A year ago, the World Series of Poker featured luminaries such as Mike Matusow, Phil Ivey and Scotty Nguyen.
This year's star power will spike even more interest, as the event kicks into chip-laying overdrive this week with the $5,000 Omaha Hi/Lo event and other key tournaments.
Along with a couple of $1,500 No Limit Hold’em events and a $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha contest, these tournaments should draw the best fields that will be populated with top professionals.
Thursday @ 5 p.m., $5,000 Omaha Hi/Lo
There are two factors that make Omaha Hi/Lo one of the more difficult grinds of any tournament schedule. Played in a limit format (one of the reasons), the split-pot nature of the game lends itself to rather drawn-out contests.
With a split-pot game, it is possible for one player to win half of the pot with the “high” hand while a second player wins the other half for making the “low” hand on the table (eights or better is the standard for qualifying for the low).
Last year’s tournament drew out a field of 256 players that built a prize pool of over $1.2 million. The final table featured such notable pros as Mike Matusow, who eventually finished in eighth place; Bart Hanson (seventh); Meng La (fourth); Phil Ivey—who just narrowly missed winning a bracelet Tuesday—(third) and Scotty Nguyen (second).
In the end, it was pro Joe Cassidy who would vanquish these men and take down the WSOP bracelet and $294,777 in cash.
Although field sizes have been down a bit over the course of the 2013 WSOP, expect the numbers to get fairly close to last year’s figures and the final table to be replete with top pros this year.
Friday @ 10 a.m., $1,000 Seniors’ No Limit Hold’em Championship
Though it's a restricted event that doesn’t count towards the WSOP Player of the Year race since players must be over 50—the other two restricted tournaments being the Casino Employee Event and the Ladies’ Championship—the Seniors’ Event still draws in the numbers.
A whopping 4,128 players emerged from the woodwork in 2012 for this event and, when it came down to the final table, there was plenty of excitement on the felt.
Two-time WSOP bracelet winner Hoyt Corkins was a part of the mix, even holding the lead at the final table for a short time, before he departed in fourth place.
Former “November Niner” Dennis Phillips would battle against the final woman left in the field, Allyn Jaffrey Shulman (the wife of CardPlayer Magazine owner and publisher Barry Shulman), with Shulman eventually defeating Phillips to win the WSOP Seniors’ Championship bracelet and a hefty $603,713 payday—which was the first bracelet won by a woman since 2008.
It may not seem that there can be more players gathered together for this tournament, but it is possible that this event could crack 4,500 this year. In 2011, the tournament drew in slightly more than 3,700 players and, as stated previously, 4,128 in 2012. If you add that 376-player increase to 2013 (completely reasonable), the 4,500 mark would be broken.
Saturday @ 5 p.m., $5,000 H.O.R.S.E.
One of the most difficult disciplines of poker—involving play in four different games and two hi/lo split games (Limit Hold’em, Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Seven Card Stud and Seven Card Hi/Lo)—the $5,000 H.O.R.S.E. tournament is considered an excellent warm-up for the upcoming $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship.
With a higher buy-in, the event also brings a stellar field to the felt for the festivities.
There has been a change to the schedule this year, dropping the buy-in for the event from $10,000 to $5,000 after “only” 178 players showed up in 2012. It was quite the final table, however, as Dan Kelly (eighth), Abe Mosseri (sixth), Phil Ivey (fifth) and Phil Hellmuth (fourth) were all in the running for the championship.
In the end, David “Bakes” Baker earned his second WSOP bracelet and $451,779 by defeating John Monnette.
With the lower buy-in for 2013, this tournament should be popular with pros and deep-pocketed amateurs alike. Expect a field of around 225 to step up for this event.
Tuesday @ Noon, $5,000 Six-Handed No Limit Hold’em
Popular with the online generation because of its constant action (the normal nine-handed table allows for some breathers), the $5000 Six-Handed No Limit event is another event that has dropped its buy-in for 2013. In 2012, it was a $10,000 tournament that pulled in an excellent field of 474 players and marked the emergence of a new star on the poker scene.
Defeating such players as Andrew Lichtenberger, Chris Brammer, Eddy Sabat and Shannon Shorr (sixth through third place, respectively), online pro grinder Greg Merson was able to capture the bracelet and a $1,136,197 payday when he defeated Keith Lehr in heads up play.
While that performance was, at the time, a crowning achievement for Merson, he would go on to make the “October Nine” $10,000 Championship Event final table. As it is now well known, Merson was able to earn the World Championship—and eventually the WSOP Player of the Year award—for his second WSOP bracelet.
In total, there are 12 events that are scheduled over the next week, which will take us up to the halfway point of the 2013 WSOP. Even with the excitement that will be palpable in the Rio poker arenas over the next week, there is still a great deal of action left to come.
Earl Burton, a writer for PokerNewsDaily.com, contributed to this report.