Wednesday, June 1, 2011 | 2 a.m.
One of the most memorable moments of last summer’s World Series of Poker concurrently exposed one of the event’s most glaring weaknesses.
The entire poker world took notice when then-23-year-old star Tom Dwan advanced to the final table of a $1,500 no-limit hold ’em tournament, but no one outside of the Rio could watch it unfold. Ty Stewart, WSOP executive director, decided he couldn’t let that happen again this year.
“We’re committed to providing a visual account of the action,” Stewart said. “So, this year you’ll be able to see every winning moment at the World Series of Poker.”
The World Series of Poker’s official website will stream live video of 55 of the events, and ESPN will show the remaining three.
The first two WSOP events of the year kicked off Tuesday at the Rio. The final table of the $500 Casino Employees Event will air on WSOP.com at 2:30 p.m. today, and ESPN3 will show the $25,000 heads-up final at 5 p.m. Friday.
The other two tournaments ESPN plans to air are the $50,000 Poker Player’s Championship in July and the $10,000 Main Event.
The final six days of the Main Event will be shown on a 30-minute tape delay on ESPN2 with hole cards.
“I called it a historic moment. I don’t think that’s hyperbole,” Stewart said. “Sports fans simply won’t be able to ignore that there’s a huge happening in Las Vegas that’s being validated by their favorite channel night after night.”
The record-breaking coverage of the WSOP leads our list of 10 things to watch for this summer. Check below for the rest.
Photo by Eric Jamison/AP
$25,000 Heads-Up No-Limit Hold’em Championship
The World Series of Poker usually starts with one of its most anticipated events, and this year is no exception.
The $25,000 heads-up championship is a new tournament that kicked off Tuesday at the Rio. The tournament will play out bracket-style until a champion is crowned Friday.
Among the notable names in the field Tuesday were Daniel Negreanu, Jonathan Duhamel and Michael Mizrachi.
Photo by Justin M. Bowen
The presence of online poker sites
Stewart likened a poker player wearing a patch of a site that hasn’t paid its players back at the World Series of Poker to someone wearing a fur coat at a PETA convention.
Most of the major online poker sites were shut down in the United States this year, but Stewart said players would still be allowed to wear their apparel unless they were seated at a televised table.
It will be interesting to see how many PokerStars.net and FullTilt.net logos are around despite recent events.
Photo by Mona Shield Payne/Special to the Sun
Seidel has achieved more in the past five months than most poker players will in their lifetimes.
He has won more than $5.1 million in tournaments since the beginning of 2011, according to poker database The Hendon Mob. Two significant scores came in Las Vegas, as Seidel took the National Championship of Heads-Up Poker in March for $750,000 and the World Poker Tour Super High Roller event for $1.09 million.
Seidel has eight WSOP bracelets, but the most recent came in 2007. If his hot start to this year is any indication, he will threaten for No. 9 this summer.
Photo by Leila Navidi
Ivey is regarded as the best poker player in the world. The World Series of Poker is where he’s proven it.
Ivey has won eight World Series of Poker bracelets, tied with Seidel for fifth all-time, and three in the past two years.
He dedicates himself so fully to poker in the summer that it’s not unlikely to spot him playing an all-night cash game at Bellagio before a tournament the next morning at the Rio.
Dwan made millions of dollars worth of bets that he would win his first WSOP tournament last year.
Although he fell short, finishing second in one event, many of those wagers carry over to the 2011 WSOP. As recently as Monday night, Dwan posted a message on Twitter seeking more action on his bracelet bets.
He’s known as one of the top pros to not hold a World Series of Poker bracelet.
Photo by Erik Kabik/Retna
Best players without a bracelet
Andy Bloch, Bertrand “Elky” Grospellier and Patrik Antonius join Dwan as the biggest names in poker to have never won a WSOP event.
Can one of them break through this year? A few players who led “the best to never win a bracelet” list last year worked their way off of it at the 2010 WSOP.
Michael Mizrachi, Gavin Smith, Gus Hansen and Phil Laak all scored their first WSOP victory last year.
Hype surrounds a handful of 21-year-olds playing at the WSOP for the first time every year because of their online exploits.
Daniel Cates leads that category in 2011. Cates, a 21-year old from Bowie, Md., has won nearly $10 million in online cash games over the past three years.
He’ll look to break into the top tier of live poker this summer.
The $25,000 Fantasy Poker League
A handful of the richest poker pros buy into a $25,000 WSOP fantasy league at the beginning of the summer.
It operates like any other fantasy sport — the players draft a team of eight and are awarded points for their accomplishments throughout the WSOP.
The league used to be shrouded in mystery for fans, but not this year. Someone set up a website to track the fantasy league’s progress and standings all summer.
Other tournaments and satellites
With the demise of online poker, many players lost a route to play their way into WSOP events with lower buy-in tournaments and satellites.
The World Series of Poker responded by promising to hold more satellites and non-bracelet tournaments than ever before at the Rio. The satellite buy-ins range from $75 to $2,250, while three tournaments will be held for as low as $135 every day.
“These are for the little guys who want to play a tournament every day,” tournament director Jack Effel said.
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.