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World Series on track

Mar 16, 2004 12:10 AM

Poker players, gather around the table: The richest event in all of sports is on, as scheduled, at its historic downtown Las Vegas home.

Harrah’s is re-opening the legendary Horseshoe on April 1, just in time for the 35th annual World Series of Poker.

Thirty-three events will be held between April 22 and the finale of the World Championship event on May 28. This year’s tournament, which will continue the rich tradition Benny Binion created with the first event in 1970, promises to be the most thrilling gambling event in history as thousands of poker players from all over the world are expected to descend on the Horseshoe.

Based on the expected number of participants, the total prize money in 2004 World Series of Poker will be more than $20 million and could easily exceed $25 million. The World Championship event (May 22-28), alone, will award more than $10 million in prize money, with 100 or more players expected to win cash. Based on the number of participants, the winner will take home an estimated $3 million, up from last year’s total of $2.5 million.

Harrah’s will offer multiple mini-tournaments called "satellites," which enable poker players to gain entry into the tournaments at a deep discount ”” sometimes for as little as $50.

Last year’s world champion Chris Moneymaker qualified to play in an online satellite tournament and walked away with $2.5 million. And tournament director Matt Savage says with a huge field expected to play in the 2004 World Series of Poker there is a "really good chance" that another first-time entrant like Moneymaker will win the championship.

Players interested in registering in advance for the tournament can call 877-FOR-WSOP and then pay the registration fee for the event they want to enter via a wire transfer. Players can also register on site at the Horseshoe during the tournament. Registration materials can then be picked up at World Series of Poker registration desk. You must be 21 to enter. Requests for room reservations at the Horseshoe can also be made through the toll-free line. Rooms are also available at Harrah’s Las Vegas or the Rio by calling 1-800-HARRAHS.

Moneymaker believes the field will be wide open this year. "So many people are going to be in it this year. The unknowns outnumber the pros. It’s highly probably that an unknown will wind up at the final table," he says.

Players who won World Series of Poker events at hundreds of satellite stations throughout the United States and around the world will be traveling to Las Vegas to play in the World Championship.

Additionally, players may also buy into any of the events directly, with entry fees ranging from $1,500 up to $10,000 for events ranging from limit, pot-limit and no-limit Texas Hold’em to Seven-Card Stud, Omaha High-Low and other popular forms of poker.

Savage, who has served as tournament director the last three years, says that the change in the Horseshoe’s ownership will have no impact on tournament play. "From a player’s perspective, everything is going to be seamless."

Gary Loveman, Harrah’s president and chief executive officer, says the company anticipates hosting a record-setting event, both in terms of participants and overall prize money. "This tournament has a long and colorful history, and we look forward to preserving the traditions that have made it the richest spectacle in sports and the world-renowned phenomenon it is today."

Founded 66 years ago, Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc. owns or manages through various subsidiaries 25 casinos in the United States, primarily under the Harrah’s brand name