Record Crowds Gather for 37th Annual WSOP - Thursday 29th of June 2006

By Ryan McLane

The line to the cashier's booth was 100 deep at 1:10 a.m. Tuesday morning at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino as players scrambled to snatch up the last seats to the first open event of the 2006 World Series of Poker (WSOP).

Those who braved the lines were disappointed to find that Event #2, a $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em tournament, was sold out just after midnight. WSOP officials capped the three-day tournament at 2,750 players.

That total includes more than 500 alternates as officials are trying to accommodate the record-breaking crowd and squeeze as many players into the Rio as possible. For the first time in WSOP history, players will sit 11 to a table to make the numbers work.

"This is a record-setting crowd," WSOP spokesperson Dave Curley said. "We expected a big draw, but we don't like to make predictions. Last year we had 2,305 players (for this event), which was a record at the time. As you can see this is much bigger and we're doing everything we can to make sure any player who wants a seat, gets a seat."

Of the 2,750 registered players, 2,288 will start the tournament. When a player busts out during the first two blind levels, officials will fill the empty chair with an alternate. As of noon on Tuesday, the number of people seeking an alternate seat remained in the hundreds.

After the end of level two, WSOP spokesperson Gary Thompson said tournament directors will consider seating more than the 2,750 registered players and alternates, but he was hesitant to say it was more than a possibility because of what he called a disadvantage for players getting a late seat.

As with every WSOP event, players will get chip for chip on their buy-in, meaning in the $1500 event, players receive 1,500 chips. Thompson said to start a player after three hours with only 1,500 chips may not be fair considering the cost of the event. Still, Thompson said there is a line of people still willing to do just that.

"There is just such a huge demand," Thompson said. "Seating 11 players to a table is unique to the WSOP, but we're trying to accommodate the wishes of the players to buy-in. People have come from all around the world to play today."

Event #2 did not start on time as players were still filtering in the gates at 1 p.m. To describe the scene as a zoo would be an understatement, but the mood in the Amazon Q convention room was cheerful and many anxious participants were already in their seats begging for their chips one hour before the expected start time.

And this is only the first day.

Although the WSOP officially began Monday, this is the first event where the public can buy-in. The series kicked of with the invitation only Tournament of Champions and Event #1, a casino-employee-only tournament, on Monday.

Mike Sexton, the well-known poker ambassador and commentator for the World Poker Tour won the Tournament of Champions and a $1 million prize causing quite a stir in the morning as players recounted the story. More than a few people could be heard whispering that Sexton, whose last WSOP bracelet came in 1989, was a champion once again.

Event #1 is still running with 18 casino employees battling for the gold bracelet. Play will resume in that event today at 4 p.m.

Even with the news that no more seats were being sold for Event #2, players are still filling the one-table satellites, looking to buy into future WSOP events at a discount. One-table satellites run from $125 to $535 with winning players receiving tournament entry chips for use in any WSOP event with an entry fee of $500 or higher.

The last satellite before Event #2 ended at 5:43 a.m. Tuesday, with officials promising if 10 more people showed up, a new satellite would begin. They promptly began running again Tuesday after breakfast for players looking to win their buy-in to the $1500 Pot Limit Hold'Em Event #3 on Wednesday.

If the number of players continues to grow, predictions that this will be the first $100 million WSOP may prove to be a conservative estimate.

Ryan McLane is a gaming industry reporter for Casino City and is assigned to the poker beat. Email your comments and questions to him at ryanmclane@casinocity.com .

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