WSOP 2017: As the world comes to Vegas, the World Series goes to China

It's here! After 70-plus preliminary events involving tens of thousands of players from over a 100 countries -- and a staggering number of 100-plus degree days here in sweltering Las Vegas -- the 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event has finally arrived.

A half-hour before the start of today's initial Day 1 flight there was another preliminary of sorts -- an announcement by the WSOP. That the announcement had been shrouded in mystery piqued the interest of many media who gathered around the center stage in the Brasilia room to hear and subsequently report the news.

Providing a visual contrast to the sun-baked desert outside, a faux ice scupture sat before the feature table, with a couple of bottles of champagne nearby to signal something especially festive was in the works. A literal shroud covered part of it, hiding the gist of what was to come.

Eventually the cover was removed, and WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart helped fill in the blanks. Stewart harkened back to the WSOP's humble beginnings and its founder Benny Binion's trip from Texas to Nevada and the handful of players who helped start the WSOP in 1970.

"The WSOP is packing up and heading back east," said Stewart -- "the far east."

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Ty Stewart delivers the news

Thanks to a new multi-year agreement between the WSOP and China-based Tencent Holdings Limited -- one of the world's largest internet companies -- there will be bracelets awarded far, far away from Las Vegas later this year in the new "WSOP China" series in December. More events in Asia are planned to follow as well.

Corporate Vice President of Tencent Jerry Chen -- soon to become the "future Benny Binion of Asia," said Stewart -- added some words as well, and the pair opened the champagne to commemorate the new deal.

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To China... cheers!

The focus soon shifted back to the here and now, however, as Day 1A players began filing into the Brasilia to take their seats for the first two-hour level of the day. So, too, did the camera crews and staff begin scurrying about, the months of preparation for the big moment of the first Main Event hands being dealt having finally arrived.

It looks like PokerStars Blog favorite Anton Morgenstern of Germany is among the players on the main feature table, he of two recent deep runs in the Main Event (20th in 2013, and 22nd in 2015). And American Phil Laak is among those on the secondary feature, every inch covered by clothing and space-age wrap-around mirrored glasses. Players will continue to arrive for several hours on this first Day 1 flight, with late registration open through the start of Level 4.

As the WSOP envisions further travels with its brand around the globe, players from around the globe are traveling here seeking poker's most famous prize.

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The 2017 World Series of Poker Main Event begins

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