Poker

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Posted by r2d2 03/08/2009 @ 08:09

Tags : poker, card game, games, leisure

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Stud poker

Stud poker is any of a number of poker variants in which each player receives a mix of face-down and face-up cards dealt in multiple betting rounds. Stud games are also typically non-positional games, meaning that the player who bets first on each round may change from round to round (it is usually the player whose face-up cards make the best hand for the game being played). The cards dealt face down to each individual player are called hole cards (which gave rise to the common English expression ace in the hole, which suggests that one has something valuable that is not apparent to others).

Stud poker variants using 3 cards were popular as of the American Revolutionary War. Five-card stud first appeared during the American Civil War, and became very popular. In recent years, Seven-card stud has become more common, both in casinos and in home games. These two games form the basis of most modern stud poker variations.

The number of betting rounds in a game influences how well the game plays with different betting structures. Games with four or fewer betting rounds, such as five-card stud and Mississippi stud (described below), play well with any structure, and are especially well suited to no limit and pot limit play. Games with more betting rounds are more suited to fixed limit or spread limit. It is common (and recommended) for later betting rounds to have higher limits than earlier ones. For example, a "$5/$10 Seven-card Stud" game in a Nevada casino allows $5 bets for the first two rounds and $10 bets for subsequent rounds. Also common is to make the final round even higher: a "$5/$10/$20" game would allow $20 bets on the last round only. Another common rule is to allow the larger bet on the second round if there is an "open pair" (that is, at least one player's upcards make a pair). Some casinos (typically in California) use the smaller limit on the first three rounds rather than just the first two.

It is a common convention in stud poker to name the betting rounds after the number of cards each player holds when that betting round begins. So the bet that occurs when each player has three cards is called "third card" or "third street", while the bet that occurs when each player has five cards is "fifth street". The final round, regardless of the number of betting rounds, is commonly called the "river" or simply the "end".

The variations described below assume that you are already familiar with five-card stud and seven-card stud, and with the game play of poker in general.

Some rule variations can be applied to almost any game, and combinations of these variations can be used to create ad-hoc games. These include roll your own, rollouts, blind stud, and twist rounds.

Any game can also be changed by adding one or more jokers to the deck to act as wild cards, or by designating certain other cards as wild. Some specific common variations include Low hole card wild, in which each player's lowest-ranking downcard (and all other cards of that same rank) are wild in that player's hand only, and Follow the queen, in which each time a Q is dealt face up to anyone, the next face up card (and all others of that rank) become wild. The usual practice in the latter case is that if a second Q appears among the upcards, the previous wild card loses its status to the new one.

One can also vary any stud game by dealing extra downcards and requiring either that one or more hole cards be discarded at some point in the game or adding a restriction on how many of those hole cards may be played in the final hand. For example, five-card stud can be modified by dealing each player an extra downcard at the start of the game, adding the restriction that each player may only use one of his two downcards in his final hand. This game is called Crocodile stud. Likewise, seven-card stud can be modified by dealing each player three downcards instead of two on the first round, but adding the restriction that a player may use no more than two of those cards in his final hand (called Buffalo stud; if the extra hole card must be discarded after the first betting round, then it is Australian stud). If playing one of these games without the requirement to discard the extra hole card at some time during play, it is recommended as a practical matter to ensure compliance that each player physically discard one hole card immediately before showdown, before revealing the "live" hole cards (so that there can be no confusion about which cards were down).

Variations can be made by eliminating betting rounds, dealing more than one upcard at a time for one or more rounds. For example, Mississippi stud (see below) is basically seven-card stud with the second betting round removed, and the last card dealt face up instead of face down. Further adding an extra hole card as above makes it Murrumbidgee stud.

Games that mix stud-like rounds with community cards are discussed on the Community card poker page. In general, one can mix upcard rounds with community card rounds in many ways. See in particular Oxford stud on the community card game page.

As mentioned above, seven-card stud is probably the most common form of the game, with most other games being variants of that, although five-card stud is also a basic pattern upon which many variations are built. These games are described on their own page. Most of the games described below started as ad-hoc variants, but they have either become popular enough to have a common name, or else have some unique feature to merit including them here.

Six-card stud is usually played as identical to seven-card stud, except that the last face-up round is removed (Thus it is two down, three up, one down). It can also be played as 1-4-1, where the first betting round occurs after only two cards are dealt (one down and one up). This latter form more closely resembles five-card stud with an extra downcard.

A variation called Alligator stud starts with one hole card and one upcard, followed by a first betting round; then two upcards are dealt to each player followed by a second betting round; then a fourth upcard and betting round, and finally a fifth upcard and betting round. This game plays well at no limit and pot limit. The same game, but with each player initially dealt two downcards and one upcard, and restricted to using only one of his downcards in his final hand, is called Zanetti stud.

Also known as "seven eight" or "stud eight", eight or better is the most common form of high-low split stud. Played as seven-card stud, but the pot is split between the player with the highest hand and the player with the lowest hand (using the ace-to-five low values). An 8-high hand or lower is required to win low. Betting takes place as if playing standard high-hand stud; that is, low card pays the bring-in, if any, on the first round, and subsequent rounds start the betting with the highest showing poker hand. The showdown is cards speak, that is, there is no declaration for high and low. Each player may choose a different subset of five cards to play for high and low. For example, a player with A-A-8-6-6-4-3 can play a high hand of A-A-6-6-8, and a low hand of 8-6-4-3-A. A player with K-9-8-7-6-5-4 can play a 9-high straight for his high hand, and 8-7-6-5-4 for low (which is the worst possible qualifying low, but it does qualify). A player with K-9-8-7-7-6-5 can play the 9-high straight for high, but cannot play any low hand, because he cannot make an 8-high or lower. If there is no qualifying low hand, high hand takes the entire pot.

Mississippi stud was created to make seven-card stud play better at no limit and pot limit, and is slowly becoming popular for that reason. It is also often played with a betting structure more typical of Texas hold 'em: fixed limit with the last two rounds double the limit of the first two. The bring-in should be less than the first-round limit.

Initial deal as in standard seven-card stud. After the first betting round, two upcards are dealt to each player, so each now has two down and three up (so unlike standard stud there is no betting on "fourth street"). A second betting round is followed by one more upcard and a third betting round. Finally, the last card is dealt face up, so that each player ends with two downcards and five upcards. Because each player has five upcards on the last round, straights, flushes, and full houses count as "high hand exposed" for the purpose of determining who must bet first. After the seventh street bet there is a normal showdown.

Can also be played with low hands, or high-low split. If three downcards are dealt initially instead of two, with the restriction that no more than two of them can be used in the final hand, this variation is called Murrumbidgee stud.

Various forms of roll your own five-card stud, often with a stripped deck and wild cards, are called Mexican stud, Mexican poker, or Stud loco. One such variant played by the Casino San Pablo in northern California has these rules: 8s, 9s, and 10s are stripped from the deck, and a single joker is added (the deck therefore contains 41 cards). The 7-spot and the J become consecutive, so that 5-6-7-J-Q is a straight. A flush beats a full house (with fewer cards of each suit, they are harder to get). The joker plays as a bug if it is face up, and fully wild if it is face down. The game is played as five-card stud choose-before roll your own. It is usually played with a very high ante, and the high card on the first round pays the bring-in.

