Every poker player’s dream is to someday play in and win a World Series of Poker event. The WSOP may seem like a difficult dream to realize, but players today have more opportunities than ever to play in the WSOP thanks to satellite tournaments held on numerous online poker sites. These tournaments can help players who otherwise could never afford to play in the WSOP the chance to live out their poker dreams and mix it up with some of the best players in the world.
What is the WSOP?
The WSOP is an annual tournament series that attracts most of the world’s top poker players. Winning any WSOP tournament — which comes not only with enormous prize money, but also with a prestigious gold bracelet — is considered a major accomplishment, regardless of the buy-in or the game being played. In fact, the WSOP differs from the World Poker Tour or other tournaments in that players not only get the chance to play Texas hold’em, but also numerous other poker games like Omaha, Seven Card Stud, Razz and mixed-game formats.
How to Play in the WSOP Main Event
If you’d like to participate in the WSOP Main Event, there are several different ways you can do so. First, of course, it is possible to directly buy into the event, provided you feel comfortably laying out $10,000 for your chance to participate. Many players also pool their resources to play, sending one representative from a league of players or a group of backers, each of which will earn a share of any prize money won by the player.
However, these direct methods are not what have spurned the WSOP’s incredible rate of growth. Instead, players have increasingly relied on satellite tournaments to help make their dreams come true. By participating in a satellite tournament, players can wager a relatively small amount of money for the chance at winning a seat in the WSOP Main Event. For instance, a $500 satellite might award one seat into the tournament for every 20 participants.
How to Qualify Online
One of the most popular ways to qualify for the WSOP Main Event is through online satellites. Almost all online poker sites offer some sort of way to qualify for the Main Event, either by buying you directly into the tournament, or by giving you cash that may cover not only the tournament entry itself, but potentially also your travel expenses, hotel room and perhaps even spending money to use during your stay.
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Types of Online Satellites
The types of online satellites available are as numerous as the sites you can play them on, though they do generally fall into one of a few categories. The first kind is the free satellite, which is one of the few ways in which you might be able to qualify for the WSOP without spending a dime. Of course, it’s unlikely that you’d be able to actually qualify directly from a free satellite; more likely, the free satellite will earn you a seat into an inexpensive satellite tournament, from which you might be able to win your way into the Main Event.
Many tournaments of these types are part of what are known as “steps” satellites. In these tournaments, players may navigate several levels of tournaments of various buy-ins in order to eventually win a seat into the WSOP. Generally, players are allowed to buy-in at any step they like; you can try to start at a low level and work your way up, or start from a higher buy-in but have fewer steps to take in order to ultimately win your tournament seat. The final step will be a direct satellite that awards a seat into the Main Event.
Perhaps the most popular type of online satellite is the “super satellite.” In this type of tournament, numerous seats will be rewarded based on the number of entries and the size of the buy-in. With some online super-satellites attracting thousands of entries, it’s often possible for several players to earn seats into the WSOP Main Event from a single satellite tournament!
WSOP Events Players May Qualify For
While most players attempt to qualify for the WSOP Main Event, it is often possible to win entries into lower buy-in events as well. Given that these events cost less to play in, more seats can be awarded, and your chances of qualifying are likely to be greater. In addition, some sites may even make attempts at qualifying players for higher buy-in tournaments, including 2012′s signature special event: the $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop tournament, which will not only award tens of millions of dollars in prizes, but also raise millions for the One Drop charity initiative.
History of the WSOP
The World Series of Poker began in 1970, when casino magnate Benny Binion hosted an invitational tournament at the Horseshoe Casino. Binion brought together seven of the most famous poker players for a tournament that consisted of set sessions of play. At the end of this “tournament,” the players conducted a vote by secret ballot, with Johnny Moss winning that vote and becoming the first ever champion.
In 1971, the tournament then took on a more modern feel, as a freeze out format was used. Within a few years, the WSOP had expanded to include several additional events, showcasing the top players in a variety of poker disciplines.
Growth in the tournament series was slow but steady, and by the 1990s, it had become commonplace for over 200 players to take part in the tournament each year. But it wouldn’t be until the online poker revolution was in full swing before the tournament would truly expand to the sizes seen in modern events. In 2003, a record 839 players took part in the Main Event; the win that year by amateur Chris Moneymaker combined with innovative coverage from ESPN exploded the popularity of the WSOP, with attendance more than tripling in the next year. Now, tens of thousands of players participate in dozens of different events, and the WSOP has expanded around the world.
The main WSOP tournament is still held in Las Vegas. Originally held at the Horseshoe Casino, the purchase of Binion’s by Harrah’s Entertainment (now known as Caesars Entertainment) then moved the tournament to the Rio Hotel and Casino, where it remains to this day.
However, that is not the only location where players can take part in the WSOP. Beginning in 2005, Harrah’s began offering “WSOP Circuit” events at Harrah’s casinos around the United States, giving players a more affordable and local option with which to get a WSOP experience. While these events are not considered to be on the same level as the main WSOP tournament series, they do award gold rings to players who win these events.
In 2007, the WSOP Europe was added to bring full-scale WSOP events to Europe. In early years, these events were held in London; however, starting in 2011, the tournament series moved to Cannes, France in order to attract and accommodate larger fields. Like standard WSOP events, these tournaments award bracelets to winners, and are considered as part of determining the WSOP Player of the Year.
Another new expansion began in 2011, when the World Series of Poker Africa was launched in South Africa. While this series is relatively small and receives less publicity than the Las Vegas and European versions of the WSOP, the tournaments in this series are considered WSOP Circuit-level events.
Traditionally, the WSOP has been held in the late spring or early summer of each year. For instance, the 2012 WSOP will begin on May 27, and conclude on July 16. However, the final table of the Main Event will not be played until late October; this delay has been incorporated in recent years to build suspense and excitement for the final stages of the tournament.
The WSOP Europe is traditionally held in October of each year.
Over the years, the WSOP has grown to become by far the largest poker festival in the world. Players from countries on every continent travel to Las Vegas to participate in one or more tournaments, competing for the right to call themselves WSOP champions. In addition to the official events, there are numerous side events and cash games that further bolster the numbers during the series.
While getting an exact number of players who participate in the WSOP is difficult due to the fact that the same player might participate in dozens of tournaments (or just one), there are plenty of public numbers that do help show just how large the WSOP has come to be. At the 2011 WSOP, over $150 million in prizes were awarded to players from 98 different nations. A total of more than 75,000 entries were recorded over the course of 58 events. Approximately 95% of participants were male.
The WSOP Main Event
The crown jewel in the WSOP series is the Main Event: the $10,000 buy-in tournament that dates back to 1971. This no-limit Texas Hold’em tournament takes over a week to reach a final table of nine players, who then must wait months before battling it out for the chance to become the Main Event champion. Traditionally, the winner of this event is considered poker’s world champion for the year.