Starting Friday, the poker world's attention will be focused squarely on Paris as WSOP Europe kicks off its 2013 festivities. Here are six things worth watching over the course of the two-week poker festival:
1. Off to Paris
For the third time in the seven-year history of WSOPE, the event has moved to a new city. It started in London, moved to Cannes, France, and now calls the "City of Lights" home -- at least for this year.
Poker players love to travel and discover new cities. Sure there have been big poker events in Paris before, but none have come with the history of the World Series of Poker. There's bound to be more than a few players enjoying the city for the first time. Living vicariously through the Twitter accounts of guys like Jason Mercier, Daniel Negreanu and Phil Ivey gives us all a glimpse of Paris from a perspective very different from our own.
Let's hope the guy running Ivey's Twitter account posts a few pictures.
Given the unfavorable online poker market in France, there's a good chance that Paris could be a one-and-done situation. Regardless, this year will offer an exciting chapter in WSOPE history.
2. The Ladies Event
For the first time in the WSOPE, the schedule includes a Ladies bracelet event. It is the event that kicks off the series Friday afternoon and is a big step in helping to promote the game, but there are a few things working against it.
The event was added to the schedule after the fact. The only time slot that worked was putting it in front of the rest of the schedule, which meant a Friday afternoon start. A number of players who may have played this event had it started Saturday, or during the middle of the Series, may decide to skip it.
Last year, a nonbracelet Ladies event, with a buy-in of 500 euros, attracted 84 players. The buy-in this year is 1,000 euros, but there's no way WSOPE organizers would be happy with only 42 players vying for a bracelet. It's hard to gauge field size and the good folks at Caesars won't provide any estimates, but the event could draw 200 players (a smashing success) or it could bring out a disappointing 50.
3. Mix Max, but Omaha
WSOP Europe is the birthplace of the Mix Max event. Players play nine-handed on Day 1, six-handed on Day 2 and a heads-up bracket on Day 3 to play down to a winner. It's always been played with no-limit hold 'em, but the most exciting addition to the schedule this year is this variation. The Mix Max will be a pot-limit Omaha event, and if fireworks are your thing, this is for you.
This event will be fun to watch because of the caliber of player it's going to attract. It wouldn't be surprising to see the final four made up of former bracelet winners and some of the younger online cash game beasts who make their living playing high stakes pot-limit Omaha, the game players with a little bit more gamble love to play.
4. Big Bucks Buy-In: The High Roller comes to WSOPE
Another new event on the schedule this year is a high-roller event with a bracelet at stake. In Cannes last year, there was a 50,000 euro buy-in nonbracelet event that attracted 49 players. This year, WSOP organizers have lowered the buy-in to 25,600 euros and put a bracelet up for grabs.
High-roller events are becoming more and more commonplace, but given the talent that fills the fields in these events, they tend to be a poker fan's dream. This will fourth largest buy-in bracelet event in WSOP history and the biggest ever outside Las Vegas.
The event takes place after the two Day 1s of the main event, ensuring that big-name players busting out of the main event still have a shot at a bracelet and bragging rights. Be warned though, given recent history, a German is going to win this thing.
5. Player of the Year Chase
Ever since BLUFF began powering the WSOP Player of the Year standings, the race has come down the WSOP main event final table.
Ben Lamb and Greg Merson both won big buy-in events prior to making their deep run and November Nine appearances in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Lamb beat out Phil Hellmuth for the award in 2011 by finishing third in the main event, and last year, Merson needed to win the main to capture the title. The November Nine this year has nobody in contention for Player of the Year, even with the 500 points awarded to the eventual winner. That could quickly change in Paris.
If any of the November Nine have a significant finish or, even better, win a bracelet, then the race gets crazy. Likewise, leader Matthew Ashton could have a good couple of weeks and all but lock up the award. Daniel Negreanu, the guy chasing Ashton, could easily final table an event or two and add to the craziness.
As each event wraps up, the standings will change and the pressure for each of the contenders to earn more points builds.
6. Phil Hellmuth's Main Event
Nobody expected Hellmuth to become the first player to win the WSOP main event and the WSOPE main event, but it happened last year when Hellmuth used "White Magic" to outlast 419 other players and win his record-extending 13th bracelet.
The fun will begin this year when Hellmuth decides which starting day he's going to play. From that point on, anything could happen. He could show up with a flashy, over-the-top entrance, or he could arrive with little or no fanfare in hopes of getting down to business quickly.
Once he's playing, he could become the Poker Brat of old, berating players for what he believes to be bad play, or he could get in that zone he's so famous at finding when a bracelet is on the line. With Hellmuth, every day is an adventure, and he knows the poker world, and maybe more importantly the ESPN cameras, will be following his every move.