The game of Shifting sands is Mexican stud in which each player's hole card (and all others of that rank) are wild for that player only.

Blind stud is a variant of stud poker in which all cards are dealt face down. Any stud poker game can be played "blind" by having all cards dealt face down.

Blind stud poker was commonly played in California cardrooms until 1985. The California gambling law makes specific games named by the law illegal, including twenty-one, faro, fantan, and "stud-horse poker". Until 1985, the California attorney general's office interpreted this to mean that draw poker was legal and all forms of stud poker were not, so California cardrooms played exclusively draw poker (mostly lowball). Blind stud was considered a form of draw poker, because as in draw all cards are hidden. Unlike draw, players do not discard cards they intend to replace. In 1985, cardroom owners convinced the state that "stud-horse poker" was an obsolete house-banked game, and that all forms of modern poker were legal. Today, the most popular game in the state is Texas hold 'em.

Not constrained by obscure California law, home games generally do not play blind stud, though some of the forms of blind stud are challenging and well-balanced, including some of those previously offered by California cardrooms. Some of cardrooms got very creative with blind stud games so they could offer players some variety. For example, a club in the Sacramento suburbs used to offer a seven-card high-low split blind stud game which was played 3-2-1-1 (four rounds; three cards dealt on the first, two on the second, then one and one), with two jokers in the deck acting as bugs, and with the double-ace flush rule.

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Bluff (poker)

In the card game of poker, to bluff is to bet or raise with an inferior hand. This is useful because it can cause other players to believe the bluffing player has a dominant hand, so that they all fold; the bluffing player then wins the pot. By extension, the terms are often used outside the context of poker to describe the acts of pretending knowledge one does not have, or making threats one cannot execute.

A pure bluff, or stone-cold bluff, is a bet or raise with an inferior hand that has little or no chance of improving. A player making a pure bluff believes he can win the pot only if all opponents fold. The pot odds for a bluff are the ratio of the size of the bluff to the pot. A pure bluff has a positive expectation (will be profitable in the long run) when the probability of being called by an opponent is lower than the pot odds for the bluff.

For example, suppose that after all the cards are out, a player holding a busted drawing hand decides that the only way to win the pot is to make a pure bluff. If the player bets the size of the pot on a pure bluff, the bluff will have a positive expectation if the probability of being called is less than 50%. Note, however, that the opponent may also consider the pot odds when deciding whether to call. In this example, the opponent will be facing 2-to-1 pot odds for the call. The opponent will have a positive expectation for calling the bluff if the opponent believes the probability the player is bluffing is at least 33%.

In games with multiple betting rounds, to bluff on one round with an inferior or drawing hand that might improve in a later round is called a semi-bluff. A player making a semi-bluff can win the pot two different ways: by all opponents folding immediately or by catching a card to improve the player's hand. In some cases a player may be on a draw but with odds strong enough that he is favored to win the hand. In this case his bet is not classified as a semi-bluff even though his bet may force opponents to fold hands with better current strength.

For example, a player in a stud poker game with four spade-suited cards showing (but none among their downcards) on the penultimate round might raise, hoping that his opponents believe he already has a flush. If his bluff fails and he is called, he still might be dealt a spade on the final card and win the showdown (or he might be dealt another non-spade and try his bluff again, in which case it is a pure bluff on the final round rather than a semi-bluff).

Optimal bluffing also requires that the bluffs must be performed in such a manner that opponents cannot tell when a player is bluffing or not. To prevent bluffs from occurring in a predictable pattern, game theory suggests the use of a randomizing agent to determine whether to bluff. For example, a player might use the colors of his hidden cards, the second hand on his watch, or some other unpredictable mechanism to determine whether to bluff.

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Betting (poker)

Poker positions

In the game of poker, the play largely centers around the act of betting, and as such, a protocol has been developed to speed play, lessen confusion, and increase security while playing. Different games are played using different types of bets, and small variations in etiquette exist between cardrooms, but for the most part the following rules and protocol are observed by the majority of poker players.

Players in a poker game act in turn, in clockwise rotation (acting out of turn can negatively affect other players). When it is a player's turn to act, the first verbal declaration or action he takes binds him to his choice of action; this rule prevents a player from changing his action after seeing how other players react to his initial action.

Until the first bet is made each player in turn may "check," which is to not place a bet, or "open," which is to make the first bet. After the first bet each player may "fold," which is to drop out of the hand losing any bets they have already made; "call," which is to match the highest bet so far made; or "raise," which is to increase the previous high bet.

A player may fold by surrendering his cards. (Some games may have specific rules regarding how to fold: for example in stud poker one must turn one's upcards face down.) A player may check by tapping the table or making any similar motion. All other bets are made by placing chips in front of the player, but not directly into the pot ("splashing the pot" prevents other players from verifying the bet amount).

The act of making the first voluntary bet in a betting round is called opening the round. On the first betting round, it is also called opening the pot, though in variants where blind bets are common, the blind bets "open" and other players call and/or raise the "big blind" bet. Some poker variations have special rules about opening a round that may not apply to other bets. For example, a game may have a betting structure that specifies different allowable amounts for opening than for other bets, or may require a player to hold certain cards (such as "Jacks or better") to open.

To call is to match a bet or match a raise. A betting round ends when all active players have bet an equal amount or no opponents call a player's bet or raise. If no opponents call a player's bet or raise, the player wins the pot.

The second and subsequent calls of a particular bet amount are sometimes called overcalls. This term is also sometimes used to describe a call made by a player who has put money in the pot for this round already. A player calling a raise before he or she has invested money in the pot in that round is cold calling. For example, if in a betting round, Alice bets, Bob raises, and Carol calls, Carol "calls two bets cold". A player calling instead of raising with a strong hand is smooth calling, a form of slow play.

Calling when a player thinks he does not have the best hand is called a crying call.

In public cardrooms and casinos where verbal declarations are binding, the word "call" is such a declaration. In public card rooms, the practice of saying "I call, and raise $100" is considered a string raise and is not allowed. Saying "I call" commits the player to the action of calling, and only calling.

Note that the verb "see" can often be used instead of "call": "Bob saw Carol's bet", although the latter can also be used with the bettor as the object: "I'll see you" means 'I will call your bet'. However, terms such as "overseeing" and "cold seeing" are not valid.

If no one has yet opened the betting round, a player may pass or check, which is equivalent to calling the current bet of zero. When checking, a player declines to make a bet; this indicates that he does not wish to open, but does wish to keep his cards and retain the right to call or raise later in the same round if an opponent opens. In games played with blinds, players may not check on the opening round because the blinds are live bets and must be called or raised to remain in the hand. A player who has posted the big blind has the right to raise on the first round, called the option, if no other player has raised; if he declines to raise he is said to check his option. If all players check, the betting round is over with no additional money placed in the pot (often called a free round or free card). A common way to signify checking is to tap the table, either with a fist, knuckles or an open hand.

