The biggest event in poker returns to the Rio in Las Vegas on 5th July, with some of the world's top players set to compete for the chance to win a coveted World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet.
With a massive 6,683 people taking part in the WSOP No-Limit Hold'em Main Event last year, organisers are expecting a similar number of players to enter the latest edition of the contest. The payout structure has been rejigged for 2015: instead of a guaranteed $10 million prize for the winner, the first 1,000 players are guaranteed to go home with some money this time around. If participation numbers are the same as 2014, the winner will pocket $8 million and the runner-up will claim $4.6 million. Every player who reaches the final table (the so-called November Nine) will be guaranteed at least $1 million.
The idea is to distribute the prize pool more broadly among the participants, but still offer players what WSOP executive director Ty Stewart has described as "the dream of life-changing money". He said: "Our players understand numbers, and 2015 now presents the best odds ever to leave the Main Event a winner."
So who is in the frame for the Main Event this year? This is the world's biggest poker tournament – complete unknowns can turn into stars literally overnight by reaching the final table. However, poker fans also have an opportunity to bet on some of the biggest names reigning supreme in Las Vegas.
Coral Sports rates Daniel 'Kid Poker' Negreanu as the favourite at 80/1. The Canadian player already has six WSOP bracelets to his name and has been among the game's most consistent performers for more than 15 years – he won his first bracelet back in 1998. To date, he's raked in more than $14 million in winnings at the WSOP, so Negreanu certainly has the pedigree to be one of the top performers at the Main Event this year.
Not many poker players have more WSOP bracelets than Negreanu, but Phil Ivey is one who does. The American, known for his love of high-stakes games and rated by many fans as the best player in the world, is priced at 175/1 by Coral Sports. Ivey has ten bracelets to his name, having picked his latest one up in the $1,500 Eight Game Mix in 2014.
Jason Mercier is also priced at 175/1 with Coral. The 28-year-old from Florida is a holder of three WSOP bracelets, with his latest success coming at this year's WSOP – he won the $5,000 Six Handed No Limit Hold’em event on 18th June. Mercier is a talented player who also seems to have a taste for the big stage; he has twice reached the final at the WSOP Europe Main Event (in 2009 and 2012).
No player has managed to win the WSOP Main Event in two consecutive years since Johnny Chan back in 1987 and 1988. Poker fans who expect that improbable feat to be repeated this year can get odds of 225/1 on Martin Jacobson, the Swedish player who claimed the $10 million first prize in 2014.
Elsewhere, WSOP legend Phil Hellmuth is rated at 275/1 to win the Main Event. The man known as the 'Poker Brat' on account of his temperament at the table has amassed a remarkable 14 WSOP bracelets in his storied career. He was the youngest Main Event winner ever in 1989, when he beat Chan in heads-up play at the tender age of 24. Hellmuth is also the only player in history to win both the WSOP Main Event and the WSOP Europe Main Event. If he triumphs at poker's biggest tournament again this year, it will be yet another incredible moment for the controversial player.