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September 20, 2018

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World Series of Poker tournament kicks off at Rio

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Steve Marcus

Scott Blumstein of the U.S. poses with his championship bracelet and cards after winning the World Series of Poker Main Event in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S., July 23, 2017.

Updated Tuesday, May 29, 2018 | 5:50 p.m.

The 2018 edition of the World Series of Poker opened Tuesday in Las Vegas with 78 high-stakes card tournaments expected to again draw tens of thousands of players and break an attendance record thanks in part to regulatory changes.

New to this series will be the use of a big blind ante format for some events and the participation of New Jersey poker players from the comfort of their homes in online tournaments. Buy-ins for the 50-day tournament with millions of dollars in prize money and gold championship bracelets range from $365 to $1 million.

Tournament spokesman Seth Palansky said the poker extravaganza anticipates it will surpass last year's record 120,995 entrants partially because players in New Jersey will be able to participate in four online-only events after gambling regulators earlier this month approved the pooling of players in that state and Nevada to compete with each other.

In addition, the series this year will not have to compete with another event that attracts thousands of people to Las Vegas, the Electric Daisy Carnival music festival, whose typical June schedule was moved to May.

"It is certainly possible. We are set up to do so," Palansky said of the anticipated attendance record. "We have a lot of big events on the calendar, a lot of juicy prize pools."

The series will run through July 17 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino. Its first event is a $565 casino employees' game, a sort of warm-up for organizers. ESPN and PokerGO will again provide live coverage of the tournament's famed no-limit Texas Hold'em main event

Some events this year will feature a big blind ante format designed to help speed up the game. During these games, instead of each player anteing before the hand, only the player in the big blind position will ante.

"In regular poker, to force betting, each person puts in an ante," Palansky said. "We've changed some tournaments where one person essentially pays everyone's ante at once. So, when you are in a particular spot at the table, you pay everyone's ante and the rest of the time you don't pay any ante at all. If the ante is a chip value of 100, that person may put in 900 for all nine players. "

The main event will kick off July 2. Unlike last year, the final nine players will not get a two-day break between when the table is set and when play begins.

Last year, Scott Blumstein of New Jersey took home the $8.1 million event prize after he bested more than 7,200 competitors at the main event. Blumstein also received a gold bracelet with diamonds and other gemstones.