Nearly 800 players with dreams of World Series of Poker glory started a marathon toward poker’s richest prize on Saturday — a guaranteed USD10 million payday and a place in history among the winners of the main event.
Thousands more were expected to start the no-limit Texas Hold ‘em main event in Las Vegas, with registrations overall pacing ahead of last year. About 4,000 would-be entrants played in smaller satellite tournaments at the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino Saturday in hopes of winning an entry.
“I hope that I can survive Day 1,” said Michael Musich of Highlands Ranch, Colorado, whose wife rooted him on as he played his first hands. “They get tougher as it goes.”
Musich played among a field of 771 players with several poker legends, including 1987 and 1988 champion Johnny Chan, who was among the chip leaders after more than six hours. Also playing were 2003 champ Chris Moneymaker, and Antonio Esfandiari, who won an $18.3 million score in 2012 in the series’ first ultra-exclusive $1 million buy-in tournament.
From millionaire card sharks to home-game amateurs, players stake $10,000 each for a shot to win millions in poker’s most popular variant. The no-limit betting rules mean players can wager all their chips at any time, risking their tournament chances in hopes of gaining more chips.
Those who busted on Day 1 included poker professionals Jean-Robert Bellande and Jason Mercier, as well as MTV reality star Trishelle Cannatella.
Only 10 percent of those who enter the tournament will win any money. Players compete until they bust out or win it all, like Ryan Riess, who won $8.36 million at the main event last year at age 23, topping a field of 6,352 players. Riess played Saturday and nearly doubled his chips after more than six hours of play.
The main event hasn’t offered an 8-figure payday since 2006, when Jamie Gold won $12 million for topping a field of 8,773 players. The only other 8-figure top prizes were won by Esfandiari and Daniel Colman, who won $15.3 million in the series’ second-ever $1 million buy-in tournament this week. Series officials hope the $10 million guarantee will draw more entrants, a similar tactic that has worked with smaller tournaments this year at the series. AP