The WSOP is Like New Year's Eve, Christmas for Poker Players

Once again it’s that time of year.

Today the cards are in the air at the 46th World Series of Poker.

They used to hold the WSOP in April-May, which kind of sucked because I missed the spring in Sweden when the trees turn green, the girls turn barelegged, and everybody turns happy.

Then they moved it to June-July, which sucked even more.

Partially because it’s 45 degrees Celsius in Vegas, even in the shade, and partially because it’s also in the middle of the very short Swedish summer.

Late in June the Swedes celebrate the longest day of the year, Midsummer’s Eve, by traveling to the countryside and obliterating themselves with alcohol.

If you ever wanted to invade Sweden that’s the day to do it. I hope Putin doesn’t read this blog.

The Main Event is the Greatest Poker Tournament

Ken Lennaard
Ken Lennaárd at the WSOP

There was a time when nothing could stop me from going to the World Series.

I don’t even think a close friend’s wedding or even the funeral of a relative would have stopped me from going.

Thank god I never had to make that decision.

I’ve been to every World Series from 1997 to 2012 with one exception (which I'll get to in a minute). After that I did the right thing and prioritized my family.

But I will be back one day, in good physical shape, with an adequate bankroll, and in mental harmony. But until then you can keep on sleeping.

Just like everybody else I get goosebumps when I hear “Shuffle up and deal." But that feeling has faded with several starting days.

Some years I hardly played any of the tournaments while others I did some serious grinding. There were years where I only came for a couple of weeks and others where I came well in advance to get rid of the jet lag, and to get in poker shape.

But I was always there and I always played the Main Event. It’s the best tournament of the year. After that comes nothing. Then more nothing. And there’s still nothing on the horizon after that.

Small WSOP Main Events Are a Distant Memory

binions horseshoe 1961
It's safe to say the WSOP has changed.

The World Series is growing every year in terms of time, players and of course in the number of bracelets awarded.

The Main Event will once again be postponed to November for the lucky nine. But they will only play down to four players the first day, and the next day down to two and finally the heads-up conclusion on the third day.

The Main Event will pay 1,000 players, which will probably be around 15 percent. When I first started the field was just over 100 players so the increase is mind-boggling to say the least.

But the big news is a brand-new side event designed to break records with a $5 million-guaranteed prize pool.

The Colossus will have two starting days but four starting flights. Players who bust can re-enter as many times they like (exactly like a rebuy tournament except that you have to pay the entry fee for every rebuy).

Players who don’t bust can also enter again to try and get more chips. Then they can choose the biggest stack.

WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart has already said if the tournament is not the biggest event in the history of the WSOP then it will be a “disappointment."

Of course the money Caesars Entertainment will make from the special tournament will also be colossal but it’s really just icing on the mammoth cake of the World Series.

Passing on 2004 WSOP Was “Toughest” Decision

Some things are more important than bracelets.

I had to skip the WSOP in 2004.

My love for poker had already faded a lot but it was still one of the toughest decisions of my life.

I had been chosen to participate in a new reality show called “Riket."

Survivor comes from Sweden and had been a big hit for eight years. Riket was scheduled to take over and considered by everybody to be the next big thing.

It was like a medieval version of Survivor with a rich team living in a castle with servants and a poor team living in a shoebox without walls and food.

It would have been magical to have been at the 2004 World Series where everything exploded and took the step into the future.

But the reality show was magic too. The show was comprised of 16 people, picked from 6,000 for our competitiveness and stubbornness.

We fought with broadswords, shot burning arrows and catapults. I jousted on a big and very fast horse and had to use all my skills to survive.

Duels, intrigue and mental endurance – the medieval Survivor had it all. I was living in a competition 24/7, and I loved it.

Sometimes I was the lion and sometimes I played the sheep. Bullying when given the opportunity and folding when needed to.

I did what I had to do to survive so I still had a shot of winning. Just like a World Series tournament.

This is me explaining the greatness of the World Series in a documentary from the 2001 WSOP (From 3:15 if you are lazy).

Family Always Comes First

If you're a poker player you need a good reason to not go to the WSOP.

This year I do: My daughter. I’m also having a son in July.

The World Series of Poker can be the biggest adventure of your life, and if you play well and the cards land right it can be life-changing adventure.

I have some amazing memories from Vegas over the years but the biggest adventure of my life was participating in medieval Survivor.

About Ken Lennaárd:

Sweden's most controversial poker blogger Ken Lennaárd has been around the professional poker circuit for almost 20 years. Among his numerous accomplishments are Swedish Championships both live and online, three WSOP final tables and over $1.5m in live earnings. He's now bringing his singular poker voice to the English world via Look for new posts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Note: Opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not represent the views of

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