To raise is to increase the size of the bet required to stay in the pot, forcing all subsequent players to call the new amount. If the current bet amount is nothing, this action is considered the opening bet. A player making the second (not counting the open) or subsequent raise of a betting round is said to re-raise.

Standard poker rules require that raises must be at least equal to the amount of the previous bet or raise. For example, if an opponent bets $5, a player may raise by another $5 (or more), but he may not raise by only $2. The primary purpose of the minimum raise rule is to avoid game delays caused by "nuisance" raises (small raises of large bets, such as an extra $1 over a current bet of $50, that have little effect on the action but take time as all others must call). This rule is overridden by table stakes rules, so that a player may in fact raise a $5 bet by $2 if that $2 is his entire remaining stake.

In most casinos, fixed-limit and spread-limit games cap the total number of raises allowed in a single betting round (typically three or four, not including the opening bet of a round). For example in a casino with a three-raise rule, if one player opens the betting for $5, the next raises by $5 making it $10, a third player raises another $5, and a fourth player raises $5 again making the current bet $20, the betting is said to be capped at that point, and no further raises beyond the $20 level will be allowed on that round. It is common to suspend this rule when there are only two players betting in the round (called being heads-up), since either player can call the last raise if they wish. Pot-limit and no-limit games do not have a limit on the number of raises.

If, because of opening or raising, there is an amount bet that the player in-turn has not paid, the player must at least match that amount, or must fold; the player cannot pass or call a lesser amount.

To fold is to discard one's hand and forfeit interest in the current pot. No further bets are required by the folding player, but the player cannot win. Folding may be indicated verbally or by discarding one's hand face down into the pile of other discards called the muck, or into the pot (uncommon). For this reason it is also called mucking. In stud poker played in the United States, it is customary to signal folding by turning all of one's cards face down. In casinos in the United Kingdom, a player folds by giving his hand as is to the "house" dealer, who spreads the hand's upcards for the other players to see before mucking them.

When participating in the hand, a player is expected to keep track of the betting action. Losing track of the amount needed to call, called the bet to the player, happens occasionally, but multiple occurrences of this slow the game down and so it is discouraged. The dealer may be given the responsibility of tracking the current bet amount, from which each player has only to subtract his contribution, if any, thus far.

To aid players in tracking bets, and to ensure all players have bet the correct amount, players stack the amount they have bet in the current round in front of them. When the betting round is over (a common phrase is "the pot's good"), the players will push their stacks into the pot or the dealer will gather them into the pot. Tossing chips directly into the pot (known as splashing the pot), though popular in film and television depictions of the game, causes confusion over the amount of a raise and can be used to hide the true amount of a bet. Likewise, string raises, or the act of raising by first placing chips to call and then adding chips to raise, causes confusion over the amount bet. Both actions are generally prohibited at casinos and discouraged at least in other cash games.

Most actions (calls, raises or folds) occurring out-of-turn - when players to the right of the player acting have not yet made decisions as to their own action - are considered improper, for several reasons. First, since actions by a player give information to other players, acting out of turn gives the person in turn information that he normally would not have, to the detriment of players who have already acted. In some games, even folding in turn when a player has the option to check (because there is no bet facing the player) is considered folding out of turn since it gives away information which, if the player checked, other players would not have.

Second, calling or raising out of turn, in addition to the information it provides, assumes all players who would act before the out of turn player would not exceed the amount of the out-of-turn bet. This may not be the case, and would result in the player having to bet twice in order to cover preceding raises, causing confusion.

A player is never required to expose his concealed cards when folding or if all others have folded; this is only required at the showdown. A player may of course choose to show his hole cards in either circumstance, but this tells other players whether or not the player was bluffing and, if other players are still in the game, it tells others that those cards are unavailable, which may confer an advantage to one or more players.

Many casinos and public cardrooms using a house dealer require players to protect their hands. This is done either by holding the cards or, if they are on the table, by placing a chip or other object on top. Unprotected hands in such situations are generally considered folded and are mucked by the dealer when action reaches the player. This can spark heated controversy, and is rarely done in private games.

The style of game generally determines whether players should hold face-down cards in their hands or leave them on the table. Holding "hole" cards allows players to view them more quickly and thus speeds up gameplay, but spectators watching over a player's shoulder can communicate the strength of that hand to other players, even unintentionally. Unwary players can hold their hand such that a "rubbernecker" in an adjacent seat can sneak a peek at the cards. Lastly, given the correct light and angles, players wearing glasses can inadvertently show their opponents their hole cards through the reflection in their glasses. Thus for most poker variants involving a combination of faceup and facedown cards (most variants of stud and community are dealt in this manner), the standard method is to keep hole cards face-down on the table except when it is that player's turn to act. 5 card draw is generally played with hands held by the players at all times.

Making change out of the pot is allowed in most games; to avoid confusion, the player should announce his intentions first. Then, if opening or cold calling, the player may exchange a large chip for its full equivalent value out of the pot before placing his bet, or if overcalling may place the chip (announcing that he is calling or raising a lesser amount) and remove the change from his own bet for the round.

Making change should, in general, be done between hands whenever possible, when a player sees he is running low on an oft-used value. The house dealer at casinos often maintains a bank and can make change for a large amount of chips, or in informal games players can make change with each other or with unused chips in the set. This prevents stoppages of play while a player figures change for a bet. Similarly, buying in for an additional amount should be done between hands once the player sees that he will be out of chips within a couple of hands (if buy-ins cannot be handled by the dealer it can take two or three hands for an attendant to bring another tray to the table).

Touching another player's chips without permission is a serious breach of protocol and can result in the player being barred from the casino or even arrested.

Some informal games allow a bet to be made by placing the amount of cash on the table without converting it to chips, as this speeds up play. However, the cash can easily be "ratholed" (removed from play by simply pocketing it) which is normally disallowed, and in casinos leaving cash on a table is a security risk, so many games and virtually all casinos require a formal "buy-in" when a player wishes to increase his or her stake.

Players in home games typically have both cash and chips available; thus, if money for expenses other than bets is needed, such as food, drinks and fresh decks of cards, players typically pay out of pocket. In casinos and public cardrooms, however, the use of cash is restricted, so players often establish a small cache of chips called the "kitty", used to pay for such things. Players contribute a chip of lowest value towards the kitty when they win a pot, and it pays for expenses other than bets such as "rent" (formally known as time fees), tipping the dealer when he leaves, buying fresh decks of cards (some public cardrooms include this cost in the "rake" or other fees, while others charge for decks), and similar costs.

Public cardrooms have additional rules designed to speed up play, earn revenue for the casino (such as the "rake"), improve security and discourage cheating.

All poker games require some forced bets in order to create an initial stake for the players to contest, as well as an initial cost of being dealt each hand for one or more players. The requirements for forced bets, and the betting limits of the game (see below) are collectively called the game's betting structure.

