World Series Of Blackjack

Published: June 28, 2013

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The biggest live poker tournament, the World Series of Poker, is presently under way in Las Vegas. This event has been running annually for over four decades and enjoys fantastic media coverage and global participation. What is not as well known is that there was an attempt to create a similar event in blackjack. The cable network GSN held the first event of the World Series of Blackjack (WSOB) in 2004. The final event was held in 2007. WSOB was discontinued thereafter probably because GSN did not find it commercially viable.

WSOB 2007 was the grandest event of the four. It was held at the Hilton Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip, the same venue as WSOB 2006. The prize pool was also maintained at the WSOB 2006 level, with the top winner taking home $500,000. In one final attempt to popularize the event WSOB 2007 had celebrity participants. These included actor and sex symbol Shannon Elizabeth, poker professional Tiffany Michelle, champion blackjack player Caroline Rhea, baseball star Orel Hershiser and magician Penn Jillette. Winners of earlier WSOB events Ken Einiger and Dr. Jeff Bernstein also participated. WSOB 2007 was won by Alice Walker, who had earlier won GSN’s million dollar three card poker championship.

The blackjack rules for WSOB 2007 were as follows. These were a bit different from the rules prevalent in the earlier seasons. Cards were dealt from a six deck shoe. Players began with a chip stack of $100,000. The minimum bet was $1,000 and the maximum bet was $50,000. Players could double down on any two cards. Players were allowed to surrender, but had to pay half their bet. The dealer stood on all hand values of 17. In a major departure from the normal blackjack rules, players were allowed to split and double down for less than their ante bet. When a player did not have enough chips to cover the minimum bet, he or she was eliminated immediately. The player with the most chips after 25 hands was declared the winner of that round.

The WSOB was conceived for television audiences and three special rules were included to create excitement in television viewing. A Knockout Card was included in the deck. When this card was dealt, the player with the least chips was eliminated immediately. A Power Chip was given to each player. The player could use this chip one time only to replace one of his cards with the next card in the shoe. The Second Chance rule allowed eliminated players to get another chance to reenter through a lucky draw. The 5th place finishers in the earlier rounds got 1 ticket, 4th place finishers got 2 tickets and 3rd place finishers got 3 tickets for the draw.

The first WSOB event in 2004 had a starting field of 25 players only and was held at the Mohegan Sun Casino & Resort. Mike Aponte, of the famous MIT blackjack team, won the first prize of $100,000. WSOB 2005 was held at the Golden Nugget Casino in downtown Las Vegas. The starting field had increased to 40 and therefore the prize pool was also increased. The first prize for this event was $250,000. Aponte was unable to defend his title, losing in the preliminary round. WSOB 2005 WSOB was won by Ken Einiger. WSOB 2006 at the Hilton was won by Bernstein.


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