Robin Leach

41st Annual World Series of Poker kicks off at Rio

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Joe Cada holds up his newly acquired World Series of Poker gold bracelet after winning the 2009 World Series of Poker at The Rio.
WSOP/Harrah's

Joe Cada wins WSOP

Phil Hellmuth and Mike Tyson arrive at the Ante Up for Africa Poker Tournament at The Rio on July 2, 2009.

Phil Hellmuth and Mike Tyson arrive at the Ante Up for Africa Poker Tournament at The Rio on July 2, 2009.

The $1 Million VIP Poker Tournament commemorates the grand opening of The Ivey Room, an exclusive one-table high-limit room named in honor of seven-time World Series of Poker champion Phil Ivey at Aria on May 22, 2010.

The $1 Million VIP Poker Tournament commemorates the grand opening of The Ivey Room, an exclusive one-table high-limit room named in honor of seven-time World Series of Poker champion Phil Ivey at Aria on May 22, 2010.

Poker players from around the world in record numbers arrive today for tomorrow’s start of the 41st Annual World Series of Poker. WSOP champion and poker legend Doyle Brunson will play in the first of 57 gold bracelet events late afternoon tomorrow in the $50,000 Shuffle Up and Deal Players Championship.

It’s the most expensive buy-in to ever open the WSOP and will feature an eight-game HORSE format over four days. Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Scotty Nguyen, Mike Matusow, Chris Ferguson and Jennifer Harman are among the stars expected to play tomorrow.

Defending WSOP champion Joe Cada plays at noon Saturday when thousands of poker players and fans descend on The Rio for the $1,000 buy-in event. There are so many competitors that it will take two days to seat all of them.

The Main Event starts July 5 with the Final Table of the world’s Top Nine players reached by July 17. Those winners will return to The Rio as the November Nine on Nov. 8 for the live primetime coverage to crown the $10 million winner on ESPN.

The one day off in tournament play is July 4 for the celebrity charity Ante Up for Africa hosted by actor Don Cheadle and poker princess Annie Duke. Celebrities are set to jet in from Hollywood to play.

In advance of the record numbers expected, The Rio execs for the first time have turned over the entire convention center to WSOP. Tournament tables are being pushed into final position today in the 58,000-square-foot Pavilion and 38,000-square-foot Amazon Room. Every table is expected to be filled with poker players.

“We are planning for the largest WSOP ever,” said tournament director Jack Effel, who oversees the event for the fifth consecutive year. “Whatever your game and whatever your bankroll, the WSOP schedule offers something for everyone.”

Last year, some 60,875 entries from 115 countries competed for more than $174 million. This year, WSOP officials are expecting to top that record with 20 percent more tables in play over last year’s 295!

A bracelet will be awarded to each winner of the 57 official tournaments, and for the first time no two will be alike. Jewelry designer Steve Soffa was assigned the task by On Tilt Designs, who also have created a collection of poker-themed watches, rings and pendants for fans and players who dream of winning gold bracelets and getting their names in history books like 11-time winner Phil Hellmuth.

Each bracelet ceremony will be held the day after an event concludes, and Steve’s team will engrave the winner’s name into the back of the faceplate. They are made from 14K solid gold with the four card suits in rubies and black diamonds surrounded by princess and round cut diamonds. The Main Event bracelet is 6 ounces of gold and feature 550 handset diamonds weighing 4 carats!

Vegas DeLuxe will cover celebrity events and play for the Main Event, so check back often now that tournament play is about to begin!

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

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