Las Vegas, NV
Las Vegas is a city of contrasts and contradictions. We're technically sitting on the edge of Death Valley in the middle of the desert, yet a sprawling and pulsating city has been built up from scratch.
On one end of the Amazon Ballroom, the upper echelon of the poker competed for almost $2 million and bragging rights about winning one of the most expensive NL tournaments in Las Vegas. Several members of poker's established old guard battled it out with the new wave of young, brash, and seasoned veterans of the tempestuous world of online poker. New money vs. old money. But the one thing they had in common? The proper financial backing and the testicular fortitude to brawl with at least one hundred of the premier NL tournament players in the world.
And on the other end of the room, several thousand members of the proletariat and poker enthusiasts enduring economic hardships took advantage of a discounted donkament that otherwise became known as the Donkulus.
"WSOP Bracelets! Get your discounted WSOP bracelets! 33% off!"
The promotion worked so much so that the event was sold out. 6,000 runners took advantage of Harrah's bailout package. It was a sincere gesture of populist proportions to give the working class stiffs, tourists, amateurs, dreamers, broke dick poker players, and everyone else an opportunity to win a coveted WSOP bracelet. The sympathetic powers to be obviously understood that the WSOP had to creative something to address the ephemeral cycle of economic decline and at the same time attract more players and fans than in previous years.
The lower buy-in opening weekend tournament attracted plenty of riff raff. With six thousands players converging on the Rio, more than a handful were hostile individuals with questionable morals. It also meant that a high percentage of players were on tight budgets due to the credit crunch. A hearty reminder of players trying to save money included the procession of people walking down Flamingo from the Strip to the Rio on the overpass covering the I-15 freeway. They could barely scrape together $1K to buy-in to the Donkulus, let alone scrounge together some cab money.
The night before, instead of unfurling a wad of Benjamins, I spotted several disheveled runners counting out single dollar bills as they pushed a small pile of small bills towards the cashier. A couple of homeless-looking guys even paid with rolled-up pennies. Several desperate people took cash advances on their credit cards in order to pay for the buy-in.
Although the Donkulus event attracted a couple of top pros, they were anomalies among the scores of dead money that loitered around in the hallways starting an hour before the tournament kicked off at noon. A couple of players tried to sneak through the side door in an attempt to take their seats early. I commented on Twitter that, "If you show up 35 mins early to take your seat in a donkament, I can 100% guarantee that you won't be winning this tournament."
It's funny because it's true.
I've witnessed the bloodshed in different clashes including both the Main Events and $1,500 donkaments. It's virtually impossible to keep up with the inescapable slaughter. The rate of players falling on Day 1A was an astonishing five players for every minute.
Yes, every five minutes, the Killing Fields claimed another victim. Most of the media avoided the plight, especially ESPN who never considered covering the Donkulus for a second when a scintillating tournament transpired in a cloistered corner of the Amazon Ballroom. Security was super tight as surly guards roamed the areas surrounding the 40K NL event. It was a safe or green zone where the upper crust could cheer on their peers without being swarmed by the ravenous fans. The guards kept them out along with all the stray donkeys who lost their way.
In order to prevent myself from being attacked by any rabid donkeys that wandered up into the press box, I attempted to purchase donkey repellent before the WSOP began. Unfortunately, I was unable to acquire that item on such short notice. Alas, it was on back order so I picked up bear pepper spray. It's highly affective and stuns donkeys (and bears obviously) by simply squeezing the trigger.
And where did I get bear mace? From one of those 2012 Armageddon websites that suggested you use bear spray to thwart assailants in a home invasion during the impending apocalypse.
I apologize for the tangent. Moving on...
The popularity of the Donkulus forced the Rio to set up tables in the hallway in front of Buzio's, even though they promised that they would do their best to not have to utilize that spill over (and highly inconvenient space). The only good thing about that area? It's within walking distance to the Hooker Bar. Heck, as soon as you busted out of the Donkulus, you could make a bee-line for the pleasure consultants, which of course were the lowest rung on the harlot ladder since they were humping the afternoon shift of a donkament. It's not like the Bellagio hookers feasting on high rollers during the WPT Championships or the flock of high end working girls who arrived just around 50K HORSE began and hovered all the way through the Main Event.
Over in the 40K NL event, the action on Day 3 started out lightning quick with four eliminations. Despite Tony G's short stack, he avoided an early exit, but the same could not be said for Andrew "Good2cu" Robl, Frank Kasella, David Chiu, and Neil "Bad Beat" Channing. Andy Black, who was dressed more like a player in the Donkulus instead of the pseudo-high roller event busted out in 19th place.
