The Number To Beat Is 10,043 As World Series Of Poker Main Event Week Arrives

Eric Raskin

The 2024 World Series of Poker consists of 99 separate poker tournaments, each awarding a gold bracelet to the winner. But in the minds of many casual observers, despite the word “Series” in the title, the WSOP consists of a single event.

To most people, the Main Event is the only event. The terms “WSOP” and “Main Event” are as colloquially interchangeable as “UFC” and “MMA” or “tissues” and “Kleenex.”

The 2024 WSOP has been rolling along for five weeks, but this is the week it begins to capture the attention of a world beyond the poker hardcores. The Main Event, a $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em tournament with no re-buys — once a player runs out of chips, it’s “wait ‘til next year” — begins Wednesday, July 3, at 12 noon local time in Las Vegas.

It also begins Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Plus players can continue to enter Sunday or Monday.

Yeah, it’s a little confusing. Let’s break down the key facts to know as the most prestigious poker tournament of the year begins.

Flights of fancy

Up through 2003 — the year Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event and did his part to ignite the poker boom — the Main Event always had a single starting day, with the entire field convening in one place at one time to begin the competition. That changed when field sizes began to grow exponentially (the Main Event leaped from 839 entries in ’03 to 2,576 in ’04), necessitating multiple starting flights to avoid having to cut off entry numbers at whatever casino capacity was.

This year, there are four “Day 1s.” There are also two “Day 2s.” The players who advance past Day 1A, 1B, and 1C combine for Day 2A/2B/2C on Sunday, and those who advance past Day 1D — expected to be by far the most popular of the Day 1s — reconvene for Day 2D on Monday.

It is also permissible to skip Day 1 entirely and enter the competition any time before the end of the second level of play on one of the Day 2s. Players who enter late do so arguably at a disadvantage, as their starting stacks of 60,000 chips will be well below average on Day 2 (60,000 chips equals 300 big blinds at the start of Day 1 and just 60 big blinds at the registration cutoff), but the fact remains that entrants may choose to begin their Main Event journey anytime between this Wednesday at noon and next Monday at about 4:40 in the afternoon.

It’s a long tournament — whittling a field of about 10,000 players (more on that number in a moment) down to one takes time.

The entire remaining field will merge into one for the first time on Day 3 next Tuesday, and on they’ll go until Day 8 on Sunday, July 14, when it’s expected they’ll reach a final table of nine survivors. Then there’s an off day, followed by a two-day final table, with a winner crowned on Wednesday, July 17.

Where to watch?

Subscription service PokerGO will livestream coverage every day of the Main Event, though not quite starting with the words “Shuffle up and deal.” Throughout the first week of the tournament, for example, the stream will begin at 4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET each day.

The stream is never in real-time, however. All hands are seen on delay so that people watching cannot possibly relay information about a hand to a player while that hand is ongoing.

Tightly edited episodes that resemble the early-poker-boom-days ESPN coverage will air in the fall on CBS Sports Network.

This is the third year in which the WSOP is emanating from the Las Vegas Strip. From 1970-2004, the Horseshoe in downtown Vegas was home, then the Rio just off the Strip hosted the Series from ’05-’21, and now two properties share duties: Paris Hotel & Casino and the Horseshoe Las Vegas (formerly Bally’s), which are located next door to each other between Flamingo Rd. and Harmon Ave.

Records are made to be broken

A major focus throughout all the Day 1s and Day 2s will be the entry numbers. The 2023 edition smashed the record of 8,773 that had stood for 17 years, with 10,043 poker players taking a shot last summer.

In the end Atlanta’s Daniel Weinman captured the gold bracelet and the record $12.1 million first-place prize.

Will the record that was broken last year be re-broken this soon? A poll in May of 10 staff members at PokerNews saw field size predictions range from 8,888 to 11,111, with eight of the 10 predicting a number in excess of last year’s record.

It has already been an eventful WSOP, highlighted by two of the biggest stars in the game capturing bracelets in tournaments leading up to the Main Event.

Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu, two Hall of Famers in their 40s who came up together in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, added to their bracelet totals in front of enthusiastic rails. Ivey struck first, winning his 11th gold bracelet (and first in 10 years) in $10,000 deuce-to-seven triple draw. A few days later, Negreanu bagged his seventh bracelet (and first in 11 years) in perhaps the most prestigious non-Main-Event tournament on the schedule, a mixed-game competition known as the $50,000 Poker Players Championship.

Ivey and Negreanu are fourth and sixth, respectively, in the WSOP Player of the Year standings. Everyone is looking up for now at Scott Seiver, who has won three bracelets already this summer — the fifth, sixth, and seventh of his career — triumphing in a $10K Omaha hi-lo event, a $1,500 razz tourney, and a $10K no-limit deuce-to-seven single draw event.

Seiver is the sixth player to win three bracelets in a single year. Nobody has ever pulled off the feat of winning four. Starting Wednesday, about 10,000 poker players stand between Seiver and WSOP history.