The stage is Set at the Rio for World Series of Poker

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(Associated Press) - While it might seem as though the latest World Series of Poker champion was crowned only last week (actually, it was in November), it’s already time to look for the next champ. The 48th World Series of Poker is underway at the Rio in Las Vegas, where a record 74 “bracelet events” will be contested over the next two months.

The Main Event begins July 8, and for the first time in almost a decade, it will be concluded without the long three-month layoff before the playing of the final table. This year there will be only a two-day delay, and the champion will be determined July 22.

All finalists are guaranteed a minimum $1 million prize. Viewing of all tournaments is free and open to the public.

Strip food court: The 13,000-square-foot Boulevard Food Court has opened on the South Strip, just north of the giant Coke bottle. Among its nine tenants is El Dorado Express, a satellite of the El Dorado Cantina; Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf; and Reb Dog.

Summer concerts at FSE: The Fremont Street Experience’s Downtown Rocks Summer Concert Series will present several big-name musical artists this year. The free concerts, which run mostly on weekends throughout the summer, will feature:

Saturday: Fuel, Tonic, Marcy Playground, Dishwalla.

July 3: Ann Wilson.

July 22: Good Charlotte.

Aug. 12: Rick Springfield.

Aug. 26: Seether.

Sept. 1: Collective Soul.

Sept. 30: Chevelle.

Question: I’m coming to town this month for the World Series of Poker. Are other casinos running tournaments with lower buy-ins again this year?

Answer: While most WSOP buy-ins are $1,500 and up, there will be many events with buy-ins below $500 in the alternative tournaments at Binion’s, Golden Nugget, Planet Hollywood and Venetian, all of which are already in progress. And you’ll find even more affordable tourneys in the smaller poker rooms around town.

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