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WSOP schedule caters to pros, amateurs alike

Updated May 30, 2017 - 7:58 pm

One of Ty Stewart’s initiatives as executive director of the World Series of Poker has been to make the event more inclusive to recreational players.

That vision culminates this summer.

The 48th annual WSOP begins Wednesday at the Rio Convention Center and features 74 tournaments during the next 7½ weeks that Stewart believes will appeal to pros and amateurs alike.

“We went through a lot of soul-searching over the past 10 years, and we arrived at the fact that we wouldn’t kill the Main Event — we wouldn’t kill the Series — if we really endeavored to transform the customer base,” said Stewart, now in his 12th year in charge.

”We try to continue to evolve the offering for the customer, and that may be quite different than it was in the past when it really was catering to the pro. But, again, we think that that’s our job and our responsibility to create the next generation of poker fans and poker players.”

The WSOP increased its efforts to attract recreational players starting in 2015 with the “Colossus” No-Limit Hold ’em event. The $565 buy-in was the lowest entry fee for an open bracelet event in 35 years and attracted a record 22,374 entries.

This year, officials added a $333 buy-in WSOP.com online event that takes place Saturday and “The Giant,” a $365 buy-in No-Limit Hold ’em tournament that could overtake the inaugural “Colossus” as the largest live tournament in history.

“The Giant” begins June 9 and has starting flights every Friday through July 7. The survivors of each flight are then combined for Day 2 on July 8.

“This might be the first event we custom-created doing an analysis of our customer base,” Stewart said. “We believe that price point, which has never been offered and is hugely popular on our Circuit tour, is one that will bring us an entirely new market. It’s crazy to think that a $200 difference could do that, but those are the kinds of things that we study.”

The WSOP opens Wednesday with the $565 buy-in Casino Employees No-Limit Hold ’em event and the $10,000 buy-in Tag Team No-Limit Hold ’em Championship, one of eight new events on this summer’s schedule.

The series concludes with the $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Texas Hold ’em World Championship that runs from July 8 to 22.

With the “November Nine” final-table format eliminated under the WSOP’s new TV and digital contract with Poker Central, ESPN/ESPN2 will air same-day coverage of the Main Event for the first time, another move Stewart said is designed to attract a new generation of fans and players.

“We live in an age with short attention spans, and really being a breakthrough event is what we’re after,” Stewart said. “When we started the ‘November Nine’ in 2008, there had never been a live poker telecast. We’ve seen over the past several years that the highest ratings were far and away for the live programming, the same-day programming. This has sort of been the evolution.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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