An ante is a forced bet in which all players put an equal amount of money or chips into the pot before the deal begins. Often this is either a single unit (a one-value or the smallest value in play) or some other small amount; a proportion such as a half or a quarter of the minimum bet is also common. An ante paid by every player ensures that a player who folds every round will lose money (though slowly), thus providing all players with an incentive, however small, to play the hand rather than toss it in when the opening bet reaches them.

Antes are the most common forced bet in draw poker and stud poker but are uncommon in games featuring blind bets (see next section). However, some tournament formats of games featuring blinds impose an ante to discourage extremely tight play. Without it a player who has not paid a blind can toss in his hand at no cost; the ante ensures that doing so too often is a losing proposition. With antes, more players stay in the hand, which increases pot size and makes for more interesting play (important in a televised tournament final).

In games where the acting dealer changes each turn, it is not uncommon for the players to agree that the dealer (or some other position relative to the button) provides the ante for each player. This simplifies betting, but causes minor inequities if other players come and go or miss their turn to deal. During such times, the player can be given a special button indicating the need to pay an ante to the pot (known as "posting"; see below) upon their return.

A blind or blind bet is a forced bet placed into the pot by one or more players before the deal begins, in a way that simulates bets made during play. The most common use of blinds as a betting structure calls for two blinds: the player after the dealer blinds about half of what would be a normal bet, and the next player blinds what would be a whole bet. This two-blind structure, sometimes with antes, is the dominating structure of play for community card poker games such as Texas hold-em. Sometimes only one blind is used (often informally as a "price of winning" the previous hand), and sometimes three are used (this is sometimes seen in Omaha). In the case of three blinds (usually one quarter, one quarter, and half a normal bet amount), the first blind goes "on the button", that is, is paid by the dealer.

Similarly to a missed ante, a missed blind due to the player's temporary absence (i.e. for drinks or a restroom break) can be denoted by use of a special button. Upon the player's return, they must pay the applicable blind to the pot for the next hand they will participate in. Note that this is for temporary absences only; if a player leaves the table permanently, special rules govern the assigning of blinds and button (see next subsection).

In some fixed-limit and spread-limit games, especially if three blinds are used, the big blind amount may be less than the normal betting minimum. Players acting after a sub-minimum blind have the right to call the blind as it is, even though it is less than the amount they would be required to bet, or they may raise the amount needed to bring the current bet up to the normal minimum, called completing the bet. For example, a limit game with a $5 minimum bet on the first round might have blinds of $1 and $2. Players acting after the blind may either call the $2, or raise to $5. After the bet is raised to $5, the next raise must be to $10 in accordance with the normal limits.

In tournaments, the dead button and moving button rules are common (replacement players are generally not a part of tournaments). Online cash games generally use the simplified moving button as other methods are more difficult to codify and can be abused by players constantly entering and leaving.

Casino card rooms where players can come and go can use any of the three rulesets, though moving button is most common. When a player immediately takes the place of a player who leaves, the player may have the option to either pay the blinds in the leaving player's stead, in which case play continues as if the player never left, or to "sit out" until the button has moved past him, and thus the chair is effectively empty for purposes of the blinds. Many card rooms do not allow new players to sit out as it is highly advantageous for the new player, both to watch one or more hands without obligation to play, and to enter the game in a very "late" position (on their first hand they see all other player's actions except the dealer's). For these reasons, new players must often post a "live" big blind to enter regardless of their position at the table. Other variations on these rules exist.

The normal rules for positioning the blinds do not apply when there are only two players at the table. The player on the button is always due the small blind, and the other player must pay the big blind. The player on the button is therefore the first to act before the flop, but last to act for all remaining betting rounds.

A special rule is also applied for placement of the button whenever the size of the table shrinks to two players. If three or more players are involved in a hand, and at the conclusion of the hand one or more players have busted out such that only two players remain for the next hand, the position of the button may need to be adjusted to begin heads-up play. The big blind always continues moving, and then the button is positioned accordingly.

A kill blind is a special blind bet made by a player who triggers the kill in a kill game (see below). It is often twice the amount of the big blind or minimum bet (known as a full kill), but can be 1.5 times the big blind (a half-kill) or any other amount according to house rules. This blind is "live"; the player posting it normally acts last in the opening round (after the other blinds, regardless of relative position at the table), and other players must call the amount of the kill blind to play. As any player can trigger a kill, there is the possibility that the player must post a kill blind when he is already due to pay one of the other blinds. Rules vary on how this is handled. See kill game for more information.

A bring-in is a type of forced bet that occurs after the cards are initially dealt, but before any other action. One player, usually chosen by the value of cards dealt face up on the initial deal, is forced to open the betting by some small amount, after which players act after him in normal rotation. Because of this random first action, bring-ins are usually used in games with an ante instead of structured blind bets.

The bring-in is normally assigned on the first betting round of a stud poker game to the player whose upcards indicate the poorest hand. For example, in traditional high hand stud games and high-low split games, the player showing the lowest card pays the bring-in. In low hand games, the player with the highest card showing pays the bring-in. The high card by suit order can be used to break ties, but more often the person closest to the dealer in order of rotation pays the bring-in.

In most fixed-limit and some spread-limit games, the bring-in amount is less than the normal betting minimum (often half of this minimum). The player forced to pay the bring-in may choose either to pay only what is required (in which case it functions similarly to a small blind) or to make a normal bet. Players acting after a sub-minimum bring-in have the right to call the bring-in as it is, even though it is less than the amount they would be required to bet, or they may raise the amount needed to bring the current bet up to the normal minimum, called completing the bet. For example, a game with a $5 fixed bet on the first round might have a bring-in of $2. Players acting after the bring-in can either call the $2, or raise to $5. After the bet is raised to $5, the next raise must be to $10 in accordance with the normal limits.

In a game where the bring-in is equal to the fixed bet (this is rare and not recommended), the game must either allow the bring-in player to optionally come in for a raise, or else the bring-in must be treated as live in the same way as a blind, so that the player is guaranteed his right to raise on the first betting round (the "option") if all other players call.

Some cash games, especially with blinds, require a new player to post when joining a game already in progress. Posting in this context means putting an amount equal to the big blind or the minimum bet into the pot before the deal. The post is a "live" bet, meaning that the amount can be applied towards a call or raise when it is the player's turn to act.

A player who is away from his seat and misses one or more blinds is also required to post to reenter the game. In this case, the amount to be posted is the amount of the big or small blind, or both, at the time the player missed them. If both must be posted immediately upon return, the big blind amount is "live", but the small blind amount is "dead", meaning that it cannot be considered in determining a call or raise amount by that player. Some house rules allow posting one blind per hand, largest first, meaning all posts of missed blinds are live.

Posting is usually not required if the player who would otherwise post happens to be in the big blind. This is because the advantage that would otherwise be gained by missing the blind, that of playing several hands before having to pay blinds, is not the case in this situation. It is therefore common for a new player to lock up a seat and then wait several hands before joining a table, or for a returning player to sit out several hands until the big blind comes back around, so that he may enter in the big blind and avoid paying the post. For this same reason, only one set of missed blinds can be accumulated by the player; old missed blinds are removed when the big blind returns to that player's seat because the player was never in any position to gain from missing the blinds.

