Shuffle Up and Deal: The World Series of Poker Kicks Off at the Rio

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In Rounders, Matt Damon’s character Mike McDermott has a dream: to make it to the final table at the World Series of Poker, the ultimate poker tournament pitting the best players in the world against relative nobodies like Chris Moneymaker who can come out of nowhere to win it all.

Poker has become such a huge industry that ESPN, Bravo and the Travel Channel now dedicate hours of programming to the World Series of Poker and its many variations. But you can see it firsthand as the 41st annual World Series of Poker kicks off tomorrow at the Rio. The biggest names in the game compete for ultimate bragging rights in a highly exclusive $50,000 buy-in Players’ Championship.

The hard part to understand is that the tournament combines eight variations of poker to identify the game’s best overall player. On Saturday at noon, thousands of poker players and fans head to the Rio for a $1,000 buy-in event that requires two days to seat all entrants. You can watch this event for free.

But it’s the Friday night event that draws the big guns. World Series of Poker champion Doyle Brunson leads the $50,000 Players’ Championship at 5 p.m. Look for Phil Ivey, Daniel Negreanu, Scotty Nguyen, Barry Greenstein, Annie Duke, Jennifer Harman and others as they compete for the coveted WSOP championship bracelet.

Also during the weekend you can check out the $1,000 No Limit Hold ‘em events starting at noon Saturday and Sunday.

The 57-event tournament runs through July 17, with the final table of the Main Event returning on Nov. 6. More than 60,000 players from 115 countries entered the 2009 tournament in Las Vegas. Last year, Joe Cada, pictured above, took home $8.5 million in prize money when he won the championship event. He’s also the youngest player to ever win the tournament.

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