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Tournament officials added the event to boost attendance and give low-limit players a chance to compete for a championship bracelet.
The result was a whopping 6,012 entries packing the Rio that earned 24-year-old Southern California poker professional Steven Sung a champions' bracelet and a paycheck of $771,106. The field was the largest non-main event field in the tournament's 40-year history.
So with this weekend's kick-off of the 41st World Series of Poker, officials decided to include eight different $1,000 buy-in no-limit hold 'em events dispersed throughout the 57-event tournament, which runs through July 17 at the Rio.
In addition to the low entry fee games, the World Series of Poker will have 10 different $10,000 buy-in events, culminating with the no-limit hold'em world championship, which begins play on July 5. The tournament will also include a $25,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em/six-handed event.
Play begins Friday with the five-day Poker Player's Championship, a $50,000 buy-in event where players compete while rotating through nine different versions of poker.
With other events having buy-ins between $1,500 and $5,000, World Series of Poker Vice President Ty Stewart hopes to shatter last year's record attendance of 60,875 participants, who played for a prize pool of more than $174 million.
"We have an opportunity to host some of the largest events in the tournament's history," Stewart said.
But even with the belief that bigger is better, Stewart said the World Series of Poker underwent several changes to enhance the players' and spectators' experiences. The tournament will spread 377 poker tables throughout more than 100,000 square feet of the Rio's Convention Pavilion, which will also allow for increased comfort, such as larger aisles and spectator areas.
The food court has been moved indoors, retail space has been enlarged and space has been set aside for the Bad Beat Bar, which will include large screen televisions for sporting events, such as major league baseball and soccer's World Cup.
An area will also be included for daily meet-and-greet autograph sessions with the game's top professionals.
"We think this really sets the tone for all visitors to the Rio and it makes much better use of the convention pavilion," Stewart said. "Our goal has been to have something for everyone. And we also want to do more with fans."
The tournament doubled the number of feature tables from two to four, which allows the star poker players and celebrities to be more on display for fans and ESPN television cameras.
The cable network will broadcast 32 hours of World Series of Poker coverage starting on July 27.
For the third straight year, the final table of nine players in the main event hold 'em world championship, who will be qualified on July 17, will return to the Rio in November to play for the title after a four-month layoff.
Key Dates for the World Series of Poker:
• 57 events May 28-July 5
• May 28 - The Poker Player's Championship (five-day event) $50,000 buy-in
• June 3 - Seven Card Stud Championship (three-day event) $10,000 buy-in
• June 6 - Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Split - 8 or better Championship (three-day event) $10,000 buy-in
• June 9 - 2-7 Draw Lowball Championship no-limit (three-day event) $10,000 buy-in
• June 12 - Omaha Hi-Low Split 8 or better Championship (three-day event) $10,000 buy-in
• June 15 - Limit Hold'em Championship (three-day event) $10,000 buy-in
• June 18 - Heads Up No-Limit Hold'em Championship (256 players maximum, three-day event) $10,000 buy-in
• June 20 - Pot-Limit Hold 'em Championship (three-day event) $10,000 buy-in
• June 23 - H.O.R.S.E. Championship (three-day event) $10,000 buy-in
• June 30 - No-Limit Hold'em/Six Handed (four-day event) $25,000 buy-in
• July 1 - Pot-Limit Omaha Championship (three-day event) $10,000 buy-in
• July 5-8 - Four-day opening rounds of the $10,000 buy-in No Limit Hold 'em World Championship
• July 9-10 - Two-day second rounds
• July 12-15 - Days 3-6
• July 16 - Play down to 27 players
• July 17 - Play down to final table of nine players
• Nov. 6-8 - Final table of nine players to determine World Poker Championship
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