Responding to the uproar from an assortment of professionals in the poker world, Harrah's recently announced a major change to the lineup of events for this year's World Series of Poker. Not only is it a definite concession to the desires of the players but it could lead to one of the richest poker tournaments outside of a World Series Main Event.
There will be a mixed game H.O.R.S.E. tournament added at some point to the schedule of events for the 36th renewal of the world's greatest poker tournament at the Rio this year, scheduled to take place from June 25th to August 10th. While the addition of the event was something that notable professionals have wanted, what they didn't expect was how exclusive this tournament most likely will be. The buy-in is expected to be placed at $50,000, an amount that not too many outside of the best in professional poker can afford.
In another interesting move, the leadership of the World Series at Harrah's, helmed by vice president of sports entertainment and marketing Jeffrey Pollack, has agreed that it is time as well for the players to get involved in not only the future of the World Series but perhaps the future of the game of poker as well. A Players' Committee has been formed, featuring six of the greatest names in poker today. Former World Champions Chris "Jesus" Ferguson and Scotty Nguyen will join Jennifer Harman, Howard Lederer, Robert Williamson III and Daniel Negreanu on the Committee, with all accepting one year assignments. They will regularly meet with Pollack to best serve the players and enhance their experience at all World Series of Poker events. A seventh non-professional poker player will be added at some point as well.
H.O.R.S.E. is a highly challenging mix of Texas and Omaha Hold 'Em, Razz, Seven Card Stud and either Omaha or Seven Card Eight or Better (also known as Hi/Lo) that is one of the true tests of a poker player's abilities. Because of the rotation through the games, a player has to be proficient at all forms of poker, rather than a specialist at one. The event hasn't been a part of the World Series since 2004 and, to be particularly honest, has only been contested in World Series competition from 2002 through 2004. Harrah's, however, has acquiesced to the players' desires with the addition of this event, perhaps even including the buy-in level.
The buy-in alone should make the tournament a virtual Who's Who of the professional poker world. If simply 200 players make up the field and pony up the $50,000, the resulting $10 million prize pool would guarantee the greatest first place prize for a tournament outside of the Championship Event. Additionally, with the highest buy-in for a tournament in the history of the World Series, it would practically exclude the recreational or amateur players from entering a teeming pool of the greatest sharks in the world!
Harrah's must be commended not only for the addition of the mixed event to the World Series schedule, but also for the creation of the Players' Committee to hear directly what the players would like to see the World Series become. The players that make up the committee are excellent selections and all are known for their love of the game and their desire to see it continue at its current success level. It could also lead to drive a full-blown players' organization, as a strong leadership now is in place for players to follow. While still early in 2006, the bold strokes taken by Harrah's and the World Series has to be one of the best stories of the year and in recent poker history.
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