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The Dream of a Lifetime

by Lee Munzer |  Published: Aug 01, 2005


Winning the last hand at the 36th World Series of Poker (WSOP) championship promises to be an enormous high and possibly a greater life changer than firing a 66 in the final round to snag the Masters by one stroke, quarterbacking a team to a fourth-quarter winning touchdown in the Super Bowl, or capturing the Tour de France. Hey, how hard could that 23-day, 2,111-mile bike ride be if the same guy wins every year? Don't run for your keyboards, folks, I'm a huge fan of the fast-peddling Texan. Lance Armstrong is truly one of the greatest competitors the world has ever known. He has many of the qualities that our star poker players possess: intelligence, great work ethic, patience, discipline, focus, composed under pressure, ability to get past a bad beat, and a huge heart at crunch time.

That last hand of the most prestigious tournament in poker will be dealt July 15, 2005, (although management reserves the right to extend the championship one day) at 128 Fremont Streetat the casino where the previous 35 WSOP championships were contested. In fact, to honor tradition during Las Vegas' centennial anniversary, the last two days of play will take place at Binion's. However, the WSOP venue is on the move.

During the first 42 days of play in 2005 (July 14 is a travel day), competitors will be treated to ample parking for thousands, great dining, and various comforts and amenities provided by the upscale Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, a Harrah's Entertainment Inc. property. Poker tournaments will be held in the Amazon Ballroom, a well-lighted, huge (63,000 square feet) area where 200 brand-new poker tables have been placed.

With poker as hot as Pam Anderson in her prime, the 2005 WSOP winner will walk away with an estimated $8 million and the fruits of instant celebrity fame. In fact, I anticipate all nine finalists will accept seven-figure checks in this historic event. The champion will have earned his or her rewards by pushing aside all comers and building a stack of approximately $66 million in chips from the $10,000 each player will receive when play begins.

Huge trees can grow from small droppings. It would be fair to say the WSOP, an event that began as a small, speculative seed in 1970 – simply a competition to determine the best player by peer vote – has grown to General Sherman (the largest tree in the world) proportions in its 36th year.

In this, our WSOP overview/preview, we'll take a closer look at how this incredible annual tournament came about through historical archives and words left behind by Lester Ben "Benny" Binion (thankfully captured by Mary Ellen Glass in a 1973 interview). We'll examine the growth of the competition and pay homage to past champions. For prognostication fun and partially as a "players guide," I'll offer a scouting report on 100 players I'll be focusing on during the championship event.

But, the reason I'm sure you'll enjoy this collectors issue is the wonderful photographs that our staff has obtained and formatted in an awesome array of shots that span 36 years and beautifully portray the story of our cherished event.

Good luck to all who will be dealt into the championship.