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WSOP Hype!

If you ever want to see a poker pro's eyes light up like he's the guest of honor at a surprise party, just mention the World Series of Poker. Even the most hard-nosed, battle-hardened, poker-is-just-a-job types can't help but get a little giddy as the first event approaches. Like little kids waiting for Santa, pros has that date circled on their mental calendars all year long. Think of it: Forty-five events over six weeks against the best in the world! And each event as tempting as a newly wrapped gift.

With lots of chips for your buck, small blind increases and long intervals between bumps WSOP events are a dream come true for the poker elite and those hoping to take that next step. The longer the event, the greater the advantage for the skillful player. No wonder the great ones are like kids in a candy store just thinking about it.

From the times the Main Event ends to when the first event begins the following year, thoughts of the next Series are always there, lurking in the recesses of that roiling pro consciousness. If, during the past year, anyone was foolish enough to ask a serious player if he or she could do something between June 26 and August 10 of 2006, that query would have certainly been met with a blank stare, then a quizzical look as the pro recalled why those weeks are off-limits, "Uh, I can't. That's the World Series." And the fool would, of course, then understand.

As the event nears, the preoccupation with the Series can become overwhelming. Like flowers blooming in the spring, top players start getting their game faces on months before they have to start riffling chips. They talk of getting in shape and heading to the gym, knowing they face long, grueling hours at the table in poker's ultimate marathon. The Main Event takes "Two Weeks" but the other tournaments are multiday as well. And the slightest weakness in mental or physical stamina is an edge for the other guy, an edge that could be the difference between glory and a lifetime of regret.

For the truly committed, running replaces partying. When it doesn't, their hangover is tinged with guilt as thoughts turn to the long odds of winning a bracelet even under the best of conditions. Nights on the town are replaced by hours of solitary thought about fresh strategies and the lonely mulling of last year's mistakes and beats.

If you know someone who has become quiet, preoccupied, often lost in thought or fraught with nervous anticipation during the past month, you may have a victim of braceletitis on your hands. The waiting can be excruciating, and it's finally over. But don't be shocked if you see a hard-bitten pro get goosebumps and butterflies when he or she looks across the expanse of hundreds of tables and thousands of chip-shuffling players and hears: "Dealers, shuffle up and deal!"

Enjoy the World Series. See you at the final table!

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