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The 41st annual World Series of Poker may still be more than 6 months away, but the dynamic team behind the scenes is nothing if not prepared. The full schedule for next year’s most prestigious poker event has been released, with 57 bracelet tournaments packed into a month and a half.

Action will get underway on May 27th, with a flurry of satellites and the traditional Casino Employees tournament. A day later, the first open event of the 2010 WSOP looks set to kick things off in style. Since its creation in 2006, the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. was considered by the pros to be the most effective test of a poker players abilities. The first iteration was won by one of the all time greats, Chip Reese. His death shortly after that victory lead to the creation of a commemorative Chip Reese Memorial Trophy.

In 2010, the $50k H.O.R.S.E. is no more, replaced by an even more challenging Mixed Event. The new Player’s Championship has been crafted with the aid of the Player’s Advisory Council and is slated to be the ultimate test of all round poker tournament prowess. It still boasts the $50,000 buy-in and awards the Chip Reese trophy to the winner. The game will rotate between Limit Hold ’em, Omaha Hi-Low Split-8 or Better, Seven Card Razz, Seven Card Stud, Seven Card Stud Hi-Low Split-8 or better, No-Limit Hold’em, Pot-Limit Omaha, and 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball. The game changes permanently to No Limit Hold ‘em for the final table, so that it can be easily broadcast on ESPN.

ESPN has not yet completely decided which events they will be covering, but thanks to a deal inked by former commissioner Jeffery Pollack, they are committed to the WSOP for years to come. Their regular television broadcasts are sure to feature one or more of the new $1,000 No Limit Hold ‘em tournaments that appear all across the 57-event schedule. Last year’s $1k ‘Stimulus Special’ attracted in a massive 6,012 players – a record for a non-Main Event tournament. Next year, there are $1k NLHE tournaments on 5 consecutive weekends from May 29th to Jun 27, and then another on July 1st.

The whole of the World Series builds towards the Main Event, which returns in 2010 largely unchanged. It will begin on Monday, July 5th and run until July 7th, before returning with the November Nine from Nov. 6th-9th. The WSOP is now taking up the entire convention area at the Rio, so there’s even more space to build a record breaking crowd. On Day 1D of last year’s Main Event, hundreds of players were shut out. To avoid similar problems this year, players are strongly advised to register early. The WSOP is also setting a time limit, after which competitors will not be able to select their preferred starting day. Pre-registration is open for all events now, either in person at the Rio or online at www.WSOP.com.

A far reaching change, which will effect absolutely every event, is the introduction of strict timing limits. Every event now covers at least two days and can only feature a certain number of levels. The first tournament of the day will begin at noon and run for a maximum of 10 hours. The second event of the day will start at 5 p.m. and run for no longer than 8 hours. This means that the two flights should be finished by 12:45 a.m. and 2:45 a.m. respectively. Last year, marathon sessions running until 6 and even 8 a.m. were not unheard of. Returning for Day 2, the noon events will restart at 2:30 p.m. and the 5 o’clock tournaments at 3 p.m. – except for the Main Event, which starts at noon every day.

As ever there’s a tournament for every kind of poker, with No Limit Hold ‘em easily the most popular. Making a welcome return are shootout, lowball, Heads-Up, and Triple Chance events, along with the Ante Up For Africa charity tournament. A $10k H.O.R.S.E. championship will be featured, alongside the traditional Ladies and Seniors events. As with last year, there are no rebuys, although six PLO and PLO 8 or better events will have a fixed number of rebuys included in the buy-in. The full schedule can be viewed here.