World Series of Poker top prize set at $8.23 million

Professional poker player Chris Ferguson contemplates during the $10,000 buy-in main event of the World Series Poker at the Rio hotel-casino in Las Vegas, Sunday, July 8, 2007. Jae C. Hong, The Associated Press

AP

Professional poker player Chris Ferguson contemplates during the $10,000 buy-in main event of the World Series Poker at the Rio hotel-casino in Las Vegas, Sunday, July 8, 2007. Jae C. Hong, The Associated Press

By Ryan Nakashima

LAS VEGAS – Top prize at the 2007 World Series of Poker will be about $8.23 million based on the 6,358 players who have entered the no-limit Texas Hold ’em main event over the tournament’s four starting days, organizers said Monday.

The total is short of last year’s record 8,773 participants and $12 million top prize. But it comes nine months after President Bush signed a law cracking down on Internet gambling, which is blamed for shrinking the number of entrants who would have qualified in online tournaments.

The field is still massive, and several pros, including 2004 champion Greg Raymer, Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson and Phil Ivey, have been bounced already. Of the 4,569 players who participated in the $10,000 buy-in tournament’s first three days, 1,698 remain.

For the poker-playing world, the main event at the World Series is the year’s pinnacle event, where the cards can be cruel and only the skilled, as well as the lucky, survive.

“It hurts of course,” said Brunson, shortly after busting out on the first day of play Friday, when his two pair of aces and queens was beaten by three queens. “It’s the prestige of these tournaments, particularly this one, that everybody’s concerned with. Everyone’s trying to win bracelets a lot more than money.”

The field also is filled with amateur players who took vacations to play against the game’s biggest stars for a shot at overcoming staggering odds to win a staggering pot.

“When you play with this many people, you can’t realistically think about winning,” said Dave Fox of Coram, N.Y. “It’s better odds than a lottery. Skill is involved but there still is a tremendous amount of luck.”

Unofficially, 1,789 players began play at noon local time Monday for the fourth starting day of the tournament.

Survivors from the four opening days will play in two rounds Tuesday and Wednesday before the marathon march to the final table gets under way.

Nine players will sit down at the final table on July 17 to determine a winner.

Shortly after starting Monday, a daily announcement drew a chuckle from the crowd. The recipient of the day’s first royal flush, the best hand in poker and a 649,739-to-1 occurrence, would get a free massage.

“When I heard the offer, I was like, ‘Yeah right,”‘ said Fred Hwang, a 42-year-old anesthesiologist from Keller, Texas.

Then he hit it, holding a jack and 10 of diamonds with a flop of ace, king, and queen of diamonds. Hwang actually found action on the hand, as an unfortunate opponent had a lower flush.

“If I win the tournament, I’ll buy you dinner,” Hwang told his opponent.