WPT World Poker Open begins today

The Winning Hand

The World Poker Tour continues a six-year tradition this weekend, returning to the mighty Mississippi for the 2008 World Poker Open at the Gold Strike Casino Resort in Tunica, Miss.

Preliminary events featuring Hold'em, Stud and Omaha have been under way since Jan. 4. The five-day No-Limit Hold'em main event begins on Sunday the 20th and ends with the final table on Thursday, Jan. 24.

As always, the buy-in is $10,000 and the winner of the tournament will receive a $25,000 seat in this season's WPT Championship.

Last year's champion, Bryan Sumner of Smyrna, Tenn., topped a field of 294 players to take home $913,986. The quiet Sumner capped off the win by defeating "Kid Poker" Daniel Negreanu when the game became heads-up.

In the end, the leaderboard looked like this:

Bryan Sumner
Daniel Negreanu
Young Cho
Gary Kainer
Kido Pham
J.C. Tran
Robert Thompson Jr.
Matt Russell
Jim Bullard

A charter member of the WPT, the WPO has seen its share of notable final tables over the years. The 2003 final table saw David Ulliott steamroll the final table on the way to taking home first prize, then worth $589,175. Phil Ivey, just a year removed from winning three bracelets at the WSOP, finished second.

In 2004, Barry Greenstein won the tournament and gave all his winnings to charity. That same year, David "Chip" Reese made the only WPT final-table appearance of his storied poker career. He finished fourth.

In 2005 and 2006, Scotty Nguyen and Michael "The Grinder" Mizrachi both enjoyed good years in Tunica. The first year, Nguyen (fourth place) and Mizrachi (fifth) lost out to college student John Stoltzmann. Then in 2006, Nguyen won the shortest heads-up match in WPT history against Mizrachi, when his A-Q held up against The Grinder's A-J on the first hand.

Other notable WPO final tablists from over the years include Chau Giang, Gavin Smith, J.C. Tran and Can Kim Hua.

Attendance at Gold Strike's marquee event has been on the decline since the tournament set its record back in 2005, when over 500 players bellied up to the felt for the main event. Last year's field of 294 was the smallest since Ulliott's inaugural WPT win against a field of 190 players.

In its early years, when the WPO still had Jack Binion's name attached to it, January was virtually empty for poker and the tournament was held at the Horseshoe Casino. Since then the venue has been switched next door, to the MGM-Mirage-owned Gold Strike.

The international tournament schedule for January has also grown crowded with the likes of the Aussie Millions, PokerStars.com Caribbean Adventure and Borgata Winter Open. Then there is the matter of cross-town competition, in the form of a WSOP Circuit event just down the road at the Harrah's-owned Grand Casino.

Reasons for the WPO's decline vary, but blame can't be placed on the Tunica locals. They continue to show up in steady numbers, both for preliminary events and for the high-stakes cash games that run in the back corner of the tournament room for the duration of the festival.

As usual, PokerListings.com will make the trek to Tunica as well to document the main event, whether it consists of 100 players or 500. Stay tuned to the Live Tournament Section for all the latest and greatest updates, photos, interviews and more.

Best Poker Sites - Editor`s Pick

Latest Blogs »