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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's Editor in Chief and has worked as a writer and editor more than 25 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee.

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Excitement – and change – is in the air at the 2016 WSOP

30 May 2016

By Gary Trask
Exactly 201 days since Joe McKeehen eliminated Josh Beckley to become the 2015 Main Event champion, the 47th annual World Series of Poker begins in earnest this week at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. And judging from the slew of tweaks and adjustments that have been announced, it's safe to bet that the suits behind the world's most prestigious poker event have not exactly been sitting back with their collective feet up since McKeehen's dominating final table triumph.

The WSOP brass continued to constantly seek ways to enhance the overall experience and will introduce a laundry list of both minor and major changes for 2016.

The Amazon Room at the Rio in Las Vegas will once again be filled this summer for the 47th World Series of Poker.

The Amazon Room at the Rio in Las Vegas will once again be filled this summer for the 47th World Series of Poker.

"We’re keenly aware that there has not been a lot of good news for poker over the last several years, whether it be scandals or changes to VIP programs," said WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart during a recent Twitch Town Hall focusing on this year's event. "So trust me, we take our jobs really seriously and personally. We have a responsibility to do something great for poker each year, and we're really looking forward to that challenge this year."

Last year, the WSOP welcomed a record 103,512 entrants, and many of the 2016 alterations are geared toward attracting new players. So, as we buckle in for a 69-event, two-month run of poker bliss, here's a look at some of the notable changes that have been made for this year's WSOP:

Earlier starting times: With the goal of ending play each night at a more reasonable hour, most events will begin earlier. The first event of the day has been moved up one hour to 11 a.m., with late events starting at 3 p.m.

McKeehen went on an epic Twitter rant on March 29 regarding the new start times, claiming the media impacted the decision. But Stewart vehemently denied that accusation.

"Absolutely not," he said when asked if the move was made due to media pressure. "With all due respect to our friends in the poker media, we did this in consideration of our customers. One of the main deterrents of playing in the WSOP is the grind and the long hours.

"We think this gives our players choice and flexibility. It will help with that grind and shave a little bit of time off, so you can get a little more sleep and it's a happier world for everyone."

Structures have also been slightly modified in an effort to help events remain on time. Last year, about 30 events went beyond 30 levels, and 25% of the events went beyond the scheduled duration time.

"We're also going to be hitting the money in most events on Day 1, which we think will be a big draw, especially with recreational players," said Stewart.

More starting chips: All $10,000 buy-in events, including the Main Event, will feature 50,000 in starting chips, up 66%. This means all WSOP events now start with at least five times the buy-in amount.

More places paid: All WSOP gold bracelet and Deepstack events (with a few exceptions, like Heads Up and Shootout events) will now payout 15% of the field, up 50% from what was WSOP standard. The minimum will be one-and-a-half times the buy-in. With payouts increasing, many events are expected to reach the money on Day 1.

New payout calculator: Stewart said there was a "call for transparency" regarding payouts last year, so the WSOP will debut the new tool that tells players exactly how much will be earned from each finishing position.

New electronic registration system: Players can pre-register for events online with a credit card via Bravo Poker and then print out their ticket at a kiosk inside the Rio.

"Just like when you go to the movies," Stewart said with a wide smile. "This is definitely something we're very excited about. Any time you can have your customers spend less time standing in line, it's a good thing."

Colossus II: While last year's Colossus drew a record-breaking 22,373 entrants, including 5,500 WSOP first-timers, there were some well-publicized logistical problems with registration and payouts.

When Colossus II begins on Thursday, each starting flight will reach the money and begin processing payouts immediately within the flight, as opposed to the traditional hard bubble on Day 2 of a consolidated field. The WSOP expects this to eliminate congestion during the payout process and allow players who cash in a flight to surrender their stack and re-enter another flight with the opportunity to cash again within the same event.

Also, this year's Colossus winner will take home $1 million. Last year, Cord Garcia won $638,880 when he took down the inaugural event.

New events: Eight new events have been added to the schedule, including a $888 Crazy Eights Eight-Handed No Limit event on July 1 with a guaranteed $888,888 for first place.

Another intriguing new event is the $1,000 Tag Team No Limit tournament on July 7. Teams will be made up of between two and four players and can "tag" in or out at any time, as long as it's not in the middle of a hand. Each team member must play at least one round of blinds.

"We're always looking for ways to bring more interest and attract the recreational player," said Stewart. "And at $1,000 per team, this gives players a chance to play in a WSOP event for as little as $250."

WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel added, "While we know the die-hard poker players are going to try and win every chip and play every hand perfectly, we're going to make sure this event is a lot of fun for the players and spectators; that's the idea. We'll move some tables around to make the area more spacious and we'll play some music. It really should be a fun experience for everyone involved."
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