Wednesday, June 16, 2010 | 4:17 p.m.
Phil Ivey often is referred to as the best poker player in the world.
He's also the most popular. The release Wednesday afternoon of the field of the 2010 World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions proved as much.
As poker's version of an All-Star Game, fans were able to vote in 20 players out of 512 living World Series bracelet winners for the freeroll tournament that will start June 25 at the Rio. Ivey, who has seven bracelets and made the final table of last year's Main Event, received the most votes with 16,267.
Four-time bracelet winner Daniel Negreanu had the second most with 16,239 votes. Doyle Brunson, Phil Hellmuth and Chris Ferguson rounded out the top five.
Allen Cunningham, Johnny Chan, Scotty Nguyen, Barry Greenstein and John Juanda all cracked the top 10.
They will be joined by 10 other players voted into the event by fans — Erik Seidel, Jennifer Harman, Huck Seed, Dan Harington, T.J. Cloutier, Sam Farha, Howard Lederer, Greg Raymer, Joe Hachem and Antonio Esfandiari.
"The selections show that poker has a mass fan base that is knowledgeable about the history of the World Series of Poker," said Ty Stewart, World Series of Poker vice president.
The World Series awarded automatic bids to past Tournament of Champions winners Annie Duke, Mike Matusow and Mike Sexton. Joe Cada and Barry Shulman are also in by virtue of winning last year's Main Event and Main Event Europe, respectively.
The two final slots went to sponsor exemptions. Bertrand "Elky" Grospellier won a one-table playoff to earn the World Series of Poker Academy's exemption, and Andrew Barton won a United Kingdom online competition through wsop.com.
Out of the 27 participants, nine will make the money. The winner will score $500,000. Second takes $250,000. Third is $100,000 and fourth through ninth earn $25,000.
"We are very pleased with the response to this new format," Stewart said.
ESPN will air the Tournament of Champions as part of its 2010 World Series of Poker coverage.
Carnival lasts all year at the Rio. With a float occasionally passing overhead and dropping beads while feathered dancers fire up the gamblers below, the Rio tries to keep its 120,000-square foot casino jumping with excitement. Special Brazilian mixed-drinks are also served throughout the casino. The hotel suites tend to be larger than similar priced rooms on the Strip and many offer excellent views with floor to ceiling windows.
The Rio offers some quality shows like "Penn & Teller" and "Chippendales." Many come to the Rio for the nightlife at the VooDoo Lounge, located on the 51st floor, or McFadden's Irish Pub on the casino level.
Others come for a bit relaxation at the Rio Spa or pool area and still others come to shop at the hotel's 60,000 square feet of shops. In each of these endeavors, the Rio attempts to make the experience a bit more fun and spontaneous.
The Rio also offers guests a variety of dining choices from all-American food at the All-American Bar & Grille to Gaylord India Restaurant for something a little spicier and even Carnival World Buffet for the indecisive.