Subject: World Series of Poker
Road Trip Report
by RJ Haney
To start off this road report, a little bit of
back-story is in order. I used to live in Vegas; moved there
just before the Mirage broke ground in 1988 and
for 10 years I watched the birth of ďNew VegasĒ.
When I moved on, Vegas didnít look anything like
what it did when I visited for the first time.
Living there, I learned there are two types of
residents, those that gamble too much and those that
donít gamble much, if at all. I fortunately
fall into the latter category. So, since I moved away,
I have only been back to Vegas one other time,
for Bartfest in 2002.
Flying in, it was a bit turbulent and the plane
was coming in on an unusual approach, north/south rather
than east/west. As the plane was making
a turn south of the Strip to line up, I wasnít prepared for
what I was about to see. I had great view
of the Strip from a few thousand feet up, only problem was,
I didnít recognize it. And I donít just
mean a little, it wasnít anything like what it was before.
Yeah sure, the MGM, Luxor, Excalibur and Stratosphere
were still easily visible, but in the center of
the Strip corridor, lots of new, bigger properties
had sprung up. These buildings arenít just big, theyíre huge.
And this monstrosity called the ďCityCenterĒ
is being built right in the middle of it all. Itís a combination
urban village, resort, casino, residence and
retail. Anyway, I get off the plane, walk onto the jet
into Vegasí oppressive heat, itís about 98 degrees
on Saturday. And donít let anyone fool you and tell you,
"oh, itís just a dry heat." When the mercury
tops 110 degrees, itís hot, dry or not. Iím happy it never got
that hot during this trip.
My plane arrives in Vegas just about the time
Bart is sitting down to his first hands of poker, so off to the
hotel to check in and then its time to go to
the Rio and watch some WSOP action. As Iím heading towards
the Rio, I give Bart a call, and leave a message
to let him know Iím in town. During a short break he gets
back to me and lets me know heís on table 259
and gives me some directions towards where he is at.
I figure things are in the convention center
and was surprised there werenít more signs pointing towards
The World Series of Poker when youíre at the
casino floor of the Rio. Youíd think it was just another
convention to them.
So here I am, ground zero of the poker world,
walking the hallways past booths of people hawking
everything poker related from cards, chips and
apparel, to books and videos. You name it, somebody is
probably selling it somewhere around here.
And Iím hunting around for table 259. Give me a break!!
You know how many tables there are here? Thousands,
literally thousands, ok maybe not that many,
it just seemed like it. In the quick call
I had with Bart, he gave me some really reasonable directions
through the maze and I found the ďBrasiliaĒ room
The first thing I noticed is how orderly and
organized everything is in here. The tables are all boxed up
nicely with each ďboxĒ having 6 rows by 4 columns
of tables. And 4 boxes of these 24 tables are in
the Brasilia room. Each table has 10 players,
so in this one room there are about 960 players.
Even though you hear a low mummer of voices,
the biggest sound you hear is the clicking of poker chips.
Itís constant and never ending. You have
nearly 100 tables of players making bets, raising, calling and
if nothing else, the nervous tick of players
playing with their chips. Itís not annoying, but itís inescapable.
As I arrive, theyíre getting close to finishing
up the 3rd hour of play and Bart is still in it, I take that as
a good sign, as it certainly would have been
disappointing to find out Bart had already been knocked out
of the tournament before I even made it over.
They have these boxes of tables roped off and spectators can
walk around and watch the people playing.
There are all types of players here; the Unabomber types
wearing hoodies and sunglasses, or ones wearing
big headphones to drown out the sounds of everything,
the sports jersey wearing ones and the normal
ones too. I found Bartís table and do a walk by so Bart
can see Iíve made it, trying not to disturb him.
From here I keep an eye on him but walk around to
soak it all in. Unlike a casino floor,
there are no really loud noises, nobody is cheering wildly when they
get a good hand. Itís just a well oiled
machine of players playing hand after hand after hand of poker.
Yeah, every once in awhile you hear a commotion,
but itís the exception, not the rule.
Finally I see Bart take a quick break and I catch
up with him. He tells me everyone started with 3000
chips and during the first two hours he was slowly
but steadily losing them and got down to about 2000.
