How to Play the WSOP Main Event Without Paying $10,000

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2023 WSOP Main Event
Image: Pokerfuse/Lauren DeLuca

The WSOP Main Event is the most prestigious tournament in the entire poker world.

Winning the World Series of Poker Main Event is practically every poker player’s dream, though few actually ever get a chance to play it, due to a number of factors, including cost, location, and timing.

Fortunately, I am going to play the WSOP Main Event in Las Vegas for the first time this summer and I’m here to tell you the different ways you can play without footing the entire bill.

Trust me, I don’t have $10,000 for a single tournament.

How Much is it to Enter the WSOP Main Event?

The number one reason that people don’t play the WSOP Main Event is cost. Just to buy into the tournament alone is a whopping $10,000.

That’s right: Ten thousand dollars.

Not only that, you’ll have to pay for a round-trip ticket to Las Vegas, accommodations for up to two weeks, and all other costs associated with being out of town like food, drinks, and entertainment.

You’ll likely also need to spend money on transportation to get to and from the World Series of Poker, which is held at the connected Horseshoe Las Vegas and Paris Las Vegas casinos.

The 2024 World Series of Poker begins on May 28 and runs all the way to July 17, with a grand total of 99 different tournaments on offer.

The large majority of people who play the WSOP Main Event (July 3 – July 17) get there before the Main Event in order to enjoy the city while also playing in a number of other poker tournaments, meaning the trip is even more expensive.

Can Anyone Play in the WSOP Main Event?

Yes, the World Series of Poker Main Event and the other WSOP tournaments are open to the public.

Last year, 10,043 players entered with the top 1,507 players making at least a min-cash of $15,000. Champion Daniel Weinman took home a WSOP Main Event-record $12,100,000.

There are some restrictions as you must be 21 years of age and older. If you wish to register for a WSOP tournament or play in live-action games you must have a Caesars Rewards Card.

You can get your Caesars Rewards Card at Caesars Entertainment Properties in the US, or by visiting the Caesars Rewards Desk in the WSOP Tournament Area.

You’ll need to present a valid photo ID in order to do so. The process is quick and usually takes less than five minutes.

Once you are all set, you can play any World Series of Poker tournament event that you desire as long as you can pay the buy-in using any number of accepted payment methods.

The WSOP Main Event costs $10,000 and you must pay that money either in cash, credit card (Visa, MasterCard or Discover card 2.95% fee, American Express 3.95% fee, international 3.5% fee), or wire transfer/ACH through Bravo Tournament Buy-In Credits.

There are some tournaments that are not available to the general public, however, such as the WSOP Tournament of Champions (only eligible to bracelet and ring winners from the previous year), the Casino Employees event, Seniors and Seniors High Roller events (must be 50 or older), and the Super Seniors event (must be 60 or older).

Anyone can play the $10,000 Ladies No-Limit Hold’em Championship, though those who are identified as a woman on their official identification will have their buy-in discounted to $1,000.

If you’re interested in learning more about how poker tournaments work, check out our dedicated guide.

How to Play the WSOP Main Event Without Paying $10,000

$10,000 bill
Image: Heritage Auctions

1. Win a Satellite

Winning a seat in the World Series of Poker Main Event is as simple as winning a satellite.

Satellites are poker tournaments that do not award cash prizes. Instead, they award either seats or a full package to a more expensive event.

There are a plethora of WSOP Main Event satellites that are available to players both live and online, though you may be short on choice depending on where you live.

There are even what they call “step satellites” that allow you to satellite into a larger satellite in order to chase the dream at a severely reduced price.

I have a friend in Brazil who just recently won a WSOP Main Event package starting from a $20 step satellite.

Even better, sometimes these satellites will offer you a full package, either providing travel and accommodation or flat-out giving you cash to cover these fees.

The only downside of a satellite is that they are still longshots and the odds are much longer the cheaper the satellite is.

For example, a $500 satellite means that about 1 in 20 players will win a seat into the WSOP Main Event while a $100 satellite will only give a seat to 1 in 100.

If you’re short on cash, this may not be the way to go but if you’re already a good poker player and are planning to spend $10,000 to play the Main Event, playing a few on the $500 and $1,000 satellites will almost certainly get you into the WSOP Main Event at a discounted price.

