I’m still in Las Vegas as I write this post. On the 8th floor of the Jockey Club, with my family in the living room, and enjoying the tail end of our vacation, I decided to put some notes down about my trip to Vegas. We’re almost through with our hotel stay, and as I sit here in our bedroom, and look out at the Bellagio Water show on my right, I’m still a little bit in awe from what I saw while I was here in Vegas.
I’ve never been so awed, so exhausted, and so enthralled with any trip I’ve ever taken. I’ve never longed for home more, and never wanted to leave where I’m at the same time, quite as much as on this stay. It was long, grueling hours coupled with a lot of work, and a sense of wonderment as day after day, hand after hand was dealt, and bust out after bust out took place. I sweated pro’s like Phil Ivey, Andy Bloch, Daniel Negreanu, Huck Seed, and so many more that it would be impossible to name them all in a single post. There were 7,319 players at the Main Event of the World Series of Poker, and I feel like I was able to capture a little something special for them all.
It’s hard to put into words what the experience was like for a fan of the game such as me. I love watching poker, which I think was evidenced by the fact that after the days at the WSOP were done, I had headed over to the Venetian Deepstacks event to rail on Lee Childs, who would end up finishing 3rd in the $1k buy in event. 6 hours of railing Lee was actually relatively few considering the 8+ hours per day that I was spending inside the Amazon and Pavillion Rooms at the Rio Convention Center.
Each day was extremely unique, and perhaps my one lament was not blogging about it during the course of events, but I simply had no more energy to do it. Each day, I completed my day after play had commenced for no fewer than 4 levels of play (a 2 hour levels, with either 20 minute breaks or a 90 minute dinner break in between). They were very long days, spent wandering the entire time from table to table, snapping photographs, counting chip stacks, and sending updates via twitter about the play that I’d seen. I met so many faces that I didn’t realize that I’d known, mostly from Media row. Matt Waldron, AlCantHang, Dan M of Pokerati, Dr. Pauly (Tao of Poker), MerchDawg, BJ Nemeth, WriterJen, Jess Wellman, and on and on and on. I felt like a pseudo celebrity when I came back to Vegas for my 2nd WSOP go around, as I was more of a veteran, welcomed back by those that were sad to see me go from the $50k Players Championship. I received so many positive and uplifting emails, facebook messages, and twitter replies, each happy about the coverage, the updates, and the photo’s and recaps that I was bringing to the people wanting WSOP information.
Let me first start by talking about PokerNews. I liked everyone of the PokerNews guys that I came into contact with. They worked their tails off, and they produced a really decent product at the end. It was CLOSE to up to date, at least, as close as could be reasonably expected given their methods. But I think that there were so many ways to improve upon the things that they did. PokerNews effectively hired a bunch of bloggers to retell the story of the WSOP. The trouble was, they retold hand stories, but often forgot to tell the score of a story. Chip counts are a vital element of the story telling, and they did a pretty poor job of that throughout the course of events. I liked their stories, and I liked their overall coverage, but when it came to their updates, I think that there were plenty of areas for improvement.
Another thing that bothered me was that PokerNews was the exclusive media outlet for hand updates, and other sources were prevented on doing hand-for-hand updates. PokerNews was sponsored by PokerStars, so their coverage for PokerStars pro’s, and PokerStars sponsored players was exceptionally biased. The reality is, the entity that reports on the World Series of Poker should be 100% free of sponsors influence, and the reports should simply be reports of the action taking place. It bothered me a great deal to look at the chip counts that they were releasing throughout the day, and see the “PokerStars Team Pro” etc. etc., and not a team pro of any other outlet. I found that really wrong. I didn’t mind the PokerStars commercial at the beginning of each and every video nearly as much, but in the reporting, it did irk me a great deal.
I think that enough people were fed up with the coverage, or the lack there of, that a lot of people flooded to my twitter feed to see what was going on during play. In fact, during the playdown from 10 players to the November 9, I received no less than 50 new followers during my hand-for-hand updates via twitter. I was shocked that PokerNews wasn’t doing it, and didn’t realize that they weren’t until during one of the breaks I checked their info against mine.
Another lament that I had was the decrease in availability to the players and the tables as the time wore on. When the number of players began to decrease, so did the access that I had to the tables. It began with the bubble play, and the media was restricted from going from table to table so that tournament officials could clearly see the action of play. I didn’t mind that so much. I mean, at the completion of each hand, the 80 or so tables that were left would have their dealer stand up as their hand was complete, so that the tournament directors could accurately see where the bustouts were coming from, so they could figure out who finished in what position. It lasted only 6 hands, which took a little more than an hour to complete. And once it did, the flurry of bustouts was mind numbing. So many people were holding onto chips in the hopes that they’d simply min-cash. Once the bubble burst, all bets were off and it was a frantic race to the payout line. Players had endured 4 days of bad beats, an uncounted number of hands, and they were done with this tournament. And in about the first 15 minutes, we lost almost 50 players. “All in and a call” rang out everywhere throughout the Amazon room, and people left their seats, escorted by a line of dealers that rushed to the table to provide the players with a card that indicated what place they busted in, and what their payout was.
As the next couple of days went one, and the number of tables grew fewer and fewer, access on the floor was limited only to the ESPN cameras, and to PokerNews staff for updates. It was very frustrating to go from having free reign throughout the tournament, to all of the sudden reduced to being a spectator, hoping to catch a glimpse of the board and trying to tell what the players cards were at showdown. It made it virtually impossible to report, and I grew frustrated a great number of times. But in the end, it was still a unique experience that I’m blessed that I had the opportunity to partake in.
Overall, I’m still in a state of awe at the experience that just passed. Having had the opportunity to converse with each member of the November 9, and get to know them a little more personally, as well as witness first hand their path to get to where they are, I feel invested a little bit in each of them. To talk with legends Johnny Chan, Scotty Nguyen, and Chris Moneymaker on a variety of different topics. To have followed the progress and be involved in discussions with Scott Clements, Eric Baldwin, and Michael Mizrachi as they got up from their tables and spoke with players on their rail. Overhearing and sometimes being a part of those discussion made me feel like I was a part of the tournament, an important part, vital to the success of how poker is conveyed, and ultimately to the increase of the popularity of the sport.
I hope that everyone watches the 2010 WSOP as it airs on ESPN. I plan on seeing every episode, multiple times, and watching it as a keepsake of my time spent in Las Vegas. I’ll have more reflections later, when I’m not hanging out with the family…but I definitely needed to get those things down and out. The next couple of updates will focus more on the good things that I saw, and the positive stories that emerged. There were many, and they each deserve a post to be frank.