A straddle bet is an optional and voluntary blind bet made by a player after posting the small and big blinds, but before cards are dealt. Straddles are typically used only in cash games played with fixed blind structures. Straddles are normally not permitted in tournament formats. The purpose of a straddle is to "buy" the privilege of last action, which on the first round with blinds is normally the player in the big blind. A straddle or sleeper blind may count as a raise towards the maximum number of raises allowed, or it may count separately; in the latter case this raises the maximum total bet of the first round. Straddling is permitted in Las Vegas but is illegal in Atlantic City due to differences in state and local laws.

The player immediately to the left of the big blind ("under the gun") may place a live straddle blind bet. The straddle must be the size of a normal raise over the big blind. A straddle is a live bet; the player placing the straddle effectively becomes the "bigger blind". Action begins with the player to the left of the straddle. If action returns to the straddle without a raise, the straddle has the option to raise. (This is part of what makes a straddle different from a sleeper because a sleeper does not have the option to raise if everyone folds or calls around to him.) The player to the left of a live straddle may re-straddle by placing a blind bet raising the original straddle.

A Mississippi straddle is similar to a live straddle, but instead of being made by the player "under the gun", it can be made by any player, depending on house rules. House rules permitting Mississippi straddles are common in the southern United States. Like a live straddle, a Mississippi straddle must be at least the minimum raise. Action begins with the player to the left of the straddle. If, for example (in a game with $10–25 blinds), the button puts a live $50 on it, the first player to act would be the small blind, followed by the big blind, and so on. If action gets back to the straddle with no raise, the straddle has the option of raising. The player to the left of a Mississippi straddle may re-straddle by placing a blind bet raising the original straddle.

A sleeper is a blind raise, made from a position other than the player "under the gun". A Mississippi straddle is a sleeper raise given this definition, but Mississippi straddles can be disallowed or restricted while sleepers are allowed at any position. A sleeper bet is not given the option to raise if other players call, and the player is not buying last action; thus the sleeper bet simply establishes a higher minimum to call for the table during the opening round and allows the player to ignore his turn as long as no-one re-raises the sleeper bet.

Sleepers are often considered illegal out-of-turn play. and are thus disallowed, but they can speed up a game slightly as a player who posts a sleeper can focus his attention on other matters such as ordering a drink or buying a tray of chips. It can also be an intimidation tactic as a sleeper raise makes it unfeasible to "limp in" (a situation where a player with a mediocre starting hand but acting late only has to call the minimum to see more cards), thus forcing weaker but improvable starting hands out of the play.

A game of no-limit poker with blinds of $1/$2. Alice is in the small blind, Bob is in the big blind, Carol is next to act, followed by David, with Ellen on the button.

Betting limits apply to the amount a player may open or raise, and come in four common forms: no limit, pot limit (the two collectively called big bet poker), fixed limit, and spread limit.

All such games have a minimum bet as well as the stated maximums, and also commonly a betting unit, which is the smallest denomination in which bets can be made. For example, it is common for games with $20 and $40 betting limits to have a minimum betting unit of $5, so that all bets must be in multiples of $5, to simplify game play. It is also common for some games to have a bring-in that is less than the minimum for other bets. In this case, players may either call the bring-in, or raise to the full amount of a normal bet, called completing the bet.

In a game played with a fixed-limit betting structure, a player chooses only whether to bet or not - the amount is fixed by rule. To enable the possibility of bluffing, the fixed amount generally doubles at some point in the game. This double wager amount is referred to as a big bet.

Most fixed-limit games will not allow more than a predefined number of raises in a betting round. The maximum number of raises depends on the casino house rules, and is usually posted conspicuously in the card room. Typically, an initial bet plus either three or four raises are allowed.

A common exception in this rule practiced in some card rooms is to allow unlimited raising when a pot is played heads up (when only two players are in the hand at the start of the betting round). Usually, this has occurred because all other players have folded, and only two remain. Many card rooms will permit these two players to continue re-raising each other until one player is all in.

Sometimes a fixed-limit game is played as a kill game. In such a game, a kill hand is triggered when a player wins a pot over a certain predetermined amount, or when the player wins a certain number of consecutive hands. The player triggering the kill must post a kill blind, generally either 1.5 times (a half kill) or double (a full kill) the amount of the big blind. In addition, the betting limits for the kill hand are multiplied by 1.5 or doubled, respectively.

The term kill, when used in this context, should not be confused with killing a hand, which is a term used for a hand that was made a dead hand by action of a game official.

A game played with a spread-limit betting structure allows a player to raise any amount within a specified range.

Playing spread-limit requires some care to avoid giving easy tells with one's choice of bets. Beginners frequently give themselves away by betting high with strong hands and low with weak ones, for instance. It is also harder to force other players out with big bets.

There is a variation of this known as "California Spread," where the range is much higher, such as 3-100 or 10-1000. The maximum buy-in is the size of the limit, so a 3-100 game would have a $100 maximum buy-in. This effectively makes the first hand no limit. California Spread, as the name implies, is played in California where local laws forbid no limit.

A game played with a pot-limit betting structure allows any player to raise up to an amount equal to the size of the whole pot before the raise.

Because of the disparity in methods of calculation, and the fact that the issue is certain to come up often, most major tournaments will announce the amount of the maximum opening raise to all players any time the betting limits are increased.

A game played with a no-limit betting structure allows each player to raise the bet by any amount up to and including his entire remaining stake at any time (subject to the table stakes rules and any other rules about raising). There is generally a minimum opening bet, and raises usually must be at least the amount of the previous raise.

All casinos and many home games play poker by what are called table stakes rules, which state that each player starts each deal with a certain stake, and plays that deal with that stake. A player may not remove money from the table or add money from his or her pocket during the play of a hand. In essence, table stakes rules creates a maximum and a minimum buy-in amount for cash game poker as well as rules for adding and removing the stake from play. A player also may not take a portion of their money or stake off the table, unless they opt to leave the game and remove their entire stake from play. Players are not allowed to hide or misrepresent the amount of their stake from other players and must truthfully disclose the amount when asked.

Common among inexperienced players is the act of "going south" after winning a big pot, which is to take a portion of your stake out of play, often as an attempt to hedge one's risk after a win. This is also known as "ratholing" and, while totally permissible in most other casino games, is not permitted in poker.

Table stakes are the rule in most cash poker games because it allows players with vastly different bankrolls a reasonable amount of protection when playing with one another. They are usually set in relation to the blinds. For example, in a $1/2 No Limit cash game, the minimum stake is often set at $40 while maximum stake is often set at $200, or 20 and 100 big blinds respectively.

This also requires some special rules to handle the case when a player is faced with a bet that he cannot call with his available stake.

When a player is faced with a current bet amount that he has insufficient remaining stake to call and he wishes to call (he may of course fold without the need of special rules), he bets the remainder of his stake and declares himself all in. He may now hold onto his cards for the remainder of the deal as if he had called every bet, but he may not win any more money from any player above the amount of his bet. In no-limit games, a player may also open the betting by going all in, that is, betting his entire stack.

