I drove to the Rio via the back way thirty minutes before I was scheduled to pick up my credentials. As soon as I got out of the car and started walking across the sizzling asphalt of the parking lot, I felt like a dead man walking. I was ready to serve the first day of a 47 day prison sentence and subjected to living 75-80% of my life at the Rio's convention center.
Flashbacks buzzed my already baked brain as I noticed that an entire section of the parking lot was blocked off for the valet. Two red carpets were rolled out as mist machines in front of the entrance cooled down a couple of donkeyfish.
"Sweet Jesus, what the fuck is this line for?" I muttered to Change100 and BJ as we walked down the long corridor that led to the festivities in the Amazon ballroom.
A ginormous line had already started to form with people were standing three across. I rushed past them and made a beeline for the media credentials room. A group of us from PokerNews.com stood in line for almost an hour before we eventually got to talk to the media department. During that time, I saw random and familiar faces that I had not seen since last year's WSOP. There was CC and Mike Paulle, and Ed from Gutshot, and Wade from Texas Hold'em radio.
I got plenty of compliments on how I looked. I shaved that morning for the first time in a week or so. I bumped into Michael Craig and he said that I looked like I lost weight. I didn't return the compliment. Even Tiffany Michelle commented on my thinner self. I did my best to shed pounds are run a bit in NYC before I embarked on the seven week kamikaze mission.
By the way, before the WSOP began, I was already $50 in the hole after I lost a prop bet against Tiffany. The poker kitchen was moved inside and took up a massive area that used to be utilized as the hospitality suites for UB and Full Tilt. Outside the rooms were a few tables where people could sit and eat. A group of Scandis had gathered including Thor Hansen and Per Ummer. They had been eating sandwiches before they walked away. A large bucket of French fries sat untouched. I offered Tiffany $50 to eat the entire bucket. She picked it up and started chowing down.
Yes, that girl can eat. The fact that it was someone else's leftovers did not deter her. She crushed the bucket and Daddy would have been proud of her ability to knock back a couple of potatoes with only a small helping of ranch dressing on the side. Did I mention that they were cold and soggy? It didn't matter, she ate them all and I forked over $50.
Note to self... never make eating prop bets with Tiffany or Otis. The WSOP had not even started and I was in the hole prop betting. This is going to be a long summer.
I was handed the wrong badge that would be the first of many screw ups during the my first day on the job. The badge had my name on it but I was given the wrong color. Orange meant all access and I was given a baby blue one. After fifteen minutes of red tape, Schecky solved the mystery and Harrah's issued me the proper pass. As we waited in line for the press credentials, the monster line that backed up all the way to the entrance of the convention center near the valet. The horror stories quickly spread throughout the Rio. Some people waited five or six hours to register for events... and some of them even registered online but were forced to stand in line anyway. What's the point to pre-registration if you have to stand in line to get your seating assignment?
By noon players were trying to register for SNGs or for different WSOP events as both lines were not moving. The desperation in people's faces reminded me of those outstretched bread lines filled with bleak Ruskies during in the middle of the cold war. Everyone in line look pissed off, confused, and not happy about the lengthy wait. Some of them snagged chairs to sit on. A couple of folks pulled benches into the middle of the hallway and sat on them as they waited. And waited. And waited.
A note to all future WSOP participants, here's a tip how to avoid the stress of waiting in line for five hours... go to the Home Depot on Decatur and Tropicana and hire a illegal immigrant day worker to stand in line for you.
All poker players are depraved junkies and thousands of people subjected themselves to the utter humiliation and torture by standing in line just to get their fix.
"Fuck this shit," one guy snapped in a thick New Jersey accent. "Yo Vinny, I'm leaving. Fuck Harrah's in the mouth."
Some players decided not to register or play in Event #1 or Event #2 because the refused to stand in that awful line. I don't blame them. They wanted to play in the WSOP not stand around like a moron for five hours with their thumbs up their asses. I wonder how many customers that Harrah's lost due to that fiasco? Whatever the reason... there's no excuse for that incompetence. When I left the Rio at 2am... the line was as jam packed as when I first entered the convention center at 10:30 that morning.
For a while I had no idea what caused the back until I found out that there were not too many open registration windows plus their new procedures involved photocopying IDs of every player which slowed up the process. At one point security guards had to be called into the hallway to help quell a potential riot. I'm shocked that the angry mob didn't lynch WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack or give him a swirlee in the port-o-potties in the back.
The long lines also meant that players in the Casino Employees event (scheduled at 5pm) had to wait up to two hours to get into the event. Sloshr missed ninety minutes of his event because he got stuck in the line. Harrah's solution? Push back the starting time to 6pm instead of 5pm. OK that's like putting a band-aid on a gapping wound. But how about Saturday's NL event where 2,000 players were expected? And future events? If they don't solve that issue ASAP, then they are going to lose a lot of customers unless tourists wise up and start hiring Mexicans from the parking lot at Home Depot to stand in line for them.
Sadly, the long lines overshadowed any of the new changes at the Rio. People were too pissed off to notice the differences in the layout from last year's event such as the lack of vendors in the hallway and the brand new stadium seating and stage set up for the final table.
