LAS VEGAS - As I sit at the Rio and wait for poker's most famous words to be spoken in front of the Day 1A field, all I can see is the faces. The faces filled with tears of devastation. The faces of those that watched their $10,000 buy-in go up in flames with the turn of a card and the faces of those whose hopes have been crushed by a cruel game that can reward you for doing everything right with an unexpected elimination. I've seen thousands of those faces, searching for a quick exit and a way to forget the worst day of their year.
But those aren't the only faces.
I'll also see the faces filled with elation. The faces of Joseph Hachem screaming "Aussie Aussie Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!", Jamie Gold smiling with bricks of cash, Jerry Yang telling his miraculous tale of survival, Peter Eastgate's business-like nature as he calmly positioned himself behind millions, Joe Cada with his friends wearing maize and blue, Jonathan Duhamel being mobbed with flags draped over him, Pius Heinz listening to his serenade and Greg Merson realizing his dreams had come true. These are the faces of those who celebrated their accomplishment in the one tournament in poker that can change a life forever.
Those are the faces the world remembers ... and it's time to add another one to that list.
For the past eight years, I've had a front row seat for the World Series of Poker main event and starting on Saturday, it begins once again. During the 2013 World Series of Poker we've seen record-setting fields, the biggest high roller event in the history of the game, an astounding number of repeat final table appearances and a nail-biting player of the year race. It's been an incredible five weeks on the action-filled WSOP felt, but now it's time for lives to change.
Who will follow in Greg Merson's footsteps as WSOP main event champion?
On Saturday, the quest for the biggest bracelet of them all begins at the Rio. Every player that takes his or her seat over the next three starting days shares only one goal: win the main event. While the dreams are the same, the destinies will not be. Only nine players from among the masses will survive the upcoming 10 days of grueling competition and come one step closer toward seeing their picture on the walls of the Amazon Room. From there, only one will follow in the footsteps of Greg Merson and become the next world champion and ambassador of the game.
For me, the best part is the journey. It's the discovery of the next big star and how their life has brought them to a moment on the precipice of glory. From the professionals simply looking to add another notch into their belts, to the amateurs with $10,000 and a dream, the main event is the ultimate reality show with intriguing "characters" from all walks of life. Poker remains the only international game where the amateur of all amateurs can sit with the pros on any given day, and the best part is, in that one given moment, anyone can win.
Chris Moneymaker validated that idea 10 years ago and started a boom that not many engrained among the industry believed would be possible. He changed the game forever with a mistake (he thought he was entering a cash tournament, not a satellite), and now, we stare at a tournament that occupies most of one of the largest convention centers in Vegas. Moneymaker said recently that the game had evolved so much that he didn't think a true amateur could win ever again. There will be thousands out there this weekend hoping to prove him wrong.
Here's a look at the breakdown of this year's main event:
For the second consecutive year there will be three starting days (Days 1A, 1B and 1C) from Saturday to Monday. Those that make it through Days 1A and 1B will remain separate for their Day 2 on Tuesday, July 9. Day 1C survivors play on Day 2C (July 10) and finally, on July 11, the field will come together and compete as one until the final nine are determined most likely during the early hours of July 16. The nine players will then collect ninth-place prize money and head home for the next few months to prepare for the biggest final table of their lives on November 4. Coverage of the main event will air on ESPN every Tuesday night and yes, the main event will be broadcast "live" this fall.
This blog is my home to share the stories and faces that will determine the next stage of the poker industry. If there's someone you want to hear more about, post it in the comments section. Not getting enough coverage? Head to my Twitter feed and get more rapid updates. There will also be daily Poker Edge podcasts complete with recaps and interviews with the chip leaders and chats at SportsNation each weekday.
Whose face will we remember from 2013? It's time to shuffle up and deal.