How to Navigate the World Series of Poker 2022

How to Navigate the World Series of Poker 2022
  • This summer, there are 78 official WSOP bracelet events, with buy-ins ranging from $365 to $1 million.
  • The $1 million tournament, dubbed the “Big One for One Drop,” will feature 48 competitors.
  • The WSOP and the Rio are the epicenters of the poker world, but other casinos, including Aria, Binion’s, Golden Nugget, Orleans, Planet Hollywood, Venetian, and Wynn, host tournaments that overlap with the WSOP.

Sports bettors play poker, and poker players bet on sports

There’s a reason why most casino sportsbooks are located near the poker room. If you sit at a poker table for any length of time, you’ll eventually hear from the guy sweating his three-teamer or the old-timer who likes a horse, and God help you if the poker room manager doesn’t get the TVs turned on in time for tip-off.

There’s a reason why the clientele is so similar. Every troubled adolescent who has looked into gambling discovers that sports betting and poker are both beatable (though they will remain unbeatable for 90 to 95% of those who try). Some gamblers may devote 90% of their time to sports betting, while others may devote 90% of their time to poker. But I’d wager that everyone who has participated in one has also participated in the other, at least in part.

And if you’ve ever played poker, you’ve probably considered competing in the World Series of Poker. The 49th annual WSOP begins on Wednesday at the Rio in Las Vegas. For those hoping to make a big score this summer (or simply enjoy the spectacle), here are a few things to know about the WSOP:

The World Series of Poker consists of more than just the Main Event

Everyone who watches ESPN has seen some WSOP coverage, most likely beginning with the aptly named Chris Moneymaker’s unlikely run to the WSOP title and $2.5 million in 2003. The WSOP Main Event, a $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas Hold ’em world championship, is held each year. This year’s Main Event begins on July 2 and continues until a winner is crowned live (or nearly live) on ESPN on July 14. (Game officials require a 30-minute tape delay.)

Without a doubt, the Main Event is worthy of its moniker. It’s the Big One, the world’s largest poker tournament. Scott Blumstein won $8.15 million last year, defeating a field of 7,221. The World Series of Poker, on the other hand, encompasses far more than just the Main Event, and far more than just no-limit Hold’em.

This summer, there are 78 official WSOP bracelet events, with buy-ins ranging from $365 to $1 million. (Yes, one million US dollars.) No-limit Hold ’em is by far the most popular game, but there are tournaments for limit and no-limit games as well. Hold’em, pot-limit Omaha, Omaha high-low, pot-limit Omaha high-low, razz, 2-7 triple-draw lowball, and no-limit 2-7 lowball are all options. There are also tournaments that require you to play multiple games, such as dealer’s choice, in which one player selects a game from a list of 20 to play each round. (Have you ever heard of badacy or Big O?) On, four online events are also held.

There is a $1,000 buy-in seniors tournament for players 50 and up, and a $1,000 buy-in super seniors event for players 60 and up for older players who think these young idiots raise too much. There’s a $1,000 buy-in ladies championship for women who think these idiot men are full of themselves. (For many years, the WSOP had to deal with the odd man who wanted to make a spectacle of himself by competing in the women’s event. Organizers eventually came up with a solution: they couldn’t legally bar men from entering, but they could offer women a discount. So the event is officially a $10,000 buy-in, with women receiving a $1,000 discount. There will be no more men.)

The $1,000,000 buy-in tournament

After a three-year absence, the $1 million buy-in Big One for One Drop tournament returns to the WSOP.

The event is limited to 48 participants, and 8% of the prize pool will be donated to the One Drop nonprofit organization, which works to increase global access to safe drinking water.

The tournament draws a mix of multimillionaire businessmen who put up their own money and poker pros who are partially — and in most cases heavily — staked by wealthy investors.

The previous two Big Ones for One Drop were won by poker professionals. In 2012 (48 entries), Antonio Esfandiari won $18,346,673, and Daniel Colman won $15,306,668 in 2014. (42 entries).

The tournament begins on July 15, the day after the Main Event concludes, and will be broadcast on ESPN.

You can wager on the winner of the Main Event (when the time comes)

Picking the Main Event winner is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack. Even the best players in the world are massive underdogs in a field of over 7,000 competitors. I couldn’t find any site that offered Main Event futures, and if you can find them, don’t bet on them unless you can get 7,000-1 or better.

Once the tournament reaches the final table of nine, finding the needle becomes a little easier. In recent years, when the tournament has reached the final table, sportsbooks have posted odds on the Main Event winner. Any betting edge there is likely to be small, but it will be worth handicapping which players are more likely to go all in for the win vs. those trying to hang on and move up the money ladder. We can look at those odds when the time comes.

You get exactly what you pay for.

The balance of skill and luck in any poker tournament is determined by the tournament structure, which includes how many chips you start with and how quickly the blinds and antes rise. Larger buy-in events at the WSOP have better structures. If you want to compete in one of the few bracelet events with entry fees under $1,000, make sure you understand what you’re getting yourself into. Patience may or may not be a virtue.

