LAS VEGAS (AP) — The 48th Annual World Series of Poker kicked off 54 days of play Tuesday, enticing tens of thousands of players from around the world to Las Vegas with an estimated prize pool of more than $200 million.
Participants in this year’s edition of the poker extravaganza will see two changes: no firm “shot clock” and the return of the tradition of crowning the tournament’s main event champion in July. Buy-ins for the 74-event tournament, which runs through July 22 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, range from $333 to $111,111.
The series expects participation through the nearly eight weeks of play to be at or around the record 107,833 who played during last year’s tournament, said Seth Palansky, the tournament’s spokesman. “It’s very hard to predict, but all signs are optimistic,” he said.
The tournament’s clock-rule change is designed to speed up of the game. Instead of implementing a firm shot clock, organizers are encouraging players and tournament directors to monitor the pace of play and have staff prompt a countdown when necessary.
“It’s going to be situations based, there’s no hard and fast,” Palansky said. “But the best way to say it is habitual stallers will be forced to act quicker. That’s really the goal, getting habitual stallers to act quickly.”
The series’ first event is a $565 casino employees’ game, a sort of warm-up for organizers. The tournament’s marquee event, referred to as the main event, begins July 8.
By returning to crowning the main event champion in July, the series is eliminating a monthslong break between the time when the final nine-player table is set and when the winner is determined.
For about a decade, the final table of the main event had been delayed to November to allow tape-delayed, reality TV-style coverage of the tournament to run before the competition’s finale aired live.
Under a deal with ESPN, the network will carry an estimated 40 hours of almost-live coverage as regulations require a 30-minute delay. It will also air more than 100 hours of original packaged show every year. Any coverage not aired by ESPN will be streamed exclusively through Poker Central’s digital channels.
Admission to watch the games is free. People must be at least 21 to attend.