He realized he was quickly working his way out
of the tournament and needed a change, so after the first
official break at the end of the second hour
he started playing more aggressively (I think he used the
term crazy) and worked his way up to about 12K
of chips during that third hour. For that early in the
tournament, Bart is doing pretty good.
Theyíre not keeping any kind of a leader board, but Iím guessing
his chip stack is decent.
There were about 6000 entrants into this particular
tournament and about half or 3000 played on the
first of two Day 1s. In the Brasilia room,
about 70 tables were used (the rest were being used for
satellite tournaments) so there were about 700
players here, there were probably 3 other rooms of
players playing this tournament as well. At the
start of the fourth hour, people are getting knocked out
of the tournament at a good pace and theyíre
starting to condense tables. As weíre getting closer to
the end of the 4th hour, I finally catch up with
Mrs. Bart, it was great seeing her again. At the end of
the 4th hour and another official break, Bartís
table is the next to be condensed and heíll be moving.
Heís holding his own and if he just plays conservatively,
heíll make it to Day 2 on Monday, but that
nice chip stack he has now wonít look so good
against who will be left if he continues plays that way.
I hadnít had much to eat, so as Bart starts his
fifth hour, Iím going to get dinner. I havenít seen any of
the big pros yet and I figure Iíll walk around
a little, find some of the other tournaments that are going on
and maybe spot a pro or two. As I walk
out into the hallway and turn the corner, who is the first one I see
but Mike ďThe MouthĒ Matusow. Heís at a
table with a crowd around him and a microphone in his hand
and thatís a dangerous combination. He
looks like he was doing a question and answer session and the first
thing I hear from him was .... ďAnd what hand
was I fucked in the ass with and knocked out of the tournament?Ē
What a way to get an introduction to him, eh?
He was in the 40 grand entry fee tournament and apparently
had just gotten knocked out. I walked away
shaking my head. The guy is so low rent.
Before dinner, I found what was left of the $40,000
entry fee tournament and they were down to two tables.
The only big name I recognized at those tables
was Fossil-Man Raymer, though a few others looked familiar.
Now this is what it was all about, the lights,
the TV cameras, and the crowd around the table. Whenever there
was a big hand the crowd buzzed and even roared.
The one thing that is really different from watching it on TV
was you donít know what the players have in their
hands, so unless there is a showdown, you donít know who
made the right move, all you see is the transfer
of chips. Itís not a letdown, itís just different.
I did dinner at the Rioís ďWorld BuffetĒ, itís
not bad. The quality of the food is good enough, but whatís nice
about the buffet is you can eat sushi, Mexican,
Chinese, seafood, American, Italian and the list goes on.
The buffet isnít really about the quality, but
the variety, not that itís bad quality, Iíve just had better.
If you canít find something you like here, youíre
just not hungry.
I get back as the 6th hour is finishing up and
theyíre about to go on dinner break. Perry, a friend of Bartís,
is also playing and had decided to make reservations
at the Voodoo Cafe. Itís a fancy place up on the
50th floor of the Rioís Masquerade Tower.
Even with the little time I met Perry, I can tell he doesnít just live
he savors it. There will always be something
going on around him, if there isnít, heíll get it started. From the
you can go up to the 51st floor and out on an
outdoor patio. Itís got an amazing view of Las Vegas and as
the sun was setting, it was just stunning.
As weíre drinking a little champagne and theyíre
ordering dinner, the conversation turns to the tournament
and we find out Bart is down to about 8K in chips
and he realizes he canít just coast into Day 2. Granted heís
got enough chips, but at the start of the 6th
hour, there isnít just a big blind and a small blind anymore, but
there is now an ante as well. And if he
tries to just coasts, heís going to fizzle out. It worked earlier
in the day,
we were all hoping it would work again.
As I had already eaten dinner, I left as the food was about to arrive,
so much else to see and do in Sin City.
Unfortunately, all good things have to come to
an end ... as Bart was trying to position himself to be in
good shape for Monday, but it was not to be.
It didnít take long in the 7th hour of more aggressive play
to bust out, going all in with 2 pair and losing
to a bigger 2 pair. Iím sure heís learned a lot about the tournament
and himself, but heíll have to tell us about
that and Iím sure weíll hear more from him over the next weeks.
If youíve never been to a WSOP tournament, itís
worth coming to Vegas to see it.
Next year, Iím not just going to be a spectator,
but a player as well.
RJ, nomadic pillar
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