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WSOP History -- Schedule Evolution Part 3 of 3

Just How the Biggest Event in Poker Evolved from One Cash Game to More than 50 Bracelet Events


Annette ObrestadThe last few years at the World Series of Poker have seen many tweaks and changes as the event adjusted to outside forces. The combination of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act along with one of the worst recessions in the history of the United States diminished the popularity of live tournament poker in the States. At the same time that this was happening in the U.S., live tournament poker was experiencing another boom in Europe. These forces encouraged tournament expansion abroad and the inclusion of creative new events in Las Vegas.

The first WSOP Europe event was held in 2007 in London, England and it gave credibility to the title “World” Series. Two preliminary events (H.O.R.S.E. and pot-limit Omaha) and a £10,000 no-limit hold’em main event were contested. The inaugural event was given a boost when the young internet sensation Annette Obrestad won the main event at just 18 years of age. The WSOP Europe event expanded to four events in 2008 and 2009. A no-limit hold’em and a pot-limit hold’em/pot-limit Omaha preliminary were each added, while H.O.R.S.E. was dropped. The main event continued to garner notoriety as one of the toughest tournament fields of the year, and victories in the main event by John Juanda in 2008 and Card Player publisher Barry Shulman in 2009 helped cement that reputation.

In 2010 the WSOP Europe will offer five bracelet events on the schedule during its fourth September stop in London. Preliminaries offered will include no-limit hold’em, six-handed no-limit hold’em, and pot-limit Omaha. A £10,000 heads-up no-limit hold’em event will also be offered in addition to the marquee £10,000 no-limit hold’em main event.

Back in the U.S. the WSOP expanded its brand by offering a wide array of events at a wide array of buy-in prices. New events introduced in the past three years include mixed hold’em, Omaha eight-or-better/seven-card eight-or-better, pot-limit hold’em/pot-limit Omaha, pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better, and triple chance no-limit hold’em. Another big adjustment took place in 2009, when rebuy events were taken off the schedule. The number of events has increased from 58 in 2007 to 62 in 2010 when you factor in the bracelet events added by WSOP Europe.

Annie Duke and Don Cheadle with 2009 Ante Up for Africa winner Alex BolotinOther very interesting developments were made to increase the popularity of the event, both with players at the Rio, and with television viewers at home. The Ante Up for Africa charity tournament was started in 2007. It is hosted by Annie Duke and Don Cheadle and all proceeds from the $5,000 no-limit hold’em event go to non-profit charity organizations that help the Darfur region in Sudan, including the Enough Project at the Center for American Progress, and Refugees International. The tournament attracts stars from Hollywood, sports, and music, in addition to poker and takes the game to a wider television audience thanks to the celebrity factor.

A second schedule adjustment made by the WSOP in recent years to increase television interest involved the $10,000 no-limit hold’em main event. When the final table of nine was set on July 14, 2008, the final nine players took a break that lasted almost four month before returning for the final table on November 9. Those players were nicknamed the November Nine as excitement grew for the final table. ESPN produced the episodes for the final table that year in less than 24 hours so the news of the champion didn’t get a full chance to spread and diminish excitement among television viewers. The change was effective, with television ratings increasing by 36 percent for the final table from the previous year. Each year since 2008 has featured this schedule change.

To accommodate the expanding tastes and various bankrolls in the poker community, adjustments have been made to buy-ins during the last couple of years as well. A number of $10,000 world championship events have been added in addition to the no-limit hold’em main event. There are ten $10,000 world championship events in 2010, including seven-card stud, seven-card stud eight-or-better, no-limit deuce-to-seven lowball, Omaha eight-or-better, limit hold’em, heads-up no-limit hold’em, pot-limit hold’em, H.O.R.S.E., pot-limit Omaha, and the no-limit hold’em main event.

Even larger buy-in events joined the schedule as well. After gracing the schedule from 2006-2009, the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. world championship was changed to the $50,000 Players Championship in 2010. No-limit hold’em, pot-limit Omaha, and deuce-to-seven triple draw lowball were added to the lineup of H.O.R.S.E. events to make it an eight-game mixed world championship. Other recent large buy-in events included a $40,000 no-limit hold’em event that was held in 2009 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the WSOP, and a $25,000 six-handed no-limit hold’em event that was added in 2010.

Even though a fifth of the tournaments offered at the 2010 WSOP will feature a buy-in of $10,000 or more, there are still a lot of options for amateur players. The first $1,000 no-limit hold’em event was held in 2009 as the “Stimulus Special” during the first weekend of the WSOP. It proved to be a huge success, attracting a field of 6,012 players (a non-main event field size record). That led the WSOP to include six of these open buy-in events in 2010.

The future schedule of the WSOP is sure to keep evolving in an attempt to balance new player demands and television-viewer interest with the history of the event. Another new addition to the 2010 WSOP schedule is a good example of that aim. The WSOP Tournament of Champions, which previously ran from 2004-2006, makes a return in 2010. The reigning WSOP champion (Joe Cada) and WSOP Europe champion (Barry Shulman), will be joined by the three previous TOC champions (Annie Duke, Mike Matusow, and Mike Sexton) as automatic entries. The remaining 22 spots will be chosen by a public fan vote. All 521 living bracelet winners are eligible for the event. Many of the poker players that will be chosen are living legends that have seen a lot of changes at the WSOP during the last few decades. But if you weren’t present to see those changes with your own eyes all you have to do is look at the schedule to see how far the WSOP has come.



over 11 years ago

Next tournament of champions will have the next big thing kingwalter in it. Legend set to be made.