Due to the craziness and confusion, TD Jack Effel pushed back the starting time of Event #1 $5K Mixed Hold'em to 12:30pm. After Jeffrey Pollack was introduced to the crowd on the tournament floor around 12:25pm, he was quickly booed by some players. Pollack deflected the boo birds and joked, "That must be from the people standing in line."
He managed to plug two sponsors... Beast Lite and Corum watches before he handed the microphone over to Jamie Gold. He of course, the 2006 World Champion was promptly booed as well as he uttered the famous words, "Shuffle up and deal."
"He's a donkey," one railbird told his friend. "I can't believe that idiot won."
Once Event #1 started, everyone in the room focused on one thing... the new playing cards.
Photo courtesy of PokerNews
"You can't see the cards! Where the hell is Jeffrey Pollack,"screamed Mike Matusow two minutes into the event.
"These are the worst cards ever," explained Johnny Chan who threatened to boycott the remainder of the WSOP.
"The shittiest cards I ever played with," agreed Daniel Negreanu. "It was affecting everyone a lot early. You cannot distinguish the 6 and the 9. You can't squeeze your cards. I was surprised that they went with them. If these cards are played with in Stud or Stud Hi/Lo it would be the most confusing thing you've ever seen. It's very difficult."
After last year's problem with recycling cards for later events, Harrah's tried to address the issue by getting new cards for every event. However, the new company who fucked the monkey on that deal. Not only were the cards difficult to read in the hole, but players had problems reading the board correctly. It was even harder for left-handed players to see the cards. Some players in Seat 5 or 6 were actually calling out the flop so players in the corners could figure out what was going on. The 6s looked like 9s and vice versa.
"You get to pick if it's a 6 or a 9," joked Rafi Amit.
A mutiny started and two players quickly demanded their money back. They were already pissed off about the long lines and the shitty cards really set them off. Harrah's stepped in and decided to get new cards to appease the players. At 2:01pm, Jack Effel said that they were going to get a new set up. They eventually handed out decks of Kem cards as soon as they could muster enough decks. Ironically, they Casino Employees got stuck using the crappy and hard to read decks. At 5:05, KEM cards were finally introduced to Event #1. That drew a light applause from the remaining players.
Event #1 $5K Mixed Hold'emI covered Event #1 for PokerNews and headed up a team of "junior reporters." I got five and they were all pretty good. One or two kids stood out and I gave them special assignments. They pretty much ran hands and chipcounts back and forth from the quadrant we were assigned. Everyone was overwhelmed at first, especially Mean Gene who sat next to me. It took an hour or so to catch up but once we got past that initial rush, we were fine. BJ and I were back in our old routine and it felt good to sit on the floor on the Amazon Ballroom and not be locked up in the tiny hole of a media center.
Prize Pool: $2.2M
The first tournament to kick off the series was $5K Mixed Hold'em which featured 30 minute levels of NL followed by a 30 minute level of Limit. During the first level players were confused with the cards and format. Some of them forgot what format they were playing.
The event was top-heavy which often happens for 5K buy-in events. The field included Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson, Phil Gordon, Jen Harman, Annie Duke, Johnny Chan, Scotty Nguyen, Isabelle Mercier, Chad Brown, Erick Lindgren, Brandon Schaefer, Carl Olson, Liz Lieu, Andy Bloch, Andy Black, Greg Raymer, Shaniac, Sam Grizzle, Patrik Antonius, JC Tran, The Dragon, The Devilfish, Thomas Wahlroos, Mike Matusow, Erik Seidel, Joe Sebok, Johnny D'Ags, John Juanda, Gus Hansen, Jesus, Daniel Negreanu, Allen Cunningham, and Anna "Poker Pixie" Wroblewski.
Is it LLT's yet?
Photo courtesy of Flipchip
The Limit levels were boring while most of the action went down in the NL sections.
Here's something I wrote in my notes:
9:24pm... Hellmuth kicks over a chairThe Poker Brat was in rare form. He showed up two hours late to start the event. After dinner break, he got into several arguments with players at his table. After he busted out, he got into a verbal spat with Paul Snead who busted him. Phil Gordon stepped in and snapped at Hellmuth saying that he had no right to berate players. Those two got into it for a few minutes as a heated argument ensued. Eventually, Hellmuth calmed down and he shook Snead's hand before he left the tournament room.
Late in the evening, the big story was the run made by Sably Cohen, the last female left standing in last year's WSOP main event. She jumped out to the chiplead and was one of the first players past the 100K mark. She ended the day 3rd overall.
When action was stopped around 2am, 95 players remained with Greg "FBT" Mueller as the chipleader with 130K.
Event #1 Top 10 Chipcounts:Action for event #2 resumes at 2pm local time on Saturday. Head over to PokerNews.com to follow the live updates. Also on Saturday, Event #3 $1,500 NL Hold'em kicks off at noon.
