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It’s finally here. The Super Bowl of poker, the FA Cup of card playing, the Olympics of wagering – and Day 1 begins with a little bit of WWE-style action with some tag team poker. The World Series of Poker kicks off Wednesday with plenty of professional rounders, skilled amateurs, dead money, and players of every level in between coming in with high hopes of bringing home the coveted, the craved, the highly sought-after gold bracelet. And the cash is nice, too.
Get your buy-in money ready, grab your hoodie and sunglasses, and conjure up those positive vibes. It’s time to head to the Rio. Good luck!
Formerly known as the Casino Employees Championship (which seems like kind of a cooler name), this tournament continues a tradition of kicking off play with a "thank you" to dealers, cage employees, pit bosses, bartenders, and any other worldwide casino worker ready to plunk down a WSOP value buy-in of only $565.
Last year’s event attracted 731 entries for a total prize pool of $365,500. The event has been running for 17 years and now features one re-entry per player. C.J. Sand, a 45-year-old sports book writer and cashier at the Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, was crowned last year’s champion after two days of play. The Chicago native took home $71,157 and the first bracelet of 2016.
The event dates back to 2000 and was known as the Dealers World Poker Championship that first year. As the name implies, it was only open to casino dealers at the time. That first tournament attracted only 109 players, so the following year all casino employees became eligible. The change worked, and the tournament grew to 209 players in 2001. The event peaked in 2006 when Caesars poker dealer Chris Gros took home a hefty $127,496. The last several years have seen first-place winnings stabilize in the $70,000-$80,000 range.
The annual championship is not considered an “open” event, since entry is restricted to workers in the gaming industry. To be eligible, entrants must work for a licensed gaming facility, such as a card room, a casino, racetrack, etc. From 2000-03, the tournament was played as a Limit Holdem event, and then as No-Limit Hold’em since 2004.
“It should be noted that several well-known poker champions did begin their careers in poker as dealers,” poker writer and historian Nolan Dalla says. “This list includes names such as Scotty Nguyen, Scott Fischman, Mike Matusow, and others.”
Even former PokerNews editor and live tournament reporter Chad Holloway notched a win in 2013 for $84,915.
WINNERS CIRCLE – Casino Employees Tournament
- 2000 – Dave Alizadeth, $21,800
- 2001 – Travis Jonas, $40,200
- 2002 – David Warga, $47,300
- 2003 – David Lukaszewski, $35,800
- 2004 – Carl Nessel, $40,000
- 2005 – Anthony Nguyen, $83,390
- 2006 – Chris Gros, $127,496
- 2007 – Frederick Narciso, $104,701
- 2008 – Jonathan Kotula, $87,929
- 2009 – Andrew Cohen, $83,833
- 2010 – Hoai Pham, $71,424
- 2011 – Sean Drake, $82,292
- 2012 – Chiab "Chip" Saechao, $70,859
- 2013 – Chad Holloway, $84,915
- 2014 – Roland Reparejo, $82,835
- 2015 – Brandon Barnette, $75,704
- 2016 – C.J. Sand, $71,157
New Day, the British Bulldogs, Harlem Heat, the Fabulous Freebirds, the Road Warriors. Maybe you envision your team bringing the card-playing pain like these famous wrestling super groups. Or maybe your group is a bit more like the 1990s rap group Tag Team and their hit “Whooomp! There it is!” Whatever the team name or strategy, no doubt plenty of competitive juices will be flowing as the WSOP kicks off the first day with a big buy-in team event.
The “tag team” concept was introduced last summer with teams of two to four players battling it out in a $1,000 buy-in tournament. The unique concept awards a bracelet to every member of the team, and was well-received by players, attracting 863 entries (and a total of more than 2,000 team players) for a prize pool of $776,700. The inaugural event was won by poker pros Doug Polk and Ryan Fee, who took home $76,679 each. The event marked the first team tournament in 34 years at the WSOP.
Series officials have brought back the concept at the lower buy-in, which begins June 5, and have also added the $10,000 option that begins tomorrow. Team Polk/Fee entered the event to help promote their new poker coaching site UpswingPoker.com. No doubt their marketing scheme worked to perfection and they’ll be looking to defend their titles.
There are a few caveats to this concept to keep in mind:
- All teams must register together.
- Each teammate must check in at their table prior to the end of the registration period and play at least one round of blinds.
- Players may tag a teammate anytime he or she is not in an active hand.
- There are no breaks in the event.
- Payouts will be calculated based on number of teams and be distributed evenly amongst teammates.
All-time tournament winnings leader Daniel Negreanu was part of a team that included poker pros Vanessa Selbst, David Williams, and Maria Ho. No word on who he might be teaming up with this year, but Kid Poker ran an interesting Twitter poll last year about his teammates.
Jeff Gross unveiled his four-man relay team on Wednesday. It's the same squad as last year, only they're adding a secret weapon.
Pumped for tomorrow's @WSOP $10,000 Tag Team event with @tsarrast @MagicAntonio & @MichaelPhelps as our anchor! https://t.co/geU70tW97u— Jeff Gross (@JeffGrossPoker)
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