WSOP Finalists Compete For Poker Title In Las Vegas

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WSOP Finalists Compete For Poker Title In Las Vegas
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Poker legend Doyle Brunson is back at the World Series of Poker on the Las Vegas Strip to help kick off the finale.

The 88-year-old Brunson has been absent from much of this year’s event because of a COVID-19 outbreak at the tournament. 

However, he is set to appear at the “Shuffle up and deal!” ceremony on Friday to open the final hours of play in the WSOP Main Event.

Main Event Finalists Vie For Title

On Friday, the final 10 poker players resumed play to win the $10,000 buy-in No-limit Hold’em World Championship. 

The final 10 players are from six countries. Espen Jorstad of Norway and U.S. poker pro Matthew Su of Washington, D.C., were the chip leaders heading into play on Friday. Each had 83.2 million chips, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. 

Croatia’s Matija Dobric entered play in third place on Friday with 68.65 million chips.

This year’s World Series of Poker tournament attracted 8,663 players seeking the $10 million first-place prize money and championship bracelet that goes to the winner. The total number of contestants this year is only 110 below the highest ever for the tournament, set in 2006.

First Time On The Strip

For the first time ever, the tournament is being held on the Las Vegas Strip. The 2022 event began in late May at two Caesars Entertainment hotel-casinos, Bally’s and Paris Las Vegas. These two properties are connected by an interior walkway. The Main Event, scheduled to wrap up Saturday, is being held at Bally’s.

After launching in 1969 as the Texas Gamblers Convention in Reno, the WSOP got its Las Vegas start in 1970 at the Horseshoe Club in downtown’s Glitter Gulch. The Horseshoe has been renamed Binion’s but is no longer owned by the family of Texan Benny Binion. 

In the tournament's early years, colorful poker players like Brunson, "Amarillo Slim" Preston and Stu “The Kid” Ungar attracted attention to the event.

In 2005, the WSOP moved to the off-Strip Rio All-Suites Casino and Hotel, before transitioning this year to the east side of the Strip.

Hollywood Move Underway

On advice from a doctor, Brunson withdrew from this year’s tournament when Phil Hellmuth and other pros became infected with the coronavirus and were temporarily sidelined. Hellmuth, a former Main Event winner, has been eliminated from 2022 competition. 

Brunson also is a Main Event winner, having captured the title twice in the 1970s. During those years, Brunson wrote the how-to book “Super/System: A Course in Power Poker.” 

This 1978 publication became a must-read book that “countless players have memorized,” according to author James McManus. 

McManus wrote about his experiences at the tournament in the 2003 book “Positively Fifth Street: Murderers, Cheetahs, and Binion’s World Series of Poker.

Brunson, now the subject of a Hollywood biopic in production, rose to prominence in Las Vegas card rooms during the era depicted in director Martin Scorsese’s 1995 movie “Casino.”

Brunson has said his life once was threatened by mobster Tony “The Ant” Spilotro, the Chicago Outfit’s overseer in Las Vegas during this period. In the movie, actor Joe Pesci portrays a character based on Spilotro.

Spilotro was accused of running street rackets in Las Vegas back then, shaking down bookies and poker players, among others. In addition to being a card player, Brunson operated a bookie service.

In 1986, Spilotro and his brother, Michael, were beaten to death by other mobsters at a Chicago-area residence and buried in an Indiana cornfield.

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