Las Vegas is on the final countdown to the 38th World Series of Poker, where dreams are made and broken many times over every year.
The 2007 tournament launches June 1 and annually brings hordes of visitors from throughout the Americas as well as foreign lands to Southern Nevada's dazzling desert gaming oasis.
Coveted gold bracelets will be awarded in 55 events, with buy-ins ranging up to $50,000.
The $10,000 Texas No-Limit Hold'em main event will begin on Friday, July 6, and run through Tuesday, July 17, at the Rio Hotel and Casino's cavernous Convention Center.
Word earlier in the year was Uncle Sam's crackdown on offshore Internet poker rooms combined with sponsor Harrah's buckling under to federal pressure would cause main-event attendance to plummet significantly in 2007, but the grapevine now says it could top last year's record 8,700-plus.
Instead of a WSOP seat, some sites now give their tournament winners cash and permit individuals to decide whether to keep the money or buy into the WSOP's main event.
Current talk is the number of entrants in the $10,000 Texas No-Limit Hold'em tournament could be as high as 10,000, that the Rio is preparing for 9,000 and that poker's biggest annual event will far exceed the 2,500 figure that was bandied about earlier.
A poster on one popular local sports gambling forum pegged the turnout total at 7,775 and responses indicated readers considered that an appropriate over/under.
Meanwhile, odds on WSOP pro participants have started to pop up at bookmaking firms across the world, especially in the United Kingdom, which sends large contigents of players and media representatives to Sin City every year.
Bodog.com in Antigua has posted a rainbow of WSOP propositions, including one that involves Internet-ranked players, while Costa Rica-based BetUS.com, which, like Bodog, has held off on hanging a full slate of odds-to-win, is offering odds on players to reach the final table of nine, and what the winning hand will be.
Silver State sportsbooks aren't allowed to post World Series odds, though Binion's Horseshoe -- where the tournament was founded -- put them up in the past.
Bet365 (150/1) and SportingOdds (100/1) both have Las Vegan Phil Ivey, the "Tiger Woods of Poker," as a solid favorite, followed by Daniel Negreanu and former champion Phil Hellmuth.
Canadian-born Negreanu and 10-time bracelet winner Hellmuth are both 200/1 at Bet365 and 150/1 at Sporting Odds.
Bet365 has Allen Cunningham, who grabbed fourth last year, at 400/1, while SportingOdds lists him at 150/1.
Controversial Hollywood-connected Jamie Gold, who totally dominated main event play last in 2006, was 500/1 at Bet365, but not included on the SportingOdds roster.
Among females, both books put up Annie Duke at 500/1, but Bet365 posted Jennifer Harman at 600/1 and SportingOdds opened the Vegas star at 250/1.
Prices on top contenders ran better for gamblers at Bet365, with bettors receiving more favorable numbers on middle-of-the-pack players at SportingOdds.
Also, Bet365 listed odds on considerably more pros than its competitor.
Bet365, StanJames and Betfair feature a separate prop on which woman contestant will last the longest in the $10,000 Texas No-Limit Hold'em tournament.
Harman is the choice at all three at 9/1, 9/1 and 21/2 respectively.
Duke went up at 9/1, 12/1 and 31/2.
J.J. Liu wasn't on the board early this week at Bet 365 and Betfair, but was 12/1 at StanJames, while Cyndy Violette was 12/1 at Bet365 and off the board at the other two.
Kathy Leibert was 14/1, 16/1 and 20/1, while Evelyn Ng, another Canadian native, was 18/1, 20/1 and 26/1.
Among Hollywood actresses, Shannon Elizabeth opened at 18/1, 25/1 and 39/1, while Jennifer Tilly, who won the WSOP ladies' night event in 2005, was 20/1, 25/1 and 37/1.
Bodog.com, which sponsored Gold and later severed ties with him after Gold became embroiled in a legal brouhaha, asks if any player will win two or more bracelets in 2007; Jeff Madsen and William Chen took home a pair each in 2006.
"No" is the favorite at minus $1.90, while "Yes" is plus $1.45.
Maximum wager on all Bodog WSOP props is $100.
Another Bodog prop asks which of a trio of standouts will win his 11th bracelet first this year.
None is an 11/10 favorite, while Hellmuth is 9/5, Johnny Chan is 3/1 and Doyle Brunson is 6/1.
Other Bodog props link players up in various categories, asking which players will pocket the most main-event earnings.
Barry Greenstein and stepson Joe Sebok are 3/2 choices in the "Family Ties" grouping.
Marc Traniello and wife Jennifer Harman and father and son Doyle and Todd Bruson are 5/2, with sister Annie Duke and brother Howard Lederer 3/1.
Todd Brunson is a minus $1.40 pick over even-money Doyle, his legendary father, in a one-on-one 'Who will last the longest?' main-event showdown.
Mike Matusow and 2004 champion Greg Raymer are both minus $1.20 in another.
A prop that asks which woman will last the longest lists Harman at 3/1, Liebert at 5/2, Duke at 11/2 and Tilly, Violette, Isabelle Mercier and Clonie Gowan all at 5/1.
Bodog has 10/1 odds that the 2007 overall champion will be a former winner and also has prices on which ex-champ will survive the longest, with Joe Hachem at 4/1, Chris Moneymaker at 11/1, Raymer at 7/2, Gold at 12/1, Doyle Brunson at 5/1, Hellmuth at 7/2, Ferguson at 11/2 and Juan Carlos Mortenson at 3/1.
Yet another prop inquires which former runnerup will remain in contention the longest.
Steve Dannenmann, Sam Farha and T.J. Cloutier opened at 5/1, with David Williams and Paul Wasicka at 5/2.
BetUS has Ivey as a plus $14.00 pick to reach the final table, followed by Negreanu at plus $18.00, Hellmuth and Cunningham at plus $25.00 and Chan and Gus Hansen at plus $30.00.
Bodog's winning hand props asks what the two hole cards will be.
A pair of red and a pair of black each are 2/1, while one of each is 2/3.
The winning hand BetUS prop ranges from two pair at plus $1.75 to a royal flush at plus $100,000.
One significant change at the 2007 WSOP is that the payout structure, which last year was designed around creating millionaires, has been changed at the behest of WSOP participants.
Players who finish lower on the money list will receive more, while those who make the final table will earn less than in 2006.