The opening week of the 38th annual World Series of Poker presented by Milwaukee’s Best Light set multiple records at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino and saw prize payouts of more than $16 million – awarding more in just five days than during the entire 2000 World Series of Poker.
The record fields – and prize payouts – continued as the second week of the richest sporting event on the planet got underway in Las Vegas.
“The event is off to an amazing start,” said World Series of Poker Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack. “We’re drawing huge crowds, setting new milestones and quickly learning to expect the unexpected as talented amateurs square off against the biggest names in the game.”
The first record fell quickly, with Steve Billirakis of Chicago winning Event 1 (the $5,000 Mixed Hold’em World Championship) and becoming the youngest gold bracelet winner in World Series of Poker history at 21 years and 11 days. Billiarkis’ improbable feat eclipsed the mark set at the 2006 World Series of Poker by Jeff Madsen, who set the previous mark at 21 years, one month and nine days.
Billirakis outlasted a field of 451 participants, including some of the game’s most accomplished players, to take home a top prize of $536,287. The event began June 1 and concluded June 4.
Even before Billirakis strapped on his bracelet, another poker record fell with the start of Event 3 on June 2. A $1,500 No-Limit Texas Hold’em event attracted 2,998 players, becoming the third-largest live poker tournament in history and the largest non-WSOP Main Event tournament in live poker history.
The 2005 WSOP Main Event attracted 5,619 players; the 2006 WSOP Main Event drew 8,773. Until this week, the largest non-Main Event tournament was Event 17 at last year’s World Series of Poker. That event – another $1,500 No-Limit Texas Hold’em tournament – attracted 2,891 registrants.
But this year’s 2,998 players set a new standard. Ciaran O’Leary, originally from Ireland and now living in Seattle, took home the gold bracelet and $727,012 for the victory.
Saturday, June 9 set a record for the busiest single day in live poker history, with 3,009 people registering for two events. The $1,500 buy-in H.O.R.S.E. championship attracted 2,628 players; the $2,500 buy-in H.O.R.S.E. championship drew 381 players, becoming the largest H.O.R.S.E. tournament in history. H.O.R.S.E. is a mixed-game event that includes Hold’em, Omaha, Razz, Seven-Card Stud and Seven-Card Stud High-Low Eight or Better.
The new single-day record bested the previous mark – set just seven days earlier during Event 3 – by 11 players. While the 2006 World Series of Poker Main Event remains the largest tournament in history with its 8,773 participants, the official “Day One” of that tournament was divided across four separate days due to the enormous size of the field.
The 2006 Ladies Championship, a three-day event that began Sunday, drew a record crowd as well. This year’s Ladies Championship attracted 1,286 participants, its largest field since the annual tournament began in 1977.
The 2006 turnout bested last year’s record of 1,128 players by about 15 percent. The total prize pool for this year’s Ladies Championship is $1,170,260; first-place will pay $262,077. Both are records for the Ladies Championship.
The 38th annual World Series of Poker presented by Milwaukee’s Best Light began June 1 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas and runs through July 17. It will feature a record 55 bracelet events, up from 46 last year.