in the Amazon Room at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. The final 27 players (of which I was fortunate to be a part) played the final two days in Benny’s Bullpen at Binion’s Horseshoe in downtown Las Vegas.

In 2015, the WSOP main event will take nine days to complete. With the November Nine concept (which was founded in 2008), the final table will reconvene after a three-month hiatus. The two-day final table will be contested in the Penn and Teller Theater at the Rio.

What will another 10 years bring? Will the WSOP have over 100 bracelet events during the summer? Will the WSOP need to expand to multiple venues in Las Vegas?

Will online poker return to the United States? If so, will the WSOP main event have more than 10,000 players? Will the main event take more than 10 days to complete?

We will have to wait and see. However, for 2015, I wish everyone the best of luck in the main event and hope to see you among the November Nine.