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World Series of Blackjack

By: Joe Valentino, Wednesday December 1st 2010
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The World Series of Blackjack (WSOB) was a series of televised blackjack tournaments created and organized by the cable network GSN. There were four tournaments held annually between 2004 and 2007. Thereafter the event was discontinued. WSOB was a closed even in which players were either invited to participate or won a seat through a satellite tournament.

The Season 1 in 2004 had a starting field of 25 players. The winner was Mike Aponte, who was a member of the famous MIT Team that made millions in the land casinos in the early 1990s. Aponte received a prize of $100,000. Mike Aponte was back in Season 2 in 2005 to defend his title, but could not make it past the preliminary rounds. Season 2 was won by Ken Einiger, who took home the increased purse of $250,000. From Season 2 the starting field was increased to 40. In Season 3 held in 2006 Dr. Jeff Bernstein won the grand prize of $500,000. Season 4 held in 2007 had some interesting participants. Shannon Elizabeth and Tiffany Michelle who are making waves in the poker world today were there. The starting field also included Celebrity Blackjack champion Caroline Rhea, baseball star Orel Hershiser and magician Penn Jillette. Previous winners Ken Einiger and Jeff Bernstein were among the participants. However, the winner was Alice Walker. She received $500,000 from the million dollar prize pool. Alice was earlier the winner of GSN's million dollar three card poker championship.

WSOB followed the standard land casino blackjack rules with some interesting and unique variations. The rules given below are based on Season 4. The game was played with a six deck shoe. Each player started with a chip stack of $100,000. The minimum bet was $1,000 and the maximum bet was $50,000. Players could split, double down and insure for less than their bet. Players could double down on any combination of pocket cards. Surrendering was allowed by giving up half the bet. If a player could not make the minimum bet, he or she was eliminated. Blackjack paid 3 to 2 and dealer stood on all soft 17s and higher. After 25 hands, the player with the most chips won.

What made WSOB exciting were the three special rules. A Knockout Card was shuffled into the deck and when it was dealt the player with the lowest total chip value was eliminated from that round. A special Power Chip was given to each player at the start of each game. The player could use the Power Chip to exchange one of their cards for the next card in the shoe. The third rule was the Second Chance rule. Each Wildcard game had 4 players that finished second at their respective tables. The fifth seat was filled by a 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 four seasons of WSOB have been played at three of the glitziest land casinos. Season 1 was held at The Mohegan Sun Casino & Resort. The second tournament held in 2005 was at the Golden Nugget Casino in downtown Las Vegas. The last two events were held at the Vegas Strip at the Hilton Hotel and Casino.

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