It’s worth remembering that, in 2003, Chris Moneymaker famously won his seat into the World Series of Poker Main Event for just $86 via a single-table step satellite. He went on to win a $650 satellite seat and won that to earn an entry to the $10,000 Main Event.

Of course, he would defeat Sam Farha heads-up to win the $2,500,000 grand prize and change poker history forever.

Chris Moneymaker. [Image: Champion Bets]

2. Have a Home Game Qualifier

If you already have a bunch of poker buddies you regularly play with, you can start a poker league with the top prize being a WSOP Main Event seat.

While $10,000 is a lot of money, if you have a group of 10 players and can each fork over $100 a week, you can make this happen.

An example of such a league would be that players pony up $100 a week for 10 weeks and play a single-table tournament each week.

A point system would reward players with a certain number of points for each finishing position. The person who earns the most points wins the $10,000, which goes directly towards a WSOP Main Event ticket.

Now, as it’s a home game, you must only play with people you trust and get all agreements in writing before starting a venture like this.

Some games award the winner the chance to play and keep a certain percentage of the money while everyone else in the league still gets a piece of the pie due to their investment.

Considering that the top prize is surely over $12M, these kinds of things should be in writing and signed.

You’ll also need someone who handles the money, keeps track of the weekly score, and runs the tournament. Someone will have to run point who is not only organized, but trustworthy as well.

3. Get Staked

Staking means that someone or a group of people will buy a percentage of your buy-in so that you can play the WSOP Main Event for cheap.

In normal circumstances, whatever percentage of action that they buy off of you will be the percentage of profit you will get.

Staking is much more viable when you are an established and profitable player.

If you’re able to consistently produce results, friends and the poker community as a whole will not just be willing to buy your action, they will also pay a premium to do so called “markup”.

Markup is a premium charged by a player to investors that is usually based on skill.

For example, if someone is selling their $10,000 WSOP Main Event at 25% markup, then people will be buying their action as if it were a $12,500 tournament. Buying 10% of their WSOP Main Event would cost $1,250 instead of the real price point of $1,000.

If you’re an amateur, unfortunately, it’s going to be just about impossible to charge markup.

It will also be very difficult to get a portion of your $10,000 buy-in covered at face value unless you know some very wealthy people and/or friends that are willing to gamble on you.

Personally, I have sold action to a total of 19 different people to cover a total of 67% of my WSOP Main Event at 25% markup.

While I only get to keep 33% of whatever I win, I am only paying a total of $1,625 (16.25%) to play in a $10,000 tournament, the most prestigious tournament in the world. It’s a pretty great deal.

If the grand prize is over $12M and I win, I’m still going to pocket over $4M and be absolutely set for the rest of my poker career. I’m not going to complain about that.

You may ask why any professional poker player would sell action and the answer to that is simply to reduce the variance.

The WSOP Main Event is a one-off tournament and the results of a single tournament, no matter the player, is almost certainly based on luck.

Profiting over thousands and thousands of tournaments at the best online poker sites and in live action is generally how skill is measured.

Even if you have $1M as your poker bankroll, it isn’t smart to spend $10,000 of your own money on a single tournament.

1% of your bankroll would only be smart if you were practicing aggressive bankroll management for tournaments that go up to 300 players.

Conclusion

As you can see, it’s very possible that you can play the WSOP Main Event for under $10,000 in a myriad of ways.

Believe me, I know from first-hand experience and it will truly be an honor to play this event.

And who knows, maybe I’ll find you on my table in the next few years?

Blaise Bourgeois
Poker and Gambling Expert
Blaise Bourgeois
Poker and Gambling Expert

Blaise is an Expert Gambling Writer and a professional poker player in Brazil. He has played and traveled throughout Latin America for the last four-and-a-half years and recently won his first WSOP Circuit ring! He received his Master's in Sport Management and Sports Analytics from St. John's University. Blaise also holds a Mathematics and Computer Science degree from SUNY Purchase, where he still holds the school's Men's Soccer record for goals in a season. Blaise has worked for Catena Media, OddsSeeker, WSOP, PokerNews, and Poker.Org in various capacities. He has a passion for extensive research and aims to provide accurate…