The World Series of Poker Main Event is back — but it is going to look a lot different.
On Friday, the WSOP announced that it will hold a $10,000 buy-in single entry Main Event with the winner to be crowned in person in Las Vegas on Dec. 30.
In order to pull this off during a global pandemic, the WSOP is running two online brackets, with the winner of each bracket meeting to play heads-up on nearly live TV from the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Sin City. The format is the first of its kind for a poker tournament.
A domestic bracket and an international bracket will be held, with the former on the WSOP platform that is active in New Jersey and Nevada. You’ll have to be physically present in either the Silver State or Garden State to participate, but you don’t have to be a resident. For the international side, eligible players will compete on GGPoker, the WSOP’s international partner.
The WSOP and GGPoker ran online-only bracelet events this summer, but there was no Main Event that incorporated a competition among both U.S. and international players. Thus, it wasn’t a World Series of Poker.
WSOP trying to give fans a live TV spectacle
Both brackets are online until a final table of nine is reached. On the domestic side, the final nine will meet at the Rio on Dec. 28 to play to a winner who then moves on to the final heads-up match. On the international side, the final nine will meet at King’s Casino in the Czech Republic on Dec. 15, with the winner there slated to travel to Las Vegas for the showdown just two days before 2021.
In Europe, unlike Nevada, people can legally play online poker at the age of 18. If the winner of the international bracket is younger than 21, the WSOP would have to change its plans, though it’s unclear what the poker tournament organizer would do at that point.
The winner of the domestic tournament (beginning Dec. 13) and the winner of the international tournament (kicking off Nov. 29) will square off for the no-limit hold’em world championship. The two fields might be very different in terms of number of entrants, but that won’t impact the format.
Each bracket will pay out prize money to tournament entrants independently, and the WSOP and GGPoker are throwing in an extra $1 million for the overall winner.
“There must be a world champion in 2020,” said Ty Stewart, the WSOP’s executive director. “Poker’s history is too important. It’s a unique format for the Main Event, but this is a unique year. We want to keep players’ health and safety top of mind and still deliver a great televised showcase for the game we love.”
The WSOP said it will follow all proper COVID-19 safety protocols, and players will be tested for the virus.
The tournament is still subject to approval from the Nevada Gaming Control Board, the WSOP said.
While the stakes of the tournament are high, the WSOP is offering U.S. players satellites starting as low as $1.
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