WSOP 2022: Record number of players expected for Main Event

David Hemby, a carpenter, installs the World Series of Poker tournament sign at Paris Las Vegas ...

Everything about this year’s World Series of Poker is expected to be bigger.

More tables. More dealers. More event space. And more players, too.

“From what we see in trends around the world, we know there’s pent-up demand,” WSOP senior vice president Ty Stewart said.

After spending the previous 16 years at the Rio Convention Center, the WSOP moves to the Strip starting Tuesday when the 53rd annual event opens at Paris Las Vegas and Bally’s.

The change of venue comes at an opportune time, with poker’s popularity on the rise and coronavirus pandemic restrictions lifted. Stewart, who admittedly is reticent to make predictions about the size of the field for the $10,000 buy-in Main Event, went on record predicting the all-time record of 8,773 entrants set in 2006 will fall this summer.

“I think everyone is going to come out and see us in our new home,” WSOP vice president Jack Effel said. “And I think based on the poker activity around the country and the world getting back to more normalcy, I think we’re going to see a lot of people this summer. It wouldn’t be out of the question to break a few records.”

The WSOP was at the Rio since 2005 after outgrowing its original home at Binion’s. Caesars Entertainment, which owns the WSOP, sold the Rio in 2019 and announced the move to the Strip in November during last year’s event.

The new location at Paris Las Vegas and Bally’s features more than 200,000 square feet of event space and allows for nearly 600 poker tables, the most in WSOP history.

The Paris Ballroom is being labeled the largest poker room in the world, with more than 300 tables for tournaments, satellites and cash games.

The Bally’s Grand Ballroom will house close to 200 tables, while the Bally’s Event Center is where the TV feature tables are located.

Bally’s is in the process of rebranding to Horseshoe Las Vegas, and the TV tables will have a nostalgic feel of where the event began in 1970.

“Binion’s had the smell of old Las Vegas, of gambling, and it had a lot of other smells, also,” longtime WSOP color commentator Norman Chad said. “I’m so glad that we’re back here, that we’re on the Strip. There’s going to be a great new energy here. I think it’s going to be a great new chapter for the World Series of Poker.”

The 2020 WSOP was held using an online and live format because of the coronavirus pandemic and was played in the fall in 2021. The return to a summer schedule features 88 live tournaments through July 17, followed by the three-day Tournament of Champions.

There will be no COVID-19 vaccine mandate after it was required in 2021. Players will not have to wear masks, in accordance with current health guidelines.

The $100,000 buy-in High Roller Bounty No-limit Hold’em event highlights the opening day, and the $500 buy-in “Housewarming” No-limit Hold’em event with its $5 million guaranteed prize pool is expected to draw a massive field when it opens Thursday.

Each weekend will have a tent-pole event, and there are 18 events with a buy-in of $1,000 or less. One notable addition is the $1,000 buy-in Million Dollar Bounty No-limit Hold’em tournament that starts July 2.

The $10,000 No-limit Hold’em World Championship, better known as the Main Event, opens July 3.

More than 1,000 dealers, the most in the event’s history, according to Effel, have been hired to handle the expected demand. Restaurateur and TV personality Lisa Vanderpump will start the festivities Tuesday with the “shuffle up and deal” announcement.

“Being here on the Las Vegas Strip, across two resorts no less, it’s an important milestone for this event and for poker overall,” Stewart said. “We’re now positioned to be a total Las Vegas experience, not a poker tournament.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.