For WSOP tourney, legends in the fall

5 May 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada –- The nine players who will compete for the World Series of Poker's biggest prize will qualify for the tournament's final table in July, but the eventual champion won't be crowned until four months later.

In a move scripted for television, World Series of Poker officials announced Thursday the final table of this year's 39th tournament will take place Nov. 9-10, some 16 weeks after the nine players gain their positions in the $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Texas Hold'em World Championship.

Previously, the final table took place a day or two after the final nine players had qualified.

This year, ESPN will tape the final table and air an edited version of the results on Nov. 11 in a two-hour prime-time event.

Harrah's Entertainment owns the World Series of Poker and has expanded the tournament over the years, adding events and bringing the tournament to a worldwide audience through ESPN telecasts and lucrative sponsorship deals. The numerous changes have enhanced the event's exposure and increased participation. Last year, the 55-event tournament drew a record 54,288 entries and the total prize pool was a record $159.8 million.

Jeffrey Pollack, a Harrah's vice president who serves as the World Series of Poker's commissioner, likened the change to television coverage of the Olympic Games, which is often shown on same-day taped telecasts because of time zone differences. Another similarity, Pollack said, are reality television shows, such as "Survivor" and "The Apprentice," for which winners are announced on live television several months after the competitions have taken place.

"In the past, everyone has known who the winner was," Pollack said. "Now, there will be a buildup and the fans will get to know the final nine players as the final table gets closer."

Pollack said the players will have a chance to increase their promotional opportunities and exposure.

"Instead of creating one star, we're creating nine stars," Pollack said.

The World Series of Poker final event begins July 3 with the final table determined July 14. The final nine players will return to the Rio on Nov. 9 and play down to two players. The final two players will go head to head Nov. 10.

"Our intent is to provide an even bigger stage for our players," Pollack said.

Last year's main event drew 6,358 entrants who competed for a prize pool of $59.8 million. Jerry Yang of Temecula, Calif., won the world championship and collected $8.25 million.

Pollock said the idea to move the final table to November was a joint decision made by Harrah's, ESPN and the World Series of Poker's player advisory committee.

Poker player Daniel Negreanu, a member of the advisory committee and three-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, said the move will generate more hype and media attention for the main event.

"This is a huge step forward for poker and more specifically poker on television because it will help create more buzz around the final table, and that is good for all of us," Negreanu said.

Poker legend Doyle Brunson, who holds 10 individual World Series of Poker first-place finishes including victories in the 1976 and 1977 main events, said the move helps amateur players, the vast majority of the World Series of Poker field. By spacing out qualifying and the final table by four months, the players have a chance to review their mistakes and refine their games.

"It's going to change the outcome," Brunson said. "Personally, I'd rather play through, but it's Harrah's decision."

A previously announced change in this year's tournament is the offering of eight separate $10,000 buy-in events, which could significantly increase the prize pool of what is already considered gambling's biggest poker game.

The 2008 World Series of Poker will start May 30 with the $10,000 buy-in world championship of pot-limit hold 'em. In addition to the main world championship event, the six other $10,000 buy-ins will be a heads-up no-limit hold 'em; seven-card stud; limit hold 'em; Omaha hi-low split eight or better; pot-limit Omaha; and a new mixed event. The mixed event will feature eight variations of poker: limit and no-limit hold 'em; Omaha hi-low and pot-limit Omaha; seven-card stud; razz; seven-card high-low split; and 2-7 triple-draw lowball.

The 2008 World Series of Poker will also include a $50,000 buy-in H.O.R.S.E. event, where players compete in five different alternating poker games over a five-day period.

Harrah's purchased the World Series of Poker in 2004 from the Binion family, moving the event in 2005 to the Rio, away from the tournament's original home at Binion's in downtown Las Vegas.

Prize pools are funded by player entry fees. Harrah's collects a percentage of the entry fees, depending upon the size of the buy-in. For $10,000 buy-in events, Harrah's will take 6 percent.


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