Richest reality show in world

CHRIS KITCHING -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

How big of a deal is the World Series of Poker's main event?

Ask 2005 champ Joseph Hachem, an Australian who came out of nowhere to become the envy of card sharks worldwide.

His $7.5-million US payout catapulted him to superstardom and, temporarily, top spot on poker's all-time money list.

That coveted title is now held by Canadian and Winnipeg Sun columnist Daniel Negreanu, who has more than $8 million US in lifetime earnings.

Hachem and Negreanu will be among the favourites at the 2006 World Series of Poker main event crown, which began Friday at Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The final table is expected to begin on or around Aug. 10.

Others vying to become poker's undisputed kings and queens include movie stars, amateurs and online competitors who have never played a hand in a casino.

$10,000 entry fee

To earn a seat in the 37th annual no-limit Texas Hold 'Em main event, people fork over a $10,000 US entry fee or win a live or online qualifying event known as a satellite tournament.

Poker experienced a boom in popularity in 2005, a year that included wall-to-wall international TV coverage and the biggest World Series main event yet.

Hachem outlasted 5,600 others to take home his record payout. No need to feel sorry for the runners-up, because the second to ninth place finishers each collected $1 million US or more.

A sign of poker's meteoric rise, Huck Seed earned $1 million when he won the 1996 main event.

In 2005, the top 560 card players split an unprecedented $52.8 million US purse. That total will be easily surpassed this year, with a staggering 8,580 competitors vying for a top prize in excess of $11.7 million US. The total purse will be announced later in the tournament.

Nearly two months of World Series events culminate with the main event. Thousands of people flock to Vegas to compete in games with fewer participants and smaller payouts.

- On the web: www.worldseriesofpoker.com


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