Courtesy World Series of Poker
Friday, May 28, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
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Someone recently asked Doyle Brunson which poker player, living or deceased, he respected the most.
Brunson, the 76-year old Godfather of Poker, responded nearly before the question was even finished.
"Chip Reese," Brunson blurted out.
Brunson's admiration is just one example why the David "Chip" Reese Memorial Trophy might be the most coveted piece of hardware in all of poker. It will be up for grabs starting at 5 p.m. Friday at the Rio, where the 2010 World Series of Poker gets under way with the $50,000 Poker Player's Championship.
Reese, a Las Vegas professional who died at 56 years old in 2007, won the inaugural $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. Tournament at the 2006 World Series. The World Series named the title in his honor before the 2008 event.
While every poker player aspires to win July's $10,000 Main Event, the mixed-game event is considered the ultimate championship among professionals.
"To play with all the big boys, you need to learn all of the games," said Eli Elezra, a high-stakes regular in Las Vegas. "I think this proves you're the best."
The format of the tournament will change this year, transitioning from a traditional five-game H.O.R.S.E. combination to an eight-game mix.
Play will switch every eight hands between limit hold 'em, Omaha hi-low, razz, seven-card stud, seven-card stud hi-low, no-limit hold 'em, pot-limit Omaha and 2-7 triple draw lowball.
The final table, which will be played Tuesday, will feature all no-limit hold 'em. It was a concession players agreed to make so the event could be aired on ESPN.
"For the mom and pop that watch on TV, I think it's the best thing," Elezra said. "I tried to watch razz on TV and it was very hard to explain to someone who was sitting next to me, a family member even."
When Reese won the tournament, the final table was all no-limit hold 'em. The World Series, however, switched it to a mixed final table when a handful of players complained that it compromised the event's integrity.
ESPN pulled out from filming the event last year, which decreased the number of entries to a record-low 95 players. This was partly because sponsors were not willing to shell out the pricey buy-in with no television time.
The decision to switch back to a no-limit hold 'em final table for 2010 came after the World Series of Poker's Player Advisory Board, which includes popular pro Daniel Negreanu, decided it was too momentous of an event to not be aired on ESPN.
With the promise of television back, everyone is expecting entries to increase this year.
"We feel it's going to get a great turnout," Tournament Director Jack Effel said.
Elezra said he hoped the Poker Player's Championship would attract about 200 participants, which would make the first place prize around $3 million. David Bach, a pro from Athens, Ga., took home $1.2 million when he won last year's tournament.
No matter what the prize pool is, everyone in the field will be gunning for Reese's trophy.
Carnival lasts all year at the Rio. With a float occasionally passing overhead and dropping beads while feathered dancers fire up the gamblers below, the Rio tries to keep its 120,000-square foot casino jumping with excitement. Special Brazilian mixed-drinks are also served throughout the casino. The hotel suites tend to be larger than similar priced rooms on the Strip and many offer excellent views with floor to ceiling windows.
The Rio offers some quality shows like "Penn & Teller" and "Chippendales." Many come to the Rio for the nightlife at the VooDoo Lounge, located on the 51st floor, or McFadden's Irish Pub on the casino level.
Others come for a bit relaxation at the Rio Spa or pool area and still others come to shop at the hotel's 60,000 square feet of shops. In each of these endeavors, the Rio attempts to make the experience a bit more fun and spontaneous.
The Rio also offers guests a variety of dining choices from all-American food at the All-American Bar & Grille to Gaylord India Restaurant for something a little spicier and even Carnival World Buffet for the indecisive.