The planet's biggest poker tournaments launched at the Rio in Las Vegas this week as Event 1 of the 40th World Series of Poker championship was given the traditional "Shuffle Up and Deal" launch by 11 times WSOP bracelet winner Phil "Poker Brat" Hellmuth.
Event number 1 was the $500 buy-in Casino Employees No Limit Hold'em, which attracted a field of 860, lower than last year's entry field of 930 casino employees.
The ambience was good natured and jokey as Hellmuth, WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack and tournament director Jack Effel went through the rules – some of them new requirements regarding good conduct and sportsmanship – before the first of this year's events got underway in the Amazon Room at the Rio.
In a salute to the fortieth anniversary of the event, ‘seventies music was played over the public address system, and a tribute was paid to the Rio employees.
However, much of the attention will be focused on today's (Thursday) big event – a special four day, 40th Anniversary No Limit Hold'em competition with a massive $40 000 buy-in that has already attracted some of the biggest and most successful players in world poker.
"We wanted a tournament to commemorate the 40th Annual WSOP in grand style and creating the $40 000 event was a great way to mark the historical significance," said Seth Palansky, Harrah's Sports and Entertainment Director, Communications. "The event was created with only this year in mind and we expect it to be a similar field to the H.O.R.S.E. event: Big names, primarily professionals, but an event spectators and poker players alike would want to see."
The special event will be one of four filmed for broadcast by ESPN later this year.
The special significance and prestige of winning not only the 40th Anniversary event but the bracelet that goes with it has not escaped the attention of top players, several of whom have confirmed they intend to go after this unique prize.
Other major buy-in events in this year's WSOP line-up include the $10 000 buy-in Main Event, and the $50 000 buy-in H.O.R.S.E. tournament.