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WSOP Main Event will be held in hybrid format, decided at Rio

Updated November 13, 2020 - 4:45 pm

The World Series of Poker will crown a Main Event champion this year.

The WSOP announced plans Friday for a hybrid online/live Main Event, the $10,000 buy-in No-limit Hold’em World Championship that is televised annually on ESPN.

A heads-up match to determine the winner will be Dec. 30 at the Rio.

“There must be a world champion in 2020,” WSOP executive director Ty Stewart said in a release. “Poker’s history is too important. It’s a unique format for the Main Event, but this is a unique year. We want to keep players’ health and safety top of mind and still deliver a great televised showcase for the game we love.”

Because of U.S. laws regarding online poker, the Main Event will be held in a complicated format involving essentially two separate tournaments using two online platforms and two casinos.

The U.S. portion will be held starting Dec. 13 on WSOP.com. Players must be physically located in Nevada and New Jersey to play, but they do not have to be residents of those states.

After online play Dec. 13 and 14, the final nine players will come to the Rio for the live final table Dec. 28.

The international portion will be held on GGPoker with three starting flights Nov. 29, Dec. 5 and Dec. 6. The survivors will play down to nine players Dec. 7, and they will travel to the King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic, for their final table Dec. 15.

The U.S. winner and international winner will then play heads-up at the Rio on Dec. 30 for the bracelet.

ESPN will air coverage of the Main Event featuring announcers Lon McEachern and Norman Chad.

The U.S. and international tournaments will each have independent payout schedules based on the number of entries. The final two players will play for an additional $1 million on top of their winnings from their respective tournaments.

The flagship WSOP that is normally held every year at the Rio was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the WSOP Online was held with separate U.S. and international portions.

Poker players largely welcomed the news on social media.

Daniel Negreanu, a six-time WSOP bracelet winner who is also an ambassador for GGPoker, tweeted: “It’s on! There will be a WSOP main event champion in 2020.”

Shaun Deeb, a four-time bracelet winner who was the WSOP player of the year in 2018, tweeted: “I was hoping this was still (on) the table … so excited.”

Chris Moneymaker, the 2003 Main Event champion, said he was confused because Stoyan Madanzhiev of Bulgaria won the $5,000 buy-in WSOP Online Main Event this year for more than $3.9 million, topping a field of 5,802.

“I thought we already crowned a champion this year,” Moneymaker tweeted. “So he isn’t the main event champion for 2020?”

Negreanu pointed out that this Main Event will be held in the traditional freeze-out format, meaning players cannot buy in again after they are eliminated. Players cannot play both the U.S. and international tournaments.

The WSOP Online Main Event allowed re-entries and also was not available to U.S. players.

Players who advance to the live portion of Main Event play must submit to coronavirus rules and procedures, the WSOP said. The WSOP reserves the right to change the dates or format of the event if virus developments dictate.

The WSOP said satellite tournaments to earn entry into the Main Event will be held for as little as $1 on WSOP.com and GGPoker.

Germany’s Hossein Ensan won the WSOP Main Event last year at the Rio, topping a field of 8,569 to claim the $10 million first-place prize.

Contact Jim Barnes at jbarnes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0277. Follow @JimBarnesLV on Twitter.

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