We are two weeks away from the start of a historic moment (OK, technically 13 days, but you get what I mean). The 50th Annual World Series of Poker will begin on May 29 at 11AM with its traditional first event, the $500 Casino Employees Event. From there, the prestige only gets bigger as some of the largest fields in tournament poker will gather at the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas to try to etch their names into the history books.

So, what can we expect? Will there be surprises? Or will it just be a Bacchanalia of cards with total disregard for money? (Answers? Yes…and yes!) Let’s look into the crystal ball to see just what might occur.

Weekend Frenzies

While the first week of the 2019 WSOP has a boatload of big money events (a $10,000 Super Turbo Bounty on May 29, “The Big 50” first flight on May 30 and the $50,000 50th Anniversary High Roller event), it will be the weekends that feature some of the “novelty” events that have become staples of the WSOP. Tournaments like the Millionaire Maker ($1 million guaranteed to the winner), the Double Stack, the Monster Stack, and the “Little One for One Drop” all are scheduled for Friday starts. “The Closer” also falls into this category as the $100,000 High Roller is being contested at the end of the WSOP on July 12.

Many thought that these tournaments would affect the fields in the smaller buy in tournaments, but that turned out to be unfounded. Thus, don’t expect to see a dip in the numbers during this year’s tournament; if it were anything other than the 50th anniversary, it might have been a possibility, but the panache of the Golden Anniversary will be bringing people out of the woodwork. The smaller buy in tournaments, such as the $400 Colossus and the $600 Deepstack Championship, may have an impact on other tournaments around Las Vegas, which love poaching players off with lower buy ins and manageable field sizes (who likes going through 1500 people at the WSOP only to be in the middle of the pack when they’re knocked out?).

What Will Happen With the “Bracelet Winners” Event?

It’s one of the last tournaments on the agenda at the WSOP, the $1500 50th Annual Bracelet Winners Only Event. While this sounds like it would be cool on the surface, diving down a bit deeper it might not be that smart an idea.

There have been 1334 bracelets (rough count, don’t quote me!) awarded over the span of the WSOP, with approximately 200 people having won multiple (more than two) bracelets and the rest being solo bracelet wins. Figuring that there might be 700, maybe 750 bracelet winning players that are alive, how many of these players want to battle it out with OTHER bracelet winners, players who arguably have proven their worth on the grandest stage of all?

Dutch Boyd brought this point up in a Tweet a couple of months ago and the WSOP bigwigs heard the call:

Even with no rake on the event, will there be anyone who jumps at it? Surprisingly, it might be one of the easier bracelets to win as all the competitors will be known commodities, for the most part, and you would figure this would get prominent airtime during the PokerGO broadcasts and maybe on ESPN.

How Will the Online Bracelets Play Out?

For the first time ever, there will be TEN online events on the WSOP schedule. As my friend and colleague Dan Katz has pointed out, this is more than the total number of online events in the WSOP since they were introduced in 2015 and, as was started in 2017 and continued last year with the four online events, they will be played in their entirety online. In addition to this, players from New Jersey will be able to take part in the tournaments, but there could be issues with that.

Only two of the ten tournaments will be played before the reintroduction of the archaic ruling on the Wire Act by the Department of Justice on June 14. Will the players in New Jersey be able to play in the $500 Turbo Deepstack Event on June 19 or the $1000 $1000 Double Stack event on June 23? Right now, WSOP officials don’t foresee any problems with the federal government regarding the interstate play between the WSOP.com sites in Nevada and New Jersey. But New Jersey has sued the DoJ over their reversal of the Wire Act and that could complicate matters.

Predicting the Championship Event

The 50th WSOP Championship Event – the “Main Event” moniker was the creation of television; when it was created it was called the Championship Event (now? It is officially called Event #73 – $10,000 No Limit Hold’em Main Event – World Championship, quite a mouthful on its own) – will be massive. But will it be the BIGGEST Championship Event ever? In looking at the numbers, it could at the minimum make a run at it.

Since 2015, the numbers for the Championship Event have been on an upward swing. It was only a 300-plus player increase between 2015 and 2016, but that jumped up to almost 500 from 2016 to 2017. Finally, there was a 653 player increase between 2017 and 2018. It isn’t out of the realm of thought that 1000 additional players might come to the fray in 2019 which, added to the 2018 numbers, would make for an 8874-player field that would beat the 2006 record field of 8773.

Will it happen? Will John Cynn repeat as champion (hate to be a spoiler, but probably not…Cynn has only cashed twice in tournaments since his win last year and no player has repeated as champion since Johnny Chan in 1987-88)? And will it be the “Year of the Pro” or the “Year of the Amateur?” It’s why we tune in each May, to view the drama and the history that takes place. Ready or not, here comes the World Series of Poker!

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