Ready for some H.O.R.S.E.

The last few years, poker's popularity has skyrocketed and it seems like everyone is playing the game of no-limit Texas hold 'em.

Unfortunately, the other forms of poker have not yet achieved the same popularity and the players that excel in those games have not received the recognition they deserve. Maybe this is because of the popularity of televised hold 'em. Maybe it's the fact that anyone can get lucky one day during a tournament and make a name for themselves. Maybe it's the bigger prize pools.

In any case, it's all about to change, as the World Series of Poker recently unveiled the $50,000 buy-in H.O.R.S.E. event, the largest event in history.

When I won the $2,000 H.O.R.S.E. (hold 'em, Omaha, razz, stud, eight or better) in 2004, I was extremely proud of my achievement. When I heard Doyle Brunson say that H.O.R.S.E. should be considered the main event because it is the true test of all-around poker skill, it sent shivers down my spine.

The H.O.R.S.E. event was missing from the World Series tournament schedule in 2005 and Harrahs heard from a good amount of upset professional players about its disappearance from the schedule. I was disappointed that I wasn't going to be able to defend my 2004 title, but this year I will have that chance, and I can't wait.

Going head-to-head with the best players in the world -- including Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu and Men Nguyen -- in all of the games is a thrill you can get from no other event. Players must have a solid grasp of each of the games in order to have any chance of winning the title. There is no way to "get lucky" and win, as there is in a no-limit hold 'em tournament. Understanding the intricacies of each game is necessary and you must be able to change gears and adapt your strategy to whatever game you are playing. Getting to the final table in 2004 was no easy journey, and I expect no different from this year's event.

At that final table I had to beat out an extremely tough group of pros that included Chris Tsiprailidis, Don Zewin, Chris Grigorian, and Mike Wattel. After finally knocking out John Cover in hold 'em when my 8-8 held up against his A-5, I remembered that Doyle won the title the year before. That bracelet meant more to me than just about any other tournament win. Also, by winning the bracelet I became the youngest player ever to win two championships in one year. I was on a roll in 2004, to say the least.

This year, the massive $50,000 buy-in ensures an elite field of players, and I'm looking forward to challenging myself against what promises to be the toughest event in the history of the World Series of Poker.

Experts are predicting that there will be over 7,000 entrants in the main event of the WSOP this year, many of whom may not have ever played in a live tournament. The accessibility of online poker and the ability to qualify through satellites has made entry in the main event extremely attainable for all players, which is a key element in the enormous growth and success of poker. Although the pros consistently show up at final tables, it is much harder to wade through thousands in a no-limit event because the element of luck plays a much larger role than it does in other games.

The H.O.R.S.E. event is the ultimate test of skill and is the event I am most looking forward to playing at the World Series of Poker. Will winning this event be more presitgious than winning the main event? Maybe not to everyone, but it will to me.

Scott Fischman is a two-time WSOP bracelet winner and is the author of "Online Ace", an upcoming ESPN Book focused on online poker. Scott can be reached at scott.fischman@gmail.com