The 46th Annual World Series of Poker (WSOP) announced some rather drastic changes to its format this week, in an effort to market its events to amateur players who have somewhat vacated the tournament.
The 2015 WSOP will include 11 brand new events, 68 bracelets, greater guaranteed cash outs, smaller buy-in options, and more than $200 million in prize money. Poker’s largest festival kicks off May 27 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and runs through July 14.
While professionals represent only a slim percentage of the total poker playing community, they have dominated the marquee titles over the last few years, prompting many to speculate whether the game’s popularity with a more mainstream player pool is diminishing.
With its Main Event television ratings continuing to slide, the WSOP could use another Chris Moneymaker-type run to convince casual players into believing they have a chance at beating the top players in the world. To increase its odds of seeing another miracle, tournament organizers are going to great lengths to generate enthusiasm, and hopefully, participation.
Eleven new events will debut at this year’s WSOP, but none more exciting than the opening weekend’s (May 29 – 30) $565 Colossus No-Limit Hold’em, the smallest WSOP entry fee in 35 years. Expected to set a live tournament record with more than 10,000 entrants, Colossus comes with a massive $5 million pool guarantee.
The first online bracelet will also be awarded through Nevada’s WSOP.com real money website. The $1,000 buy-in begins May 31 and is a fast, two-day NLHE event that will conclude with the final two players competing at the Rio on July 2. Although the event would be more attractive if it incorporated WSOP’s New Jersey player pool, it’s a step in the right direction.
Other new events include:
$1,500 Extended Play NLHE features longer, 90-minute levels (June 20-23)
$1,000 Super Seniors NLHE for those over 65 (June 21-23)
$5,000 Turbo NLHE is a two-day structure with a high buy-in (June 26-28)
$1,500 DraftKings 50/50 NLHE featuring half of the field cashing (June 27-29)
$25,000 High Roller 8-handed PL Omaha (June 29-July 2)
$1,500 Bounty NLHE puts players as bounties, each being worth $500 (July 1-3)
$777 Lucky 7’s NLHE (July 3-5)
$10,000 Dealer’s Choice comes with 19 variants, the most ever in a single WSOP event (July 3-5)
The event schedule has everyone covered.
“If you’ve never thought about coming to Las Vegas for the WSOP, this is the year,” said WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart. “Now more than ever, the WSOP has something for everyone.”
Another twist likely to appeal to the more novice player is the increase in starting chips for all buy-ins under $10,000. Most events raised starting chip counts by 66 percent from their 2014 totals. Since play will likely reach additional levels due to more chips on the table, lower buy-in events will now include the 250/500 blind and later, the 2500/5000.
The changes the World Series of Poker revealed all boil down to ensuring the health of its $10,000 No-Limit Hold’em Main Event remains strong. Bringing players to the tournament series, regardless of event in 2015, strengthens the future of not only the WSOP, but poker as a whole.
The Main Event is guaranteeing 1,000 finishers will cash if at least 5,000 register. Also, the November Nine will all walk away with at least $1 million if entries surpass last year’s 6,683 total.
Though the champion will take less than the $10 million Martin Jacobson grabbed, organizers are betting more cashes will lead to an influx of participants. And the WSOP is likely hoping its winner comes with a “rags to riches” story about playing poker casually, taking his or her talents to Vegas, and upstaging the pros.