Person playing poker and looking at cards

Welcome to the 2019 World Series of Poker Main Event

We are at the start of a long holiday weekend in the United States, as many people are taking the rest of the week off from work and families are packing their bags for vacations. Some of those people are likely hoping they will need to ask their bosses for a couple more weeks, as the 2019 World Series of Poker Main Event kicked off today, the first flight of the first day of a very long tournament.

Decisions, Decisions

Today is Day 1A, one of three starting flights and always the smallest. To illustrate, last year’s Day 1A had 925 entrants, Day 1B had 2,378, and Day 1C ended up as the largest starting flight ever at the Main Event with 4,571 players. The 7,874 total entries made the 2018 WSOP Main Event second largest in Series history; the biggest was the 2006 Main Event, which had a field 8,773 at the height of the poker boom.

2018 WSOP Main Event Champion John Cynn
Photo credit: WSOP.com

The primary reason Day 1A is dwarfed by the other two starting flights is because of the gap between Day 1 and Day 2 for the fortunate (and skilled) players that make it through. Day 2A is not until Saturday, so players that survive the first flight have two days to wait to play again. For many, the problem there is the added cost of a hotel room and the other expenses that are incurred when one is away from home. If one plays on Day 1B or Day 1C, there is only a one-day gap until Day 2. Additionally, for those who play in Day 2C, there is no wait until Day 3.

It’s not just cost that is a concern for poker players. Some just don’t want all the down time. They just focused on poker for twelve hours and if they were in Day 1A, they have to figure out what to do with themselves for two days. They often want to just get right back into it. No matter which flight players enter, they will always have at least one day off before Day 2, which probably works well – get some rest and then get right back to it.

Those players who don’t want to mess with breaks or even playing poker on Day 1 at all can register up until the start of Day 2. Everyone begins with 100 big blinds, so even people who don’t start until Day 2 (I believe Phil Hellmuth will be one such person) will still have fairly deep stacks.

So we have Day 1A today, then Day 1B on Thursday and Day 1C on Friday. The survivors from both Days 1A and 1B will return to the Rio on Saturday for their respective Days 2, though the fields will be segregated. Day 2C, featuring only players who made it through Day 1C, will be on Sunday. On Monday of next week, everybody who still has chips will play together in Day 3.

Final-Table Schedule

The field will finally be whittled down to a final table on Friday, June 12th. Remember, there is no more “November Nine,” so the players will get just one day off before commencing the final table on Sunday, June 14th. It’s not really that much of a day off, as they will still have to conduct interviews and film spots for the ESPN broadcast, but at least they won’t be at a poker table all day. On Sunday they will play down to six players, then down to three on Monday before finishing up on Tuesday.

There will be five two-hour levels played during each of the three starting flights. There will be a 75-minute dinner break during Level 2, so that level will be split into 85-minute and 35-minute pieces. There will also be a 20-minute break after each level, except for Level 2, since it has a built-in break.

ESPN and ESPN2 will broadcast a few hours of the Main Event each day, while PokerGO will pick up much of the rest. Keep in mind that PokerGO is a subscription service, so if you want to watch everything, you will need to pony up $10 per month for the streaming site. ESPN will also have the entire final table, as usual.

As mentioned, last year’s Main Event was the second-largest of all time and the buzz around the Rio is that there’s a chance this one could be bigger, even eclipsing 8,000 players. The attendance across all events so far is breaking records. What’s amazing is that 66 events are in the books and though the Main Event feels like the end of the World Series of Poker, there are 90 total events this year, so there is much more poker to be played than in just the Main.

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