WSOP 2018: All systems go on 'cattywumpus' World Series Main Event

It is early July, it is the Rio All Suites Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas. This is what it is: It is the World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event.

Every year since the early 1970s, poker's finest have found their way to the middle of the Nevada desert to put down $10,000 apiece and hunt what remains the most prestigious title in the game. And here we are again to cover poker's undisputed centrepiece. Here we are again to see a World Champion crowned.

Moments ago in the Amazon Room at the Rio, WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel, alongside reigning champion Scott Blumstein, got 2018 Main Event under way. "Every single summer, there's no place I'd rather be," Effel said. "It will be a great experience for you."

Scott Blumstein and Jack Effel start the 2018 WSOP Main Event

Blumstein agreed, like a man would who won more than $8 million here last year. "You gotta believe in yourself and get lucky," Blumstein said. "That's the combo for poker...It's what I did and it worked out."

Arguably the most significant point Effel raised in his opening speech referred to the tournament structure. "Please make sure you study the structure sheet because the break schedule is a little cattywampus," Effel said, effortlessly dropping in some deep south slang.

"Cattywampus" is a good word, and it's good advice from Effel. A few things have changed this time. For the first time since 2007, the Main Event is going to play from start to finish without a single day off. We're going all the way, non-stop, for this 38th renewal: 13 days straight until there's a gold bracelet around somebody's wrist.

Even last year, the first for nine years without a November Nine, there were a couple of days off worked into the schedule to allow players, dealers and staff to regroup. But not this time. There is no let up between today's Day 1A and Saturday, July 14, when the last three players will return and decide the winner.

Most days begin at 11am and feature five two-hour levels of play, with more than two hours of breaks scheduled as well. It means days edging towards 12 hours in duration, and exhaustion certain to play a part.

WSOP 2018 Main Event bracelet

We won't know the size of the event until the last player is registered (late entry is open until the end of Level 3) but we can at least begin planning the structure of the days. This year, there will be three starting flights--Days 1A, 1B and 1C, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday--and two Day 2s. Survivors from Days 1A and 1B play day 2AB on Thursday and those left from Day 1C play on Friday.

After that, Days 3 through 7 play out like a normal tournament, with only nine players making it through to Day 8. That then begins three days of final-table play: we go from nine to six on Day 8; from six to three on Day 9; and from three to a winner on Day 10.

Over the past 10 years, the tournament has concluded at around Level 41, and there's no reason to think this year will be any different. The "shortest" WSOP Main Event over the past decade came in 2008, 2009 and 2015, when the tournament finished in Level 39. But both Scott Blumstein and Qui Nguyen had to wait until Level 43 before picking up their bracelets in 2017 and 2016, respectively.

But don't weep for them. Despite earning the second-lowest hourly rate among World Champions from the past decade, Nguyen was still picked up a paycheck of $93,085 per hour. It's only when looking at Martin Jacobson's $121,951 per hour that Nguyen might feel put out. Jacobson finished the job on his $10 million victory in 2014 before the end of Level 41.

It can actually be pretty interesting to examine the hourly rate of players in this event. Champions have earned an average of $105,174 per hour over the past decade, and nobody in the world is going to sniff at that. But a min-cash, which is for many the principal goal of this event, will likely earn you about $600 per hour. In 2008, when a min-cash was $21,230, you'd have got $758. But more recently a min-cash is $15,000 and you'll need to last 16 levels to get it.

Main Event winners/min-cash and hourly rate

YearLevel endPrizeRateMin-cash levelPrizeRateProfitRate
201743$8,150,000$94,76715$15,000$500$5,000$167
201643$8,005,310$93,08516$15,000$469$5,000$156
201539$7,683,346$98,50414$15,000$536$5,000$179
201441$10,000,000$121,95116$18,406$575$8,406$263
201340$8,361,570$104,52016$19,106$597$9,106$285
201242$8,531,853$101,57016$19,227$601$9,227$288
201143$8,715,638$101,34516$19,359$605$9,359$292
201041$8,944,310$109,07716$19,263$602$9,263$289
200939$8,547,042$109,57716$21,365$668$11,365$355
200839$9,152,416$117,33914$21,230$758$11,230$401
Average41$8,609,149$105,17416$18,296$591$8,296$259

* Three players eliminated on bubble got $6,135 each ($192 p/h)
** Four players eliminated on bubble got $4,806 each ($150 p/h)

And those are the figures if we ignore the $10,000 it cost to buy in. If we look at profit only, then we learn that a min-casher in 2016 was "working" for $156 per hour.

All of this is worth more than bubbling, of course. That remains the single least sought after spot in any poker tournament. But while those min-cashers might get a life-changing experience from this event, it will be far from a life-changing sum.

It's lucky nobody does this purely for profit. It's all about the love of the game, right?

WSOP 2018 Main Event schedule:

The full schedule for the coming days is as follows:

Day 1 flights (five two-hour levels):

July 2 - Day 1A
July 3 - Day 1B
July 4 - Day 1C

Day 2 flights (five two-hour levels):

July 5 - Day 2AB (ie, remaining players from Days 1A & 1B)
July 6 - Day 2C

Field combines for:

July 7 - Day 3
July 8 - Day 4
July 9 - Day 5
July 10 - Day 6
July 11 - Day 7 (play to last nine players)

Final-table play:

July 12 - Day 8 (play to last six players)
July 13 - Day 9 (play to last three)
July 14 - Day 10 (play to winner)

WSOP 2018 Main Event structure:

LevelSmall BlindBig BlindAnte
1751500
21503000
315030025
420040050
525050075
6300600100
7400800100
85001,000100
96001,200200
108001,600200
111,0002,000300
121,2002,400400
131,5003,000500
142,0004,000500
152,5005,000500
163,0006,0001,000
174,0008,0001,000
185,00010,0001,000
196,00012,0002,000
208,00016,0002,000
2110,00020,0003,000
2212,00024,0004,000
2315,00030,0005,000
2420,00040,0005,000
2525,00050,0005,000
2630,00060,00010,000
2740,00080,00010,000
2850,000100,00015,000
2960,000120,00020,000
3080,000160,00020,000
31100,000200,00030,000
32120,000240,00040,000
33150,000300,00050,000
34200,000400,00050,000
35250,000500,00075,000
36300,000600,000100,000
37400,000800,000100,000
38500,0001,000,000150,000
39600,0001,200,000200,000
40800,0001,600,000200,000
411,000,0002,000,000300,000
421,200,0002,400,000400,000
431,500,0003,000,000500,000
442,000,0004,000,000500,000
452,500,0005,000,000750,000
463,000,0006,000,0001,000,000
474,000,0008,000,0001,000,000
485,000,00010,000,0001,500,000

WSOP photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com.