Editor’s Note: This article is the first installment of a weekly series that will run throughout the WSOP. Sean Chaffin will feature notable upcoming tournaments and the human side of the world’s greatest poker tournament series.
Poker players and fans around the world will have their eyes on Las Vegas over the next month and a half. The World Series of Poker (WSOP) kicks off on May 29 with plenty of prestige and bracelet on the line.
The series is celebrating its 50th anniversary in style with 89 bracelet events and numerous variants of poker. Here’s a look at the week ahead.
Important WSOP Links
For a complete guide to the WSOP, click here.
For a complete programming guide on watching the WSOP on TV or online, click here.
This week’s notable WSOP events
The traditional start of the WSOP is the annual event’s way of showing some love to casino workers. The $500 Casino Employees Championship will get things going in style.
However, big-pocketed players won’t have long to wait. They may be jumping into the fray in the new two-day $10,000 Super Turbo Bounty on May 29.
That event will award a bracelet on Day 2. Fans can check out the final table of that event on Thursday at 1 p.m. (PST) on PokerGO and CBS All Access.
Of course, the broadcast is part of the WSOP’s expanded streaming schedule on PokerGO and CBS Sports. PokerGO will also be streaming the Casino Employees Championship on May 31 at 1 p.m.
After that, some big events get underway as play moves into the weekend.
Here are some of the best tournaments to watch.
Event 3: $500 Big 50
To celebrate the Series’ anniversary, tournament officials are presenting the $500 buy-in Big 50. This no-limit hold’em event will run from May 30 – June 7 and features four starting flights. The format will also allow one re-entry per flight.
The Big 50 has a guaranteed prize pool of $5 million, which is massive for a buy-in of this size. Moreover, the tournament will make at least one millionaire – the winner is guaranteed a $1 million first-place payout.
Many recreational players will be looking to live the dream and jump in the action. A surprising number of pros should be in the field as well, attracted by the big payout at a value price. PokerGO will broadcast the Big 50 final table on June 7.
Event 5: $50,000 High Roller
At the other end of the WSOP buy-in spectrum, there is the $50,000 buy-in High Roller tournament. This event should attract plenty of well-known pros looking for a massive payday. One notable feature of this event is that players will be subject to a “shot clock,” which will eliminate excessive tanking.
Look for high roller regulars like Justin Bonomo, David Peters, Erik Seidel, Bryn Kenney, Jason Koon, and others. The final table is set for June 3 on PokerGO and should be great poker watching.
Event 7: $400 WSOP.com Online No-Limit Hold’em
This event is the one for those on a budget. No other bracelet event is available for such a low buy-in – only $400 gets you in.
Of course, playing an online event means that competitors won’t have to haul themselves all the way down to the Rio, either. In fact, players in both Nevada and New Jersey will be able to compete in this tournament.
As it happens, this tournament is one of two that WSOP has guaranteed New Jersey players can play. Because it will run on Sunday, June 2, it will fall before the DOJ begins enforcing its new opinion on the Wire Act on June 14.
So, make sure to take advantage of this opportunity – particularly if you live in or near the Garden State.
Event 8: $10,000 Short Deck
This event is the WSOP’s first foray into Short Deck poker. However, by making the event a $10,000 buy-in tournament, there is no doubt about the new game’s legitimacy.
For those unfamiliar with Short Deck, the game follows the traditional hold’em format. However, in this game, all cards five or below are taken out of the deck.
As a result, gameplay occurs using a 36-card deck. The math of the game is dramatically different, and straights become higher-ranked than flushes.
As one might imagine, Short Deck makes for plenty of action and big hands. It is quite in vogue right now, so look for big name pros to try and win the first WSOP bracelet ever awarded in this unique poker variant.
Around the Poker Table: Nathan Gamble
Dallas poker player Nathan Gamble‘s love for poker began inauspiciously in the mountains of Colorado. At age 14, during a family vacation, he found himself sneaking to the hotel business center to check WSOP updates. That year, a man with strange glasses named Greg Raymer won the Main Event.
“Every aspect of it was riveting – the game, the characters, the money, the prestige,” he said. “The WSOP stands for every reason I started playing poker.”
However, it wasn’t until 2017 that Gamble’s poker career took a huge step forward. He won the WSOP’s $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha Hi/Lo event that year for $223,339.
However, poker fame doesn’t always follow a lone WSOP bracelet. Gamble said that even after joining a $10-$20 Omaha Hi/Lo game soon after the win, he returned to anonymity.
“I didn’t tell anyone at the table,” he says. “No one knew, and honestly no one paid any attention to me throughout the rest of the series.”
A brief appearance on Daniel Negreanu’s vlog in 2018 changed that. Soon, poker players Gamble admired, like Mike Matusow and Eli Elezra, were praising his Omaha game. Matusow even asked to swap action with him.
“These are the guys I grew up watching and respecting,” he said. “2018 brought me recognition from top-level professionals that I am a true competitor at the felt and a serious challenger to anyone anytime I sit down.”
Last summer, the former Army soldier almost went back-to-back, finishing 10th for $13,429 in the same event that brought his first bracelet. He scored four cashes last summer in Omaha events and now has $338,675 in WSOP winnings.
Almost all of his winnings have come in some form of Omaha. Now, Gamble is a regular cash game player in Las Vegas, and can’t wait to jump in the action at the Rio. It’s a good bet he’ll be in the field for the $1,500 Omaha Hi/Lo that kicks off Thursday.
“I am absolutely excited for this years WSOP,” he says. “Each day until my first event seems to be taking longer than the last. Everything is positive building up to this summer as a bunch of friends are coming out during the series.
“I have a lot of momentum from cash games that I’m going to use to propel myself into another final table. Honestly, I’m stoked for what this summer is going to provide for me – anything less than a bracelet will feel disappointing.”