A player who goes "all-in" effectively caps the main pot; the player is not entitled to win any amount over his/her total stake. If only one other player is still in the hand, the other player simply matches the all-in (retracting any overage if necessary) and the hand is dealt to completion. However, if multiple players remain in the game and the bet rises beyond the all-in's stake, the overage goes into a side pot. Only the players who have contributed to the side pot have the chance to win it. In the case of multiple all-in bets, multiple side pots can be created.

There is a strategic advantage to being all in: a player cannot be bluffed, because he is entitled to hold his cards and see the showdown without risking any more money. Opponents who continue to bet after the player is all in can still bluff each other out of the side pot, which is also to the player's advantage since players who fold out of the side pot also reduce his competition for the main pot. But these advantages are offset by the disadvantage that the player cannot win any more money than his stake can cover.

Some players may choose to buy into games with a "short stack", a stack of chips that is relatively small for the stakes being played, with the intention of going all in after the flop and not having to make any further decisions. However, this is generally a non-optimal strategy in the long-term, since the player does not maximize his gains on his winning hands.

If a player does not have sufficient money to cover the ante and blinds due, that player is automatically all-in for the coming hand. Any money the player holds must be applied to the ante first, and if the full ante is covered, the remaining money is applied towards the blind.

If a player is all in for part of the ante, or the exact amount of the ante, an equal amount of every other player's ante is placed in the main pot, with any remaining fraction of the ante and all blinds and further bets in the side pot.

If a player is all in for part of a blind, all antes go into the main pot. Players to act must call the complete amount of the big blind to call, even if the all-in player has posted less than a full big blind. At the end of the betting round, the bets and calls will be divided into the main pot and side pot as usual.

If a player goes all in with a bet or raise rather than a call, another special rule comes into play. There are two options in common use: pot-limit and no-limit games usually use what is called the full bet rule, while fixed-limit and spread-limit games may use either the full bet rule or the half bet rule. The full bet rule states that if the amount of an all-in bet is less than the minimum bet, or if the amount of an all-in raise is less than the full amount of the previous raise, it does not constitute a "real" raise, and therefore does not reopen the betting action. The half bet rule states that if an all-in bet or raise is equal to or larger than half the minimum amount, it does constitute a raise and reopens the action.

In a game with a half bet rule, a player may complete an incomplete raise, if that player still has the right to raise (in other words, if that player has not yet acted in the betting round, or has not yet acted since the last full bet or raise). The act of completing a bet or raise reopens the betting to other remaining opponents.

When all players in the pot are all-in, or one player is playing alone against opponents who are all all-in, no more betting can take place. Some casinos and many major tournaments require that all players still involved open, or immediately reveal, their hole cards in this case—the dealer will not continue dealing until all hands are flipped up. Likewise, any other cards that would normally be dealt face down, such as the final card in seven-card stud, may be dealt face-up. Such action is automatic in online poker. This rule discourages a form of tournament collusion called "chip dumping", in which one player deliberately loses his chips to another to give that player a greater chance of winning.

The alternative to table stakes rules is called "open stakes", in which players are allowed to buy more chips during the hand and even to borrow money (often called "going light"). Open stakes are most commonly found in home or private games. In casinos, players are sometimes allowed to buy chips at the table during a hand, but are never allowed to borrow money or use IOUs. Other casinos, depending on protocol for buying chips, prohibit it as it slows gameplay considerably.

Open stakes is the older form of stakes rules, and before "all-in" betting became commonplace, a large bankroll meant an unfair advantage; raising the bet beyond what a player could cover in cash gave the player only two options; buy a larger stake (borrowing if necessary) or fold. This is commonly seen in period-piece movies such as Westerns, where a player bets personal possessions or even wagers property against another player's much larger cash bankroll.

In modern open-stakes rules, a player may go all in in exactly the same manner as in table stakes if he so chooses, rather than adding to his stake or borrowing. Because it is a strategic advantage to go all in with some hands while being able to add to your stake with others, such games should strictly enforce a minimum buy-in that is several times the maximum bet (or blinds, in the case of a no-limit or pot-limit game). A player who goes all in and wins a pot that is less than the minimum buy-in may not then add to his stake or borrow money during any future hand until he re-buys an amount sufficient to bring his stake up to a full buy-in.

If a player cannot or does not wish to go all-in, he or she may instead choose to buy chips with cash out-of-pocket at any time, even during the play of a hand, and his bets are limited only by the specified betting structure of the game.

Finally, a player may also borrow money by betting with an IOU, called a "marker", payable to the winner of the pot. In order to bet with a marker, all players still active in the pot must agree to accept the marker. Some clubs and house rules forbid IOUs altogether. If the marker is not acceptable, the bettor may bet with cash out-of-pocket or go all-in. A player may also borrow money from a player not involved in the pot, giving him a personal marker in exchange for cash or chips, which the players in the pot are then compelled to accept. A player may borrow money in order to call a bet during a hand, and later in the same hand go all-in in the face of further betting; but if a player borrows money in order to raise, he forfeits the right to go all-in later in that same hand--if he is re-raised, he must borrow money to call, or fold.

Just as in table stakes, no player may remove chips or cash from the table once they are put in play (except small amounts for refreshments, tips, and such)--this includes all markers, whether one's own or those won from other players.

Players should agree before play on the means and time limits of settling markers, and a convenient amount below which all markers must be accepted to simplify play.

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World Series of Poker

The 2002 World Series of Poker in progress.

The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is the "the oldest, largest, most prestigious, and most media-hyped gaming competition in the world". It is held annually in Las Vegas. The first WSOP occurred in 1970 was an invitational wherein Benny Binion invited six of the most best known poker players to The Horseshoe Casino. At first the WSOP grew slowly. It took twelve years before the event drew 52 participants in 1982. In the early 1980s satellites were introduced allowing people to win the entry fee to the tournament for less than the $10,000 buy-in. By 1987, there were over 2,100 entrants into the tournament. Participation peaked in 2006, with 8,773 people participating in the event. The WSOP allows anybody, whether seasoned veteran or rank amateur, to compete for the World Championship if they can afford the $10,000 buy in.

The first World Series of Poker was not a freeze out tournament, but rather an event with a set start and stop time with the winner determined by secret ballot. In 1973, a second event, five-card stud was added. Over the years most of the major poker variants have been played at one time or another. Since 2007, the WSOP has consisted of 55 events, of which all but the "Main Event" are finished in about a month. In 2008, to increase marketing opportunities, the Main Event final table was delayed until November. The winner of each event wins a World Series of Poker bracelet and a monetary prize based on the number of entrants. The World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet is considered the most coveted non-monetary prize a poker player can win. Since 1976, a bracelet has been awarded to the winner of every event at the annual WSOP. WSOP victories prior to 1976 are also known as "bracelets". Most of the major poker variants are featured, though in recent years over half of the events have been variants of Texas hold 'em.

