The 2021 World Series of Poker is just over 50 days away, and how can you not be excited? In the unlikely event you aren’t, here are the first 12 of 25 reasons explaining why you should be, and why the 52nd annual WSOP is setting up to be one of the best ever (barring a COVID-19 disaster).
The upcoming series at the Rio in Las Vegas has 88 bracelet events on the schedule, including the $10,000 Main Event, set to begin Nov. 4. For the first time since the poker boom in the early 2000s, the series won’t take place in the spring or summer, and that brings us to our first reasons why you should be excited for the 2021 WSOP.
1. Better weather
Summertime in Las Vegas is a real scorcher. Poker players from more temperate climates travel to Southern Nevada each year for the WSOP and are greeted by scalding hot weather throughout the series. During the day, temps often exceed 110 degrees and there isn’t much rain or shade to cool you off.
This year’s WSOP is going to be much more pleasant from a weather standpoint. Fall weather in Las Vegas is amazing, especially in October. Temps rarely exceed 80 degrees and will drop down into the 60s in late October and into November, meaning you can enjoy your time away from the tables outside without worrying about getting heat stroke.
2. It’s been a minute
COVID-19 was a true buzzkill (to say the least) last year when the WSOP was forced to cancel. The poker community was left with a void in 2020 as thousands missed out on what, for many poker players, is their favorite trip of the year. After a one-year hiatus, summer camp (okay, fall camp) is back and will, hopefully, be better than ever. As Gus Hansen said before the WSOP a few years ago, “it’s going to be a great summer.” Except it’s going to be a great fall this year instead.
3. Negreanu and Ivey go bracelet hunting
Here’s a wild stat that’s almost hard to believe: Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu have combined to win exactly zero gold bracelets since the end of the 2014 WSOP. The poker legends, however, have won a combined 16 bracelets lifetime. This has to be the year one, or both, of them ends the drought. And you’d be crazy not to follow along in their journey to capture gold this fall.
Ivey and Negreanu, who were both first-ballot Poker Hall of Famers, won four WSOP bracelets combined — two each — between 2013 and 2014. Since then, they haven’t won any. Ivey has 10 WSOP gold bracelets this century, but he’s still searching for his first one in the past seven years.
4. Doyle’s back … maybe
In 2018, Doyle Brunson, one of the most legendary players in poker history, made what we all thought would be his final appearance at the World Series of Poker. He went on a deep run in the $10,000 No-Limit 2-7 Lowball Draw Championship, taking sixth place for $43,963. Now, it looks like what appeared to be his WSOP curtain call might not be after all. Earlier this summer, the 10-time WSOP champion tweeted that he’s contemplating a return this fall, and what a treat that would be for his millions of fans.
I'm planning on playing a few select tournaments in the WSOP this year. https://t.co/9um2zalbIR
— Doyle Brunson (@TexDolly) June 15, 2021
5. Better food options
If you haven’t been to the Rio since 2019, you’re probably unaware of some positive changes in the neighborhood. Common complaints poker fans often have about the WSOP’s home casino is that the food options aren’t that appealing and are far too expensive for a poker player on a budget. Well, we have some great news for you. A number of cheap restaurants, some of which are even decent, have opened up across the street in the past two years, including Wahoo’s (fish tacos), Denny’s, and Chick-Fil-A.
6. 88 gold bracelet events
Competing for WSOP bracelets is one of the main reasons why so many people choose to become professional poker players, and also why thousands of recreational players travel to Las Vegas each year. Winning a World Series of Poker title is the greatest accomplishment in all of poker. This year, poker players will have 88 opportunities to win some hardware.
7. The Rio’s last stand?
This one is for those of you who’ve spent the past decade hating on the Rio, the WSOP’s home since 2005. If you’re tired of what some refer to as a “dingy, outdated” casino, you might be in luck. Rumors have been swirling around social media for the past couple of months that the series is moving to the Las Vegas Strip in 2022. Bally’s and Paris are the two options mentioned most often, though we’ve heard this tune before.
What we do know for sure is that in December 2019, Caesars sold the Rio to New York-based real estate developer Eric Birnbaum, who agreed to lease the facility to Caesars through 2021. What happens, and where the WSOP goes after that, remains a mystery, which means this could be your last chance to roam the Rio’s endless hallways in search of WSOP glory.
8. The Reunion
Day 2 of the 2021 World Series of Poker (Sept. 30) features a brand new tournament that will bring out thousands of recreational players — the $500 Reunion, a low-stakes bracelet event with a $5 million guarantee. The No-Limit Hold’em tournament is one of the highlights of the upcoming series, especially for those who can’t afford expensive buy-ins, but still want to compete for a shot at winning life-changing money.
9. New HORSE high roller
While the grinders will be busy in the Reunion on Day 2, some of poker’s best mixed-game players will already be deep into the WSOP’s first major bracelet event of the year. Starting on opening day, the WSOP will host its first major bracelet of the year, with Event #2, a $25,000 HORSE tournament that kicks off at 3 pm on Sept. 30. The event will conclude on Oct. 2 with what should be a stacked final table. Long-time ESPN WSOP announcer Norman Chad is so stoked for this huge event that he’s using it to raise money for charity.
10. New television home for the WSOP
For the first time in decades, the World Series of Poker won’t be televised on ESPN. Instead, the poker festival is moving over to the CBS Sports Network, a second-tier cable channel. Not everyone is thrilled with the move, but it will be interesting to see if the production quality improves or declines. Either way, the Main Event will look and feel different to television viewers who are accustomed to watching it on ESPN, but it might not end up being a bad thing. We’ll just have to wait and see.
11. Attracting a different audience
Las Vegas is a bit different in the fall compared to the summer. In October, sports bettors from all over the world come to town to get some action on college football and NFL games. The WSOP is hoping that many of those gamblers will step away from the sportsbooks to test their luck in some bracelet events. We could see some new faces at the Rio this fall, and that certainly wouldn’t be a horrible thing.
12. Greatest poker event of the year
Putting aside last year’s canceled WSOP and all of the new, unique events the upcoming series has to offer, the World Series of Poker remains the most prestigious and exciting poker event every year. And for that reason alone, you should be excited to see how the event that started the modern poker festival adapts to the post-pandemic world, and what the WSOP’s changes may mean for the future of poker.
Stay tuned for Part II in this two-part feature series with the final 13 reasons to be excited for the 2021 World Series of Poker.