Event #1 of the 2021 WSOP is the $500 Casino Employees tournament. This No-Limit Hold’em event started on Thursday, September 30, and was scheduled to run for two days. This tournament was not open to the public and was only open to casino employees, dealers, and invited members of the poker media.
The $500 Casino Employees No-Limit Hold’em tournament first appeared at the start of the 2009 World Series of Poker. It has featured as the kickoff event for the WSOP in every year since. This year, the WSOP opening carried a little extra weight after the coronavirus pandemic shut the series down in 2020. Plus, this is the last year the WSOP will be held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. Local poker dealer James “Jimmy” Barnett came away with the victory, taking home $39,013 and his first WSOP gold bracelet.
Jimmy Barnett’s Instagram page says he is a poker dealer and grinder who lives in Vegas. Prior to his victory on Friday night, he had only five WSOP cashes to his name. The largest was a 49th place finish in a 2019 WSOP $600 Deepstack for $7,315. That’s the biggest cash of Barnett’s poker career, surpassing his previous best of $26,515 for a fifth-place finish in a $250,000 guaranteed event at the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino in 2018.
The Casino Employees event drew 686 runners in 2019 to generate a prize pool of $298,410. Nicholas Haynes, a dealer in the ARIA Resort & Casino poker room, won the event to earn his first WSOP gold bracelet and the tournament’s top cash prize of $62,345.