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The World Series of Poker is always coming up with new ideas and formats to keep the yearly poker mecca fresh and exciting. Alongside a raft of new features for the 2010 WSOP, an old favorite is set to re-take the stage. The WSOP Tournament of Champions will have it’s very own 2010 edition, with increased TV coverage, big-money players, and unprecedented fan interaction. The popular tournament debuted in 2004 and ran for three years until 2006. It has long been a leading candidate for revival, and the WSOP team felt that 2010 was the right time to dust off this invitational centerpiece and return it to pride of place on the World Series schedule.

The new Tournament of Champions will pit 27 former bracelet winners against each other in a $1 million freeroll. Two of these spots are reserved for sponsors, who may use them to draft in stars who have yet to win a bracelet. Also confirmed is the 2009 WSOP Champion Joe Cada, who will still be the reigning world champion when the tournament begins. Alongside him will be the WSOP Europe Main Event winner Barry Shulman and the three previous winners of the Tournament of Champions: Mike Sexton (2006), Mike Matusow (2005), and Annie Duke (2004). The remaining 20 places are open to any of the 512 living bracelet winners.

The decision on who gets to play is being left to the poker-loving public. Head over to the WSOP website to register and pick your own dream 20. So long as there’s still breath in their body, anyone who has won a bracelet in the WSOP’s 40-year history is up for consideration. Letting the fans choose who they want to see at the table may result in some worthy players missing out on a seat, but it should make for one of the most entertaining tournaments in recent memory. Voting has already begun and concludes at midnight on June 15th.

You can take a look at the current Top 50, less than half of whom will eventually make it into the event. At the time of going to press, there are plenty of big names on the list, many of whom must be shoe-ins for a seat. A selection of the high-profile players currently leading the race includes: Johnny Chan, Peter Eastgate, Doyle Brunson, Antonio Esfandiari, Dario Minieri, Erick Lindgren, Huck Seed, Jeff Lisandro, Phil Ivey, Joe Hachem, Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, Phill Hellmuth, Chris Moneymaker, Allen Cunningham, Erik Seidel, Jason Mercier, Daniel Negreanu, John Juanda, Barry Greenstein, Scotty Nguyen, and Annette Obrestad. There are few more obscure characters on the list, including the legendary Amarillo Slim, who has been largely absent from the poker scene in recent years. Costa Rican Humberto Brenes undoubtedly has the skill to qualify, but given his lack of TV exposure, it’s a surprise to see him up with these well known superstars. Other outside bets who have snuck into the Top 50 include 27-year-old double bracelet winner Daniel Alaei, 2008 Limit Hold ‘em Championship winner Rob Hollink, and veteran Chinese grinder Chau Giang.

“Winning the ToC marks one of the most memorable events in my poker career and I’m ecstatic that the WSOP is hosting this prestigious event,” announced Annie Duke. She’ll have another shot at taking down that title on June 27th, when the 27 entrants will play down to a final table. There will then be a mini – November Nine style – delay until Jun 4th, when the tournament will conclude, the day before the Main Event gets underway. The Tournament of Champions will be filmed by ESPN and turned into a two-hour dedicated broadcast, due to air on August 3rd. The tournament has no buy-in and will not award a bracelet, but it does carry a hefty $1,000,000 prize pool. The winner will pick up $500,000, with $250,000 and $100,000 for 2nd and 3rd respectively. The remaining prize money will be split into $25,000 chunks from 4th down to 9th.