WSOP kicks off in Las Vegas today

WSOP 2011The 42nd World Series of Poker (WSOP) gets going today in the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino as thousands of poker players converge on Las Vegas in the Nevada desert – with the traditional opener of the $500 Casino Employees’ Event kicking off the globe’s biggest event.

The poker Mecca that is Vegas will see 58 bracelets awarded – up one from last year – as the event runs to July 19, although fans will have to wait until November 5 before seeing who takes the tournament-ending $10,000 buy-in main event at the Rio Convention Center when the final nine take their seats.

The newest event is the $25,000 heads-up no-limit Hold’em championship, which is also played today.

There is also wonderful news for all you poker fans out there as 55 events – yes, that many – are to be streamed almost live at WSOP.com. There will, in fact, be a five-minute delay – but that certainly won’t hamper the enjoyment of seeing your favourites in action in the Amazon and Pavilion Rooms.

Additionally, American cable television network ESPN will cover the $10,000 buy-in no-limit Hold’em main event on a 30-minute delay from day three until July 19, while also included are all the other $10,000 Championship tournaments – including pot-limit Omaha, pot-limit Hold’em, Omaha 8, 2-7 Draw, and all varieties of Stud, as well as the $50,000 Players’ Championship.

A particular highlight for many poker fans will be the WSOP Grudge Match event, when unforgettable heads-up battles from the past will be recreated on Thursday.

Three matches will be played, with Johnny Chan vs Phil Hellmuth from 1989 and Sammy Farha vs Chris Moneymaker from 2003 the choice of WSOP organisers, while the fans’ selection is Erik Seidel vs Chan from the 1988 main event.

These rematches – also at the Rio – will be filmed by ESPN to be broadcast on July 26 over back-to-back nights.

With field sizes expected to be smaller this year – following the events of ‘Black Friday’ last month, when online poker sites like Full Tilt Poker, and PokerStars were shut down to American players – many commentators believe the main event will drop by about 3,500 to approximately 4,000 entrants.

No matter the popularity of particular events, however, all participants will still be waiting to hear those famous words: Shuffle up and deal!