Tourney time!

Apr 4, 2006 1:13 AM

Spring is in the air, and the tournament poker season in Las Vegas is starting to heat up

Starting this week, the Bellagio hosts its Five Star World Poker Classic beginning Tuesday, April 4, at noon with the first of 10 no limit hold’em tournaments as well as additional satellite and super-satellite tournaments.

The three-week event concludes April 18-24 with the fourth annual World Poker Tour (WPT) World Championship.

The excitement continues almost immediately as the World Series of Poker Circuit lands at Caesars Palace for a 15-event tournament, April 27-May 11.

Getting back to Bellagio, players can now register for all of the Five Star tournaments. Entry fees for the no limit hold’em tournaments range from $1,500-$5,000.

To compete in the WPT World Championship, players may either pay the $25,000 entry fee or earn their seat via winning one of the daily satellite tournaments held throughout the first two weeks.

The WPT World Championship is the culmination of the 17-tournament tour and officials are hopeful to draw a record 600 participants competing for a prize pool of a minimum of

$15 million.

Tuan Le defeated 451 other participants in last year’s WPT World Championship at Bellagio and took home more than $2.8 million for his victory.

The final table for the WPT World Championship will be filmed and will air at a future date on the Travel Channel.

"We are excited to host the WPT World Championship for the fourth consecutive year," said Doug Dalton, director of poker operations for Bellagio. "The pots are getting higher and the number of participants are growing with every tournament. Bellagio is proud to be a part of this phenomenon."

In addition to the reigning champion, Le, other great pros are expected to participate in the WPT World Championship. They include Alan Goehring, T.J. Cloutier, Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi, Doyle Brunson, Jennifer Harman, Daniel Negreanu, Scotty Nguyen, Erick Lindgren, David Williams, Allen Cunningham, Men "The Master" Nguyen, Phil Ivey, Kathy Liebert, Chip Jett, Ted Forrest, Gavin Smith, Barry Greenstein, Paul Darden, Nick Schulman, Freddy Deeb, Jennifer Tilly, Michael Gracz, John D’Agostino, Hasan Habib, Cyndy Violette, Phil "the Unabomber" Laak, Antonion "The Magician" Esfandiari and Scott Fischman.

Players’ odds of going home with big prize money are among the best in the game. With a field of 600 players, the tournament could pay 100 deep — so 1 in 6 would be in the money. If the payout reaches $15 million, all three of the top spots will pay more than $1 million.

Last year’s WPT Championship field reached 452 players. Runner-up Paul Maxfield of the U.K. cashed for $1.6 million. Previous victors include Martin De Knijff of Stockholm, Sweden, in Season II and Alan Goehring of Las Vegas in Season I.

The international contingent also may include DeKniff, Maxfield, Gus Hansen, David Benyamine, Juha Helppi, Chris Bigler, Mel Judah, Humberto Brenes, Juan Carlos Mortensen, Johan Storakers, Marcel Luske, David "Devilfish" Ulliot, John Gale and Finnish heartthrob Patrik Antonius, among others.

"In our four short years, the WPT World Championship has really become the tournament players’ tournament," says Steve Lipscomb, founder and CEO of WPT Enterprises, Inc. "The $25,000 buy-in insures that these players are among the world’s best. However, what’s fun is that this championship is still an open event and anyone with the heart, the courage and the skills can find themselves at the final table, cashing in for millions of dollars."

When the action moves to Caesars Palace, players will be able to compete in similar high-stakes poker action.

It will also be the first time Caesars Palace will be able to utilize its new tournament area, which is adjacent to the sprawling poker room.

Among the events that will be offered at Caesars Palace, are several no limit hold’em events with buy-ins ranging from $500 to $2,000, a ladies no limit hold’em event ($200 buy-in), a $5,000 H.O.S.E. event, $1,000 pot limit Omaha, $500 seniors no limit hold’em, and the $10,000 buy-in championship event.

Satellite (super and mega) tournaments will be held beginning May 6, leading up to the championship event (May 8).