As the calendar moves into the month of May, poker players all over the planet are busily preparing for perhaps the most important rite of passage in the game: The World Series of Poker.
For nearly 50 years now, the world’s greatest poker talents have joined legions of recreational players in Las Vegas for the WSOP. The series of tournaments spans the summer, awarding millions of dollars ($210 million in 2015) to the fortunate few who make the money, reach the final table, or win the most highly prized award in poker, a WSOP gold bracelet.
The 47th edition of poker’s premiere festival opens to the public on May 31, and the first official gold bracelet event of the summer (Event #1: $565 Casino Employees No-Limit Hold’em) begins the following day. After that, the next 48 days will provide poker pros and aspiring amateurs alike with a nonstop schedule of high-stakes tournament action – supplemented by regular cash games covering all variants and buy-ins, along with the popular Daily Deepstack series of smaller buy-in tournaments.
The 2016 WSOP culminates with poker’s crowning achievement – the $10,000 buy-in Main Event world championship – which begins on July 8 with the first of three starting flights.
As is usually the case, WSOP organizers have implemented a number of changes to this year’s schedule, including adjustments to the structure, start times, payouts, registration process, and other crucial aspects of the series.
First of all, with eight new additions to the schedule, WSOP organizers have catered to the growing demand for interesting offshoots and formats.
The “add-on” concept popularized by online poker has been introduced for Event #4: $1,000 Top Up Turbo No-Limit Hold’em, as players can boost their chip stacks by up to double by participating in qualifiers. While the larger Pot-Limit Omaha tournaments have been removed, PLO fans can still get in on the fun with Event #12: $565 PLO w Re-Entry. A new $2,000 price point has been added for NLHE in Event #23, while Event #40: $2,500 Mixed Triple Draw Lowball combines three popular variants.
Both Event #45: $1,500 Mixed NLHE/PLO and Event #53: $1,500 Mixed PLO-8/Omaha-8/Big O combine popular variants to form new mixed game formats. Players looking to parlay a lower buy-in into life-changing money will love Event #54: $888 Crazy Eights Eight-Handed NLHE, which boasts an impressive $888,888 guaranteed prize for the winner.
Finally, poker playing pairs and other groups can come together for Event #61: $1,000 Tag Team NLHE, which emphasizes cooperative play under a team-poker concept.
Another adjustment that players need to be mindful of concerns the start times for most bracelet events. In the past, tournaments typically kicked off at either noon or 4pm local time, but the WSOP has shifted things back by one hour. The new 11am and 3pm start times have drawn a bit of criticism from the notoriously morning-averse pro community, but by and large, recreational players are likely to enjoy getting to bed one hour earlier.
As well, the “championship” level events which cost $10,000 to enter, including the Main Event, will now include starting stacks of 50,000 chips. This represents a significant increase from the 30,000-chip starting stacks of old, which should provide for the deeper play sought consistently by players of all skill level. Last year’s improvement of setting most non-championship event starting stacks at five times the buy-in amount will also return.
Even better for the recreational players looking to notch their first ever WSOP cash, this year the payout scheme has been flattened considerably to cover 15 percent of the field. With a 50 percent increase from the previous 10 percent payout threshold, many more players in each event will experience the unique thrill of making money in a WSOP bracelet event.
The combination of these new features also means that many of the lower buy-in events will now “burst the bubble” on Day 1. Rather than keeping players for a second day of action, massive events like Event #2: $565 Colossus II NLHE $7 Million Guaranteed will now award payouts to all players who bag and tag following their Day 1 starting flight.
And following last year’s unfortunate “run” on the payout cage in the wake of the Colossus’ smashing success of a debut – during which thousands of players reported wait times of several hours or even days – WSOP organizers were intent on streamlining the process.
To that end, the new eQueue Payout Process system will be introduced for the 2016 WSOP, enabling players to sign up for electronic notifications alerting them that a payout is ready for pickup.