1. Greg Mueller 130000
2. Frank Kassela 121500
3. Sabyl Cohen 118500
4. Louis Werman 110500
5. Mark Teltscher 100500
6. John Kroshvs 93000
7. John Younger 91500
8. Kirk Morrison 90500
9. Alex Bolotin 88000
10. Joseph Tehan 87500
Jason Strasser 79000
Eric Froehlich 74000
Jon Turner 72500
Todd Brunson 70500
Staffan Rydin 63000
Toto Leonidas 61500
Ted Lawson 56000
Steve Paul-Ambrose 55500
Isabelle Mercier 55500
Hung La 54000
Vanessa Rousso 53500
Erik Seidel 52000
Joe Bartholdi 51000
Josh Arieh 50000
Mark Gregorich 48500
Antonio Esfandiari 46500
Barry Greenstein 43000
Minh Ly 42500
Cyndy Violette 38000
Kenny Tran 34500
Hoyt Corkins 34000
Andreas Walnum 27000
Carl Olson 21000
Jimmy Tran 19500
CK Hua 16500
Perry Friedman 14500
Johnny Chan 14000
David Grey 13000
Chad Layne 12000
Liz Lieu 11500
Humberto Brenes 10000
Bouncin Round the Room on Day 1
For the third year in a row, the Bouncin' Round the Room segments are back. In case you didn't know the origins of BRM, it is actually the title of a Phish song. During the 2005 WSOP, I was stuck in the trenches in media row at the final table and would need to take a break. I'd walk around the area and take notes. Those segments became more popular than bust out hands so I kept them up. Here's the first installment...
Antonio Esfiandari had been sitting in Todd Brunson's seat by mistake. Brunson arrived late and sported a hot pink polo shirt. In 2005 when Todd Brunson won his bracelet, I mentioned to Jay Greenspan that he reminded me of Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. He still does.
During one of the breaks, I went to the bathroom outside and the entire area reeked of pot. Someone was toking reefer near the bathrooms and by the delicious aroma... it was some good shit. I have a list of possible suspects.
I heard whispers that Gus Hansen was stuck over $10M to Texas Dolly and that the Great Dane was working off his debt over the last few months.
The Milwaukee's Beast girls were back trolling around the Amazon room wearing shitkickers, tight jean shorts and a handkerchief for a top. They were different than last year's crop. Some of them looked bored shitless while others took tremendous pride in their job. What's the series without some good old fashioned T & A?
The tournament room appeared much darker than in previous years. There were too many banners hanging from the ceilings. It appeared that Harrah's sold every piece of available space in the ballroom to advertisers. I was shocked hat I didn't find a Chico's Bail Bonds banner flying around.
There was one cool thing that Harrah's did and that was to hang huge portraits of previous main event winners. When people asked me where I was sitting, I'd say "Berry Johnston."
Gus Hansen grabbed Joy's ass in the middle of the tournament in front of a slew of spectators. I was jealous. Gus didn't grab my ass.
Phil Hellmuth arrived late... in true Hellmuthian fashion. He was getting a massage when the Devilfish took over at one point and he gave the Poker Brat a rub down.
Mike Matusow and Devilfish were jawing back and forth for most of the day. At one point Matusow doubled through Devilfish and his needling seemed to die down after that.
The one pro who posed for the most pictures on Day 1 had to be Humberto Brenes. Everytime I turned around he was taking photos with tourists. I wonder if he charged them anything? And yes, the Shark is here. It's called Shark #2.
Michelle Lewis stopped by to chat. She was playing cash games. We have some great ideas involving prop bets with Dan Michalski. How much would it cost to get his entire back waxed? We're going to find out.
At dinner break, I wandered around the casino and headed over to the Tilted Kilt. They were supposedly bought out but nothing has been done with the space. The Tilted Kilt was still there. I wandered inside and our favorite waitress Kari quickly greeted me with a hug. She wondered were Wil and Otis were and said that she missed served us everyday last summer. I drank a pint of Stella as I watched the Yankees-Red Sox game as Kari explained to me what was going on with the rumors that the Tilted Kilt were closing. She assured me that they will be open during the duration of the series.
After dinner break, I bumped into Sloshr who told me that he was playing in Event #2 as he recanted his horror story about trying to register.
I also found my buddy Stormy from NYC. He cashed in last year's main event but this year he's dealing at the WSOP. He seemed excited for Day 1.
Miami Don and WeakPlayer were playing cash games at some point. From what they tell me, the 205 NL is juicy.
I bumped into Eric Schoenberg. She wanted to play in Event #1 but didn't want to wait in the long line. Instead, she hung out on the rail and sweated her main squeeze David Benyamine. Erica had some nice things to say about the Tao. "You've been writing great stuff recently," she complimented. "And I love the Last 5 Pros you pissed next to."
I told Erica that she needs to sneak me into the ladies room so I can pee next to her. By the way... the first installment of 5 Pissing is dedicated to Erica.
Last 5 Pros I Pissed Next to...
1. Freddy Deeb
2. Phil Gordon
3. Sam Grizzle
5. Amir Vahedi
Don't forget to check out LasVegasVegas for Flipchip's WSOP photos. And come back at the Tao of Poker for daily recaps and head over at PokerNews for live coverage and updates including chipcounts.
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