July 08, 2016

LAS VEGAS (AP) Daniel Negreanu is a poker hall-of-famer and two-time World Series of Poker player of the year. But he's never made it to the final table in the tournament's marquee Main Event in Las Vegas. Twice, in 2001 and 2015, he missed by just two seats.

This weekend, the 41-year-old who lives in Las Vegas will give it a 19th try.

''As long as I live, I'll never miss the Main Event,'' Negreanu said this week as play continued at the 47th annual tournament at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.

''It's such a spectacle,'' he said. ''It's the one the mainstream media pays attention to, and everyone's eyeballs in the industry are on that one event.''

Tournament officials project that as many as 7,000 players will ante up $10,000 each to buy in to the no-limit Texas Hold `Em competition when play begins with three opening stages Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

A final table of nine players is scheduled to emerge July 18 - and then take a break until Oct. 30, when they'll return for the Main Event championship through Nov. 1. Dates were moved this year to avoid conflicting with the U.S. presidential election, tournament official Seth Palansky said.

Poker pro Joe McKeehen, 25, of North Wales, Pennsylvania, won the gold bracelet last year and a $7.68 million top prize.

This year's Main Event is expected to attract past winners including Phil Hellmuth (1989), Scotty Nguyen (1998) and possibly Chris Ferguson (2000), along with other notables from the poker, sports and entertainment worlds, Palansky said.

Brazilian soccer star Neymar has qualified, and former Australian cricket star Shane Warne could play. Screen and television actors who may return include James Woods, Ray Romano, Brad Garrett and Jennifer Tilly, winner of a World Series of Poker women's event in 2005.

''Women have done very well in this tournament, but it has been 15 years since a woman made the final table,'' Palansky said. ''Will this be the year?''

The top-rated female poker pro in the world, Vanessa Selbst of Brooklyn, New York, could be a player to watch, Palansky said, along with Kristen Bicknell, from Ontario, Canada, and Loni Harwood of Staten Island, New York.

Bicknell already won a gold bracelet this year, topping a field of more than 2,100 players in the tournament's $1,500 no-limit hold'em bounty event.

Negreanu said it will be harder to navigate through a field of 7,000 players than in years past, when the field was several hundred. Just 350 players entered the first year he played, in 1998.

The winner also needs a little luck, he said.

Palansky said players this year will start with a stack of 50,000 chips, compared with 30,000 last year. Players like chips, he said. Chips have no monetary value in the tournament, but a player is eliminated when his or hers are gone.

The pool of winners will be 1,000 - like last year - or 15 percent of the entry field, whichever is greater.

''We paid 1,000 places in the Main Event last year for the first time,'' he said. ''It was so successful, we introduced it to all (69) events this year. This should have a nice halo effect for the Main Event, as more people should have the money to get into the granddaddy of all poker tournaments.''

Palansky said officials won't know until the final tables begin play on Monday whether the tournament will be affected by fluctuating values of the Euro and Canadian and Australian dollars following the United Kingdom vote last month to leave the European Union.

He said a large number of Main Event players come from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - third behind the U.S. and Canada.

''We draw a lot of players from the United Kingdom,'' Palansky said. ''We're wondering if the fence-sitters decide not to come.''

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