Most WSOP events with buy-ins of $1,000 or more begin with five times the amount of the buy-in (7,500 for a $1,500 event, for example), and the blinds increase every hour. Players in the $10,000 Main Event begin with 50,000 chips, and the blinds increase every two hours. (It is the world’s best-organized tournament.)

On Day 1 of the $365 Giant, players begin with 25,000 in chips, but the blinds increase every 20 minutes. On Day 1 of the $565 Colossus, players begin with only 5,000 chips, and the blinds increase every 30 minutes. With one bad hand, you could be out in the first hour. These lower-priced tournaments allow regular Joe poker players (like myself) to say they played in a World Series of Poker event without breaking the bank, but they are designed to churn players quickly (and possibly get them to re-enter for another $365 or $565).

The structure should not surprise you. Before you buy in, make sure to review the structure sheets available on or at the Rio.

Weekend limitless Hold ’em tournaments provide the best value.

If you can only attend one WSOP event, make it the Main Event (or win your way in). Aside from that, the large-field weekend no-limit Hold ’em events offer the best chance to get a true WSOP experience while competing for a six- or even seven-figure score.

The $1,500 Millionaire Maker (beginning June 9), $1,000 Double Stack (beginning June 16), and $1,500 Monster Stack (beginning June 23) all have one-hour blind levels and give players between 7,500 and 15,000 starting chips. You can’t splash around in these events, but you can play real poker. And the rewards are massive. The winner of last year’s Millionaire Maker received more than $1.2 million. Last year’s Monster Stack received 6,716 entries, with the winner receiving nearly $1.1 million. The Double Stack is a new event, but it should draw a similar crowd.

You, too, can be Chris Moneymaker (but probably not)

Moneymaker is well-known for parlaying a $39 online satellite into a $10,000 Main Event seat and, eventually, first place and $2.5 million. The Rio doesn’t have satellites that cheap, but they’re a good option for someone with a small bankroll who wants to try their luck.

During the WSOP, single-table satellites run around the clock. Buy-ins range from $125 to $1,030 and begin when a table of ten is full. They are winner-take-all, though the last two players frequently strike a deal.

Winners receive “lammers,” which can only be used to enter other tournaments. Players can, however, sell these lammers to other players for money. (Tip: Almost always, you can sell your lammer for face value.) If you can’t find a buyer, offer a small discount, such as selling a $500 lammer for $480. There will always be someone willing to take advantage of a free $20. There’s no need to go any lower.)

Mega satellites are an additional way to win your way into a larger event. Multiple tables are in play in these satellites, and entry fees are combined to make the most buy-ins for the main event as possible. For example, one $10,000 seat is created for every 20 players who enter a $500 (plus juice) mega satellite for the Main Event. There are 20 $10,000 seats available if 400 players enter, and the mega satellite ends when 20 players remain.

It is difficult to navigate these satellites, but it is possible. Last year, I took $125 from a single-table satellite, entered a $575 mega satellite, and won a $10,000 seat in the Main Event.

What occurred during the Main Event? Well, let’s just say, I’m no Chris Moneymaker.

There are many places to play besides the Rio

The WSOP is the center of the poker world during the summer, but other casinos aren’t fools. They know players are pouring into town, and they’re offering lucrative alternatives for players who aren’t prepared to plunk down $1,500 or more for one tournament.

Aria, Binion’s, Golden Nugget, Orleans, Planet Hollywood, Venetian and Wynn all are offering tournament series that overlap with the WSOP, with the vast majority of buy-ins under $500 and many under $200. Many players play all over town, choosing the right event for them on a given day. You don’t have to camp out at the Rio.

You don’t have to play tournaments to get in on the action

Most poker players define themselves as either “cash game” players or tournament players. Few are great at both.

Even the most rigid cash game players will take a shot at a few tournaments during the WSOP, but they don’t have to get out of their comfort zone. There’s never a better time for cash games than during the WSOP. Hardened Las Vegas professionals love to see “home game heroes” from across the country pour into the city during the WSOP. The Rio will host a variety of cash games, from low stakes to sky high, but just as in tournaments, you don’t have to play there. Bellagio, Aria, Venetian, Wynn and many other casinos will be humming with cash game action.

Know where the bathrooms are

Thousands of people are playing at the Rio on a given day during the WSOP. Players typically get a 20-minute break after two hours of play and a longer dinner break later in the day (again, check your structure sheet). In larger tournaments, the line for the bathroom gets long fast. Make sure you know where the closest bathroom is, or you’ll spend the whole break waiting in line. Some people try to duck out a hand or two before the break to get a jump on the line.

Know your limits, and have fun

Have fun and play within your means. Simple advice, but essential. If you’re coming out for one weekend, target one tournament and play cash games or maybe a smaller side event if you bust. If you’re in Vegas for most of the summer, take the same advice and stretch it out so you stay in action. Make sure you save money to at least catch a flight or bus ticket out of town if the poker gods turn against you. Maybe you’ll be the next poker millionaire.

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