WSOP Brings Back Tournament of Champions

Annie Duke
'Tournaments like the Tournament of Champions help elevate poker to the level it deserves.'

Claiming poker deserves an annual All-Star event, the World Series of Poker intends to deliver it this summer.

Shelved since 2006, the WSOP is bringing back the Tournament of Champions, putting up $1 million in a freeroll for the top 20 WSOP bracelet holders as voted by fans of the game.

"The Tournament of Champions brand has heritage in delivering the big moments," said Harrah's VP Ty Stewart.  "We're thrilled to reinvent it around a model that should elevate the game by engaging millions of poker fans."

All 521 living WSOP bracelet holders will be eligible to receive votes for entry through a selection process on March 15 through June 15.

In addition to the top 20 vote getters, five entries into the tournament will be automatic, including previous Tournament of Champions winners Annie Duke, Mike Matusow and Mike Sexton, reigning WSOP Main Event champion Joe Cada and WSOP Europe main event winner Barry Shulman.

Finally, two sponsor exemptions will be awarded by the WSOP, with details still forthcoming on how those seats can be won.

"Tournaments like the Tournament of Champions help elevate poker to the level it deserves and I am honored to participate," said inaugural winner Annie Duke.

"Winning the Tournament of Champions marks one of the most memorable events in my poker career and I'm ecstatic that the WSOP is hosting this prestigious event."

The event will go off Sunday June 27 at the Rio, playing down to a final table of nine that will reconvene on Sunday, July 4 to play for a share of $1 million.

It will be filmed for broadcast on ESPN.

The Tournament of Champions began in 2004 after Harrah's took ownership of the World Series of Poker brand.  In the inaugural event, ten top names were invited to participate in a winner-take-all freeroll.

In 2005, Matusow won an event with an expanded field of 114 entrants.

The last event last took place in 2006 at the Rio featuring 27 of the biggest names in the game.

This year, first place will pay $500,000, the runner-up gets $250,000, third place earns $100,000 and the fourth through ninth place finishers will earn $25,000 each.

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