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LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The 2005 World Series of Poker was the event's most successful run in its history -- almost 30,000 players participated in 45 events, competing for a record prize pool of more than $103 million.
The 2006 series stands to be even bigger.
Harrah's Entertainment executives are projecting that some 41,000 participants will enter this year's 45-event competition. The world championship event could draw a crowd of more than 8,000 players.
While the final two days of the 2005 World Series of Poker championship were held at Binion's, home to the World Series during its first 35 years, the 37th World Series of Poker will not leave its permanent location at the Rio.
"Thank God. If we have to pull another all-nighter, at least it will be at the Rio," said Howard Greenbaum, Harrah's vice president of speciality games for the Las Vegas region. Last year's final table took almost 14 hours to complete with competition ending about 6:30 in the morning.
Greenbaum said it was a logistical nightmare moving the gaming operation and television production equipment for the final event to downtown.
With everything taking place at the Rio, Greenbaum said some changes were made to the temporary poker room inside the Rio's spacious convention center.
The number of poker tables has increased to 208. Two additional specially equipped final tables, which include cameras that reveal a player's hole cards to a television audience, have been included.
"We'll have a lot of carry-over action going on and this will allow us to run two events at the same time," Greenbaum said.
The entry process has been streamlined, Greenbaum said, and the number of cashier windows has tripled to 15.
Other new aspects include a special break room for dealers, a designated smoking area, expanded menu options in the dining facility and, through the use of trailer-sized port-a-potties, increased restroom facilities.
"We learned much last year in talking with the players," Greenbaum said. "We made lot of changes to reflect those comments.
The final championship event is expected to draw more than 8,000 players this year at $10,000 an entry. Because of that size, the opening round will be staggered over four days while the second round will take place over two days, paring down to 1,400 players.
Based on the expected number of entries, the world champion could take home a top prize of $12.5 million, Greenbaum said, easily eclipsing last year's record $7.5 million win by Australian Joseph Hachem.
With the growth of Internet poker and entrants qualifying from the online poker community, the last three world poker champions have been relatively unknowns.
One special event that was added at the request of the long-time poker community was HORSE, a three-day challenge where players compete in five different poker games; hold'em, Omaha, razz, seven card stud, and seven card stud high-low split/eight or better for low. Buy-in for the event is $50,000 and Greenbaum only expects about 100 players to compete.
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