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29 May 2015
By Aaron Todd
LAS VEGAS — I knew when I registered for the World Series of Poker's "Colossus" last month that I would likely be playing in the world's largest poker tournament to date. But this is starting to get ridiculous.
As of Thursday night, the two morning flights (5A and 5C) sold out of their 4,600-seat starting capacity and players were signing up to be seated in late waves, meaning they would miss the first few levels of the tournament. The afternoon flights (5B and 5D) weren't lacking for players either. Seth Palansky, the vice president of corporate communications for Caesars Interactive Entertainment, who normally holds his cards pretty close to the vest, confirmed to the Las Vegas Review Journal that there were 14,000 entrants registered 12 hours before the first hand would be dealt and nearly two days before the final flight of the tournament would begin.
Players (including myself) who preregistered for the tournament waited in excess of an hour just to get a seat assignment. Hundreds of players stood in corrals, waiting to be herded to the next area to confirm their spot at the table, which led Erik Kendall of Indianapolis to wonder what an alien observer would think of our species if it happened to look down at the scene at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.
Kendall, who has come to Las Vegas to play at the WSOP for the last three years, said that seven regulars from his home game made the trip because they wanted to be part of history. They typically send a couple players to play in a $1,000 tournament through a year-long league, but this event prompted several more people who hadn't won seats in the league to come play.
"I just hope I last longer in the tournament than I stand in line tonight," Kendall joked.
Part of the appeal of the tournament is the $565 buy-in — it's the cheapest pathway to a WSOP bracelet since 1991, when the Ladies Event was a $500 Seven Card Stud event, and it's the most inexpensive open event since the Series opened with a $500 Seven Card Stud tournament in 1980.
Another part of the appeal is the prize pool. The WSOP guaranteed at least $5 million; they needed just 10,000 entries to meet the guarantee — and it could well exceed $10 million, meaning the winner could win more than $1.5 million, or more than 2,500 times the buy-in. Not bad for what's likely to be five days of poker.
Perhaps even more enticing is the opportunity to be part of history. I was at the Rio on the first day of the 2006 WSOP Main Event, which drew 8,773 players, the record number of entries for a live poker tournament — a record that will no doubt be smashed this weekend. It was pure chaos, and it was amazing. The energy in the Amazon Room was palpable; everyone thought they had a shot to win $12 million.
The preregistration line I stood in on Thursday night had that same feeling. For the first time in almost a decade, it seemed that recreational players felt like they had a real shot to win, if only because they so outnumbered the pros. Most of the people standing in line were mildly annoyed with the inconvenience, but quickly followed up complaints with something to the effect of, "But hey, I wouldn’t miss this for the world."
Last year, Casino City Editor-in-chief Vin Narayanan wrote eloquently about how the WSOP Main Event needed a new identity to attract recreational players. It looks like WSOP officials were listening. Instead of guaranteeing a $10 million first-place prize, they plan to pay the top 1,000 finishers in this year's Main Event instead of the typical top 10 percent.
But instead of focusing just on the Main Event, this year's entire series focuses on recreational players. In addition to The Colossus, there's a low-cost no-limit Hold'em event every weekend of the Series, including the $1,500 Millionaire Maker and the $1,500 Monster Stack. The WSOP will likely draw more players than it ever has before, and I'm one of them.
I've only played in four or five poker tournaments at casinos. My crowning achievement is earning a spot in The Hendon Mob poker database after cashing in a WSOP $235 Daily Deepstack two years ago. I've always wanted to play in a real WSOP event, and this is my first opportunity. Now, let's shuffle up and deal!
WSOP Colossus field already exceeding expectations is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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