The series culminates with the $10,000 no-limit hold'em "Main Event", which since 2004 has attracted entrants numbering in the thousands. The victor receives a multi-million dollar prize. The winner of World Series of Poker Main Event is considered to be the World Champion of Poker.

Since its inception, Stu Ungar is the only player to have won the Main Event three times. Johnny Moss also holds three Main Event titles, however the first win was not played in the current tournament format but by a vote making Ungar the only three-time champion in terms of actual victories. Moss (if the first time win by vote is counted), Ungar, Doyle Brunson, and Johnny Chan are the only people who have won the Main Event for two consecutive years. Johnny Chan's second victory in 1988 was featured on the 1998 film Rounders. Phil Hellmuth holds multiple WSOP records including: most bracelets (11), WSOP cashes (68) and most WSOP final tables (41). The current bracelet winner, Peter Eastgate is the youngest person to win the Main Event.

Since 2005, the WSOP has been sponsored by Harrah's Entertainment.

Since 1971, all WSOP events have been tournaments with cash prizes. In 1973 a five-card stud event was added. Since then, new events have been added and removed. In 2006 there were 45 events at the WSOP, covering the majority of poker variants. Currently, Texas hold 'Em, Omaha hold 'em and Seven-card stud and their lowball variants (if any) are played. H.O.R.S.E. has been played in the past and returned in 2006. Also, S.H.O.E. has been played in the past, and returned in 2007. Other events played in the past include Chinese poker, Five card stud, and many others.

Like most tournaments, the sponsoring casino takes an entry fee (a percentage between 6% and 10%, depending on the buy-in) and distributes the rest, hence the prize money increases with more players. In the 2005 main event US$52,818,610 in prize money was distributed among 560 players, with US$7.5 million to first prize.

The number of participants in the WSOP has grown almost every year, and in recent years the growth has exploded. In 2000 there were 4,780 entrants in the various events, but in 2005, the number rose to over 23,000 players. In the main event alone, the number of participants grew from 839 in 2003 to 8,773 in 2006.

Phil Hellmuth has the most bracelets with eleven. Runners-up Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan have each won ten bracelets. Doyle's son, Todd Brunson, won a bracelet in a $2,500 Omaha Eight-or-better event in 2005, making them the first (and so far only) father/son pair to win at least one event at the WSOP. Crandell Addington is the only player to place in the top ten of the World Series of Poker Main Event eight times.

Four players have won the main event multiple times: Johnny Moss (1971 and 1974), Doyle Brunson (1976 and 1977), Stu Ungar (1980, 1981 and 1997) and Johnny Chan (1987 and 1988).

Bracelet winners who first achieved fame in other fields include French actor/singer Patrick Bruel (in 1998), Danish soccer player Jan Vang Sørensen (in 2002) and American actress Jennifer Tilly (in 2005).

The idea of a World Series of Poker began in 1969 with an event called the Texas Gambling Reunion, it was as an invitational event sponsored by Tom Moore of San Antonio, Texas, and held at the Holiday Hotel and Casino in Reno. This inaugural event was won by Crandell Addington. The set of tournaments that the World Series of Poker (WSOP) would evolve into was the brainchild of Las Vegas casino owner and poker player Benny Binion.

In 1970, the first WSOP at Binion's Horseshoe took place as a series of cash games that included five-card stud, deuce to seven low-ball draw, razz, seven-card stud, and Texas hold 'em. The format for the Main Event as a freeze-out Texas hold 'em game came the next year. The winner in 1970, Johnny Moss, was elected by his peers as the first World Champion of Poker and received a silver cup as a prize.

In 2004, Harrah's Entertainment purchased Binion's Horseshoe, kept the rights to the Horseshoe and World Series of Poker brands, sold the hotel and casino to MTR Gaming Group, and announced that the 2005 Series events would be held at the Harrah's-owned Rio Hotel and Casino, located just off the Las Vegas Strip. The final two days of the main event in 2005 were held downtown at what is now the MTR operated "Binion's" in celebration of the centennial of the founding of Las Vegas. It also added a made-for-television $2 million "freeroll" invitational "Tournament of Champions" (TOC) event first won by Annie Duke as a "winner-take-all" event.

Starting in 2005, the WSOP began a tournament "circuit" at Harrah's-owned properties in the United States where in addition to the $10,000 buy-in tournament at each site, qualifying players became eligible for a revamped Tournament of Champions. The 2005 TOC, made up of the top twenty qualifying players at each circuit event, along with the final table from the 2005 Main Event and the winners of nine or more bracelets (Johnny Chan, Doyle Brunson, and Phil Hellmuth) would participate in the revamped TOC at Caesar's Palace. Mike "The Mouth" Matusow won the first prize of $1 million (US), and all the players at the final table were guaranteed a minimum of $25,000 for the eighth and ninth place finishers. During a break in the final table of the 2005 Main Event on July 16, Harrah's announced that eleven properties — including the recently added Bally's and Caesar's properties — would host 2005-06 WSOP Circuit events that started on August 11 in Tunica, Mississippi. One event, that was scheduled for Biloxi, Mississippi was canceled after the Grand Casino Biloxi, which was scheduled to host the event, suffered major damage from Hurricane Katrina.

The Rio also hosted the 2006 World Series of Poker, which began on June 25 with satellite events and formally began the day after with the annual Casino Employee event, won in 2006 by Chris Gros. 2006 featured the "Tournament of Champions" on June 25 and 26, won by Mike Sexton. Various events led up to the main event, which was held from July 28 until August 10. The first prize of $12 million was awarded to Jamie Gold.

The Main Event of the WSOP has been the $10,000 buy-in no-limit Texas Hold 'Em (TXHE) tournament since 1972. (In 1971, the buy-in was $5,000.) Winners of the event not only get the largest prize of the tournament and a gold bracelet, but additionally their picture is placed into the Gallery of Champions at Binion's.

The winner of the Main Event has traditionally been given the unofficial title of World Champion. However the game's top professionals have stated that the recently-added $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event is the one which ultimately decides the world's best player. The $50,000 buy-in, being five times larger than the buy-in for the Main Event, has thus far tended to deter amateurs from playing in the H.O.R.S.E. The H.O.R.S.E. tournament was won by Chip Reese in 2006, Freddy Deeb in 2007, and Scotty Nguyen in 2008. Since Reese's death in December 2007, the winner of this event wins the David 'Chip' Reese Memorial Trophy in addition to the bracelet and the prize money.

There have been many memorable moments during the main events, including Jack Straus's 1982 comeback win after discovering he had one $500 chip left when he thought he was out of the tournament.

The end of the 1988 main event was featured in the movie Rounders.

Chris Moneymaker and Greg Raymer, the winners in 2003 and 2004, both qualified for the main event through satellite tournaments at the PokerStars online cardroom.

Jerry Yang, the winner in 2007, had only been playing poker for two years prior to his victory. He won his seat at a $225 satellite tournament at Pechanga Resort & Casino.

With passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 online poker sites have been barred from purchasing entrance directly for their users. This may have been the cause of the smaller field size in 2007.