When the final two tables were set in the 40K NL event, the carcasses from the Donkulus were grounded up and mixed with kangaroo meat, which the Poker Kitchen passed off as hamburgers. And the rest of the expired donkeys were left out to bake on the roof of the convention center, where the leftover entrails shriveled up in the scorching Nevada sun. Now, you know where all that free beef jerky came from, sort of like that shocking scene at the end of Soylent Green, when the Charlton Heston character discovered that the evil dystopian Government fed little green wafers to starving humans that were made up of human corpses. Soylent Green is people. Donkey jerky. You get the picture.
It took a couple of hours before the 40K NL field dwindled down from 18 to a final table of nine players. Matt Glantz, a bracelet hopefully this year, busted out in 17th place. The final ten players consolidated onto one table with five minutes to go before the dinner break. Several players wanted to finish out the level, take a twenty minute break (instead of an hour dinner), and then continue play until one more player busted out. They sought out an early day. However, a couple of players objected including Tony G.
"I can't wait to have some wine during dinner. It will loosen me up," said a jovial Tony G. "Oh and instead of a sixty minute break, I'd like to take ninety minutes."
The G was postponing the inevitable. He was short stacked for all of Day 3 and somehow bubbled off the final table in 10th place. With his departure, play was suspended and the final nine were set... Ted Forrest, Noah Schwartz, Alec Torelli, Isaac Haxton, Greg Raymer, Justin Bonomo, Lex 'RaSZi' Veldhuis, Dani 'Ansky' Stern and Vitaly Lunkin. When Day 3 of the 40K NL event was complete, Haxton held the chip lead with a shade under 6M.
And over in the first flight of the Donkulus, only 376 players survived out of 3,000 or so. Guess what? We get to repeat the liquidation of thousands of broke dick donks. More dead donkeys. More beef jerky.
Bouncin Round the Room on Day 4...
The Commish introduced me to Jack Binion in the press box. I shook Binion's hand. It was very cool to meet the legend himself. He uttered the famous, "Shuffle up and Deal." Jack created the first satellite to the WSOP. They should have cast a bronze statue of Jack and place it in front of the satellite room. Much like rubbing the belly of a lucky Buddha, on their way inside the satellite room at the Rio, downtrodden poker players would rub Jack Binion's statue to improve their poker karma.
Nelly was playing in the Donkulus. He could easily afford to play in the 40K NL, but his skill level of the more suited for the Donkulus. Heck he had two bodyguards with him that looked like NFL linemen. Their salaries alone were probably more than $40K a piece. And yes, Nelly busted out early. I am getting so hot, I'm gonna donk my chips off.
Photo by Mean Gene
Norman Chad tried to steal Annie Duke's thunder during a taped ESPN segment, where he challenged pros to different contests. On that instance, it was a lemonade stand against Annie Duke, who was fresh off of her runner-up performance on Celebrity Apprentice. Hundreds of fans lines up to buy lemonade from either Norm Chad or Annie Duke. Norm spiked his batch with booze and promised to pocket the proceeds, while Annie whipped up a booze-free batch with proceeds going to the charity of her choice Refugees International.
Poker Road's Joe Stapleton busted out of the Donkulus courtesy of a little bad mojo from his railbirds... myself and Joe Sebok. We stood behind him during his elimination hand. The Jacks in the Hole co-host went out when his Jacks lost to A-A in a multi-way pot. There was an Ace on the flop and a Jack on the turn, but he couldn't suck out with the case Jack and headed to the rail.
And yes, there was an Amarillo Slim sighting in the Amazon Ballroom. He was spotted in both the press box and lurking around the final two tables of the 40K NL. His appearance indicates that there's a strong chance he will play in tomorrow's Champions Freeroll featuring former WSOP Main Event Champions.
Plenty of railbirds sweated the final ten players in the 40K NL. Some of them waited an hour during the dinner break in order to get a good spot on the rail. Evy Ng sweated her boyfriend RaSZi and even held up a sign from time to time. Standing next to her was everyone's favorite spicy Brazilian dish, Maridu. Former champion Joe Hachem also hung out and rooted on Greg Raymer.
In addition to making the final table of the 40K NL on Sunday, Greg Raymer is also scheduled to play in the Champions freeroll at 4pm. With 1.9M and a bracelet on the line, Raymer will definitely focusing on the 40K NL. Besides, that tiny little match box car that they are giving away? Raymer barely fits in there. Yes, the Champions Event is a freeroll where the winner gets a car. No cash. Just a car. Oh and a month's supply of beef jerky.
There were whispers on the rail that Tony G declared that if he won the event, he'd double everyone's salary. A nice gesture, but a semi-bluff at best since he was super short-stacked to begin with. Regardless, the G busted out in 10th place. He won $172,120 which should cover his at-table-massage bill for the entire series.
Don't forget to check out Flipchip's WSOP photos.
And yes, back by popular demand...
The Last Five Pros I Pissed Next To....
1. Minneapolis Jim Meehan
2. Ray Davis
3. JC Tran
4. David Daneshgar
5. Johannes Strassman
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