The World Series of Poker released its 2014 tournament schedule last week, and poker players around the world have started planning their summer pilgrimages to Las Vegas. Some will play as many events as they physically can. Others will take just one shot, whether it be a $1,000 or $1,500 event, or the $10,000 Main Event. Still, others may head to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino planning to grind a few of the Daily Deepstack events in the hopes of getting some money together for a bracelet event buy-in.
Regardless of your plan, one thing is clear: If you're a poker player, it's the WSOP, and you can't wait to go.
Here are 10 things I'm looking forward to at this year's WSOP. The date(s) indicated are start dates for each tournament (when applicable).
10. Event #2: $25,000 Mixed Max No-Limit Hold'em (May 27)
This tournament was quite popular among professionals last year, when 593 players played the $3,000 buy-in event.
The event plays nine-handed on Day 1, six-handed on Day 2, four-handed on Day 3 and heads-up for the final four. It takes a great deal of skill to change gears and play in a different format each day. I think making the Mixed Max event this year's first open event and increasing the buy-in to $25,000 makes a lot of sense. While participation is likely to drop (a $5,000 event drew 409 players in 2012), the final four will likely be top pros and should produce some of the best poker we'll see in the entire series.
9. Event #3: $1,000 Pot-Limit Omaha (May 28)
There have been $1,000 tournaments at the World Series of Poker for some time, but the vast majority of them have been No-Limit Hold'em events. There have also been a few Stud Eight or Better events sprinkled in, as well as a couple 2-7 Triple Draw tournaments and a SHOE event. But PLO has always required at least $1,500.
Last year, the $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha event drew 1,022 players, with Josh Pollock winning $279,431 and the tournament title. Omaha continues to grow in popularity, and I think the drop in the buy-in this year could spur this tournament to grow to over 1,200 players.
8. Event #8: Millionaire Maker $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em (May 31)
Last year's Millionaire Maker event was a huge success, drawing 6,343 entries and smashing the $1 million guarantee for first place. Benny Chen won the title and nearly $1.2 million in the second-largest event of the summer (only the Main Event drew more entries, and just barely with 6,352).
I think this year's event may draw more than 7,000 players, especially with the availability of online satellites from WSOP.com - Nevada and WSOP.com - New Jersey. In fact, I think it's a near certainty that it will draw more entries than the Main Event, given the buy-in and the $1 million guarantee for first.
7. Event #35: $5,000 No-Limit Hold'em Eight-Handed (June 16)
There was a time when many no-limit Hold'em games were played 10-handed. In fact, you still see this in many low-stakes cash games. But at some point in the last decade, the poker world collectively decided that 10-handed poker was too boring; hands take too long and to succeed you have to play unbearably tight. So most no-limit Hold'em tournaments now run nine-handed.
A couple years ago, eight-handed poker became the new nine-handed poker. I attribute some of this to mixed-game play. When you play mixed games, you generally play eight-handed, because that's how most stud tables are run. As a result, players get experience playing eight-handed Hold'em. It sounds like a small difference, but it's really quite remarkable how it changes the game.
This tournament bridges the gap between pro-heavy six-handed events and nine-handed events recreational players are more comfortable playing. This won't be the biggest event in the series, but it does reflect a trend in the game that appears to be growing.
6. Event #41: $1,500 Dealer's Choice Six-Handed (June 19)
I'm more excited about this event than any other this year. There are 16 games players can choose from in this event, and once chosen, the table will play one rotation of that game. Then, the next player gets to choose the next game, and so the tournament goes.
This is exactly how the Casino City Home Game runs its cash game. While I'm a bit disappointed that Pitch and Bitch and Binglaha aren't among the games players can call, it's exciting to see the game format that many home games utilize show up on poker's largest stage.
Game selection becomes such an interesting part of the game. Know that some of the players at your table are terrible at split-pot and draw games? Call Badeucy. Sitting on a short stack and need a double up? Call no-limit Hold'em. The whole thing will be fascinating to watch, and I hope it spurs similar tournaments down the road.
5. Event #46: $50,000 Poker Players Championship (June 22)
The Poker Players Championship has become an institution at the WSOP, and for good reason. While the field size isn't large due to the mixed-game format and the large buy-in, it makes up for its lack of quantity with outstanding quality. Most of the world's best mixed-game players play this event, and with past champions like Chip Reese, Scotty Nguyen, Michael Mizrachi (twice) and Brian Rast, it rarely disappoints.
4. Event #51: $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em Monster Stack (June 26)
If you want your best shot at making Day 2 of a WSOP event, this is the event for you. With 15,000 chips to start, players will get more than three times the starting stack of a typical $1,500 buy-in event. As a result, treading water on Day 1 will leave players with 15 big blinds at the end of the first day of play. Of course, other than the early rounds, the tournament will play like a standard no-limit Hold'em event. But the extra chips will give players looking for a fun WSOP experience the opportunity to play for several hours before the tournament becomes a shove-fest. Look for lots of recreational players in this field, and likely the third-largest field of the series, outside of the Millionaire Maker and the Main Event.
3. $1,500/$10,000 event split
First recommended by Matt Glantz, many players got behind the idea of offering $1,500 and $10,000 buy-ins for non-Hold'em events. One of the reasons the WSOP is so popular is because it is one of the few poker series that truly offers a wide range of games, and offering various games at these buy-in levels gives both recreational players and pros alike the opportunity to play in events that suit them.
Games offered at both buy-in levels include Limit Omaha Hi-Low Eight or Better, Seven Card Stud, Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Eight or Better, Razz, Limit 2-7 Triple Draw, No-Limit 2-7 Triple Draw, Pot-Limit Omaha, H.O.R.S.E., Limit Hold'em, No-Limit Hold'em Six-Handed and Pot-Limit Hold'em.
2. Event #57: $1 million Big One for One Drop (June 29)
The first $1 million Big One for One Drop produced a sold-out field of 48 players and a worthy champion in Antonio Esfandiari. This year, the event will see an increased cap of 56 players and should once again attract a great field of poker pros and wealthy businessmen. Assuming another sellout, the winner will likely jump into the top-five on the all-time money list, and if it's a pro, will have a good shot at overtaking Esfandiari.
The last tournament was one of the most entertaining poker tournaments I've ever seen. One businessman folded quads when there was a possible straight flush on the board – and was convinced he made the right play. There was also a great deal of banter and good-natured ribbing throughout the tournament, and I can't wait to see what happens this year.
1. Event #65: $10,000 No Limit Hold'em Main Event (July 5-7)
Of course, all the preliminary events lead up to the big one – the Main Event. Will this year's champion be a well-known pro? Or will it be another young anonymous Internet player? Which celebrities will make a deep run? Will Internet satellites in Nevada and New Jersey have an impact on the size of the field? Will Doyle Brunson show up? There are so many questions about this year's Main Event, and I for one can't wait to find out the answers.
Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd has covered the gambling industry since 2006. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi. Follow him on Twitter @CasinoCity_AT.