With the exception of winners of the World Series Of Poker Main Event satellite tournaments (who automatically win a spot in the main event), all remaining players (including former champions, celebrities, and professional poker players) must supply the $10,000 buy-in in order to participate.

Below are the past winners of the main event, together with brief information about each year's main event. For more information, view the article on the WSOP for that specific year.

Since 2004, a Player of the Year Award has been given to the player with the most points accumulated throughout the World Series. Only "open" events in which all players can participate count in the standings. Beginning with the 2006 World Series of Poker, the Main Event and the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. competition had no effect on the outcome of the winner of the Player of the Year award. However, in the 2008 World Series of Poker, the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event counted toward the Player of the Year award.

The WSOP has corporate sponsors and licensed products which pay fees to market themselves as an official sponsors and/or licensees and exclusively use the WSOP insignia and cross-promote with their events. Besides the Harrah's properties and ESPN, major sponsors have included Miller Brewing's "Milwaukee's Best" brand of beers, Pepsi's SoBe Adrenaline Rush energy drink (sponsors of the 2005 TOC), Helene Curtis' Degree brand of anti-perspirant/deodorant, United States Playing Card's Bicycle Pro Cards, Bluff magazine, GlaxoSmithKline/Bayer's Levitra erectile dysfunction medicine, and The Hershey Company. Licensees include Glu Mobile, Activision (video games for different platforms such as Nintendo's GameCube, Microsoft's Xbox, Sony's PlayStation 2 and PC featuring computer generated versions of stars like Ferguson among others), and products made by different companies ranging from chip sets, playing cards, hand held games and clothing like caps and shirts. The official playing cards and chips are manufactured by Excalibur Electronics, Inc. which is based out of Miami, Florida and has been the main chip licensee since 2005. The fees and licenses bring in more than a million dollars to Harrah's.

The earliest filming of the World Series was a special produced by Binion's Horseshoe in 1973 and narrated by Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder. CBS began covering the World Series in the late 1970s. In the early 1980s, the event was again broadcast as specials. In the late 1980s, the World Series returned to television as ESPN took over broadcasting. Initially, coverage consisted of just a single one hour taped delay broadcast of the main event.

ESPN Classic currently airs many of the old broadcasts, especially from the mid 1990s and beyond. The most striking thing about the early coverage is how little was actually shown, since no "pocket cam" existed. Generally, ESPN used poker-playing actors such as Dick Van Patten, Vince Van Patten, and Gabe Kaplan, with either the tournament director (usually Jim Albrecht) or a poker pro like Phil Hellmuth joining the team. Early coverage was relatively primitive compared to what ESPN does now, with no pre-taped interviews or profiles on the players. The commentators were actually on the casino floor itself. The 2002 WSOP was the first with the "sneak peek" (later called the pocket cam, or hole cam). 2003 was the first year that the broadcast covered action preceding the final table.

Since then, ESPN has greatly expanded its coverage to include many of the preliminary events of the WSOP, especially Texas Hold 'Em. Also, their coverage of the main event now typically includes at least one hour program on each day. For the first two years of its existence, ESPN was broadcasting one hour programs of the "circuit" events that the WSOP has at various Harrah's-owned casinos, but ESPN did not renew these events. ESPN's coverage now includes many of the trappings of sports coverage, such as lighter segments (called "The Nuts") and interviews.

ESPN's coverage has been largely driven by Matt Maranz, Executive Producer for the WSOP telecasts. Maranz leads 441 Productions, which produces the telecast under contract to ESPN's unit ESPN Original Entertainment (EOE). Maranz has significant sports production experience, having previously worked on ESPN's football pre-game show, and has also produced taped segments for NBC's Olympic coverage.

In 2000 and 2001, the World Series of Poker was broadcast by The Discovery Channel. These hour long programs presented more of an overview or recap of the WSOP as opposed to broadcasting an actual live event with play-by-play analysis and color commentary. The Discovery Channel's broadcast also featured final table players interviews interlaced throughout the show. ESPN would resume coverage the following year.

ESPN's coverage in 2002 was typical of their coverage in the 1990s (recorded in video, little or no post-production commentary or player profiles, no card cams). However, the final table broadcast was expanded over two one-hour episodes.

In 2003, ESPN expanded their coverage to new heights with their coverage of the WSOP. They included coverage of the entire tournament, with a "Featured Table". At this table, the viewers could see the player's hole cards and subsequent strategy. The action was also broadcast as if live, though on tape-delay. This level of coverage arguably led to the popularity boom of No-Limit Texas Hold 'Em.

Coverage would increase in 2004 and 2005 to include preliminary events from the WSOP, in addition to the "Main Event".

ESPN has expanded poker to all-new levels, especially with their coverage of the 2006 WSOP, including providing the entire final table of the 2006 Main Event via pay-per-view airing.

In 2008, ESPN experimented with the idea of a delayed final table. This idea presented greater sponsorship opportunities for the players and built up a great amount of excitement that culminated in a recap of the Main Event and the conclusion of the 2008 Main Event final table. This year's Main Event champion was Peter Eastgate.

In 2009, ESPN announced they will keep the final table delay again, moving the final table to November 2009. This aims to build up anticipation for the years biggest poker event. The WSOP has also decided there will be no re-buy events in 2009. The decision was reached because of circuit rumblings that re-buy events provided an unfair advantage to professionals with no limitation on how money professionals can spend for an event. There will be 57 bracelet events this year.

The World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE) is the first expansion of the World Series of Poker. Since 1970, the event has occurred every year in Las Vegas. In September 2007, the first WSOP championship events outside of Las Vegas, complete with bracelets, were held. The inaugural WSOPE consisted of three events held in London from September 6-17, 2007. The main event, a GBP 10,000 buy-in no-limit hold 'em tournament, was won by Norwegian online prodigy Annette Obrestad on the day before her 19th birthday. This made her the youngest person ever to win a WSOP bracelet, a record that cannot be broken in the Las Vegas WSOP under current laws because the minimum legal age for casino gaming in Nevada is 21. Obrestad could play in the WSOPE because the minimum age for casino gaming in the United Kingdom is 18.

While no definitive plans have been announced, WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack has indicated that in the next one to three years that other venues may start holding WSOP events. Two locations that have been mentioned as possible expansion sites are Egypt and South Africa.

In 2005, a video game based on the tournament, titled World Series of Poker, was released for several consoles and the computer. A sequel called World Series of Poker: Tournament of Champions came out in 2006. In 2007, World Series of Poker: Battle for the Bracelets was released.

WSOP video poker machines now appear at some Harrah's casinos; the machines are standard video poker machines, but have a bonus feature which allows a player to play a modified game of Texas Hold 'em against the machine.

Beginning in 2007, Harrah's announced the creation of the World Series of Poker Academy, a poker school aimed at providing poker players with the skills needed to win a WSOP Bracelet. The instructors for the Academy include Phil Hellmuth, Greg Raymer, Scott Fischman and Mark Seif. Initial academies were launched in Tunica, Indiana and Las Vegas.

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Source : Wikipedia