Perhaps this is a coincidence, but the World Series of Poker has put its two big events on either side of the World Cup.
The main event, the $10,000 no-limit hold-em tournament that will run ad infinitum on ESPN in months to come, starts July 5 but takes a day off July 11, coinciding with the World Cup final. The field is whittled down from several thousand to nine the rest of the week.
Before the World Cup, we get the Poker Players’ Championship, which is designed to be a more complete test of poker skills. The $50,000 buy-in and the rotation of eight diverse poker variants is supposed to intimidate the amateurs who flock to the main event, leaving only the poker pros with reason to feel confident — and perhaps enough of a rep to attract sponsors who make the $50,000 check a little less painful to write.
In the past couple of years, they’ve used a H.O.R.S.E. tournament (not a basketball shooting competition but a rotation of five games) as the big test for the pros, but they found that ESPN wasn’t interested in televising several obscure, difficult-to-explain games. The compromise: Rotate through eight games but then stick to no-limit hold-em for the final table.
The other events will feature a mix of poker pros, Internet gamers, random amateurs and occasional celebrities. (One early sighting: UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture.)
Options for following the 57 official games plus the “Ante Up for Africa” championship:
- Official site: Commentary focuses on big-name pros and celebrities until each event gets to a manageable two or three tables, and then it’s more tightly focused on each hand.
- ESPN: The broadcaster that has paved the way for other broadcasters to show nonstop poker has a blog and other updates.
- Twitter: My list includes the official WSOP feed and Poker News, plus notable players Doyle Brunson (venerable veteran), Daniel Negreanu (@RealKidPoker, thoughtful ambassador for the game), Vanessa Rousso (Duke alum with lots of sponsors) and Annie Duke (Celebrity Apprentice winner — I don’t accept the decision to give the title to Joan Rivers).
Headlines from the other Myriad sports this weekend:
- Cycling: Ivan Basso, back from his doping suspension, cruised to victory at the Giro d’Italia. World champion Cadel Evans made a break for it in a final mountain stage but couldn’t reach the podium. David Arroyo, one of the underdogs who broke away on The Day The Peloton Said “Oops!”, finished second.
- MMA: Rashad Evans took down Rampage Jackson at UFC 114, bringing at least a temporary conclusion to a nasty trash-talking battle. Michael Bisping showed some class and poise in a win over Dan Miller in the co-main event. The other three main-card fights were surprising. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira labored past fill-in fighter Jason Brilz for a controversial split decision win, English prospect John Hathaway outperformed veteran Diego Sanchez, and Chicago cop Mike Russow overcame his love handles and 2 1/2 rounds of being tagged in the face to knock out previously unbeaten Todd Duffee with one punch.
- Track and field: American record in the high jump for Chaunte Howard Lowe, who cleared6-8 1/4 in miserable conditions at an obscure meet in Germany. Bryan Clay won the decathlon at the Hypo Combined Events Meeting in Austria.
- Beach volleyball: Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser keep rolling on the FIVB circuit, winning in Poland. Brazilians Juliana Felisberta Silva and Larissa Franca won the women’s event in South Korea over Americans Angie Akers and Tyra Turner, with Jen Kessy and April Ross unusually dropped to bronze.
- Tennis: Justine Henin’s comeback hit a bump today at the French Open with a loss to Samantha Stosur. Americans have had a rough time — Venus Williams, Andy Roddick and the Bryan brothers are all out. Robby Ginepri upset his way to the fourth round before falling to third seed Novak Djokovic.
- English soccer: Millwall, known for harboring American players and ill-tempered fans, won promotion back to the Championship.
- Judo: Remember the name Kayla Harrison. The 19-year-old won her first World Cup gold and third World Cup medal of the year.
- Weightlifting: We rise for American records — Kendrick Harris lifted 203kg in the clean-and-jerk.
- More Oly sports: Shooting gold and bronze for Olympic multimedalist Matt Emmons, plus three U.S. rowing medals. Check the USOC’s Olympic Sports Scene.