Las Vegas, NV
Shift Change by Flipchip
I arrived to the Rio much later than the previous five days because I was up until noon writing, crashed for a few hours, grabbed breakfast (at a time when most folks were leaving work or old folks were finishing off early bird specials), and headed to the Rio. I got dropped off in the employees parking lot and made the trek up a slight hill.
One dealer passed me. Then another three seconds later, and another, and another.
At that point I stopped fucking around with my CrackBerry and actually looked up to see a steady stream of dealers pouring out of the convention center through the back door. Hundreds of dealers in black shoes, black pants, black vests, and white shirts. Identically dressed, but physically came in different shapes and sizes. From a far, they looked like penguins waddling onto a beach and out of the ocean after a dip. They are the worker ants, the shift workers, the anonymous grunts who do a lot of the heavy lifting at the WSOP every single summer.
Seeing the stream of dealers sort of reminded me of black and white stock footage of WWII news reels featuring Americans at home fighting the war by working night shifts in factories to help meet war production deadlines. But at the 2010 WSOP, we're not exactly fighting a war to stave off fascism. Instead of building tanks for the army, we're working in the largest sausage factory in the Western world.
Why sausages you might ask? Have you seen a poker room recently? It's a total sausage fest. And much like sausages, you really don't want to know how they actually make them. Some meat packing companies make sausages from the scraps of the killing room floor.
Much like sausage making, you really don't want to know how they come to the final product in poker. Somethings are best left to the imagination. Over the last five summers, I've done what I can to give you a behind the scene glimpse into the deepest bowels of this sausage factory. I get paid a pretty penny to fluff up said sausages.
Best damn sausage you'll ever eat! Six hundred times better than bacon! Play on PokerStars!
The dealers are the sausage makers. They work the line in this massive 24-hour factory for little pay. When the sausages taste bad, they get blamed. In short, they have a thankless job.
This year, it's hard to ignore the whispers from players, friends, and media who play a lot of poker and pointed out that they have come across a few horrible dealers. Seems as though you always hear about the bad ones and never about the competent ones. And yes... a few bad, inconsistent, and inexperienced dealers are always in the mix at the WSOP. Most of them don't work past the second week, and you just have to hope that the rookies have a much faster learning curve. Don't forget -- you have to start out somewhere.
Poker media and poker dealing are the basic entry level positions in the industry. The pay and hours are horrible. Everyone critiques your work, and you have to have a thick skin to ignore the putdowns and condescending tone of the players, fellow staff, and drunken spectators. We are the proletariat of the poker industry, and if there's anything I learned by reading history books -- the upper classes fear, abuse, and desperately need the proletariat to do their dirty work.
I wish they had better dealers so this would not be an issue every summer. But this is a bigger systemic issue. In the past there have been stricter guidelines before selecting dealers. Seems as though the standards have been lowered in order to fill the spots because no one wants to be a dealer. Physical abuse of dealers has significantly decline from the old days when it was common to have lit cigarettes flicked at you in the box if you dealt a bad beat, but these days, they still have to take an earful of verbal abuse from grumpy players. That has to wear you down over seven weeks, especially when you're getting paid next to nothing.
Dealers are often overlooked and their invisibility makes them perfect spies. I don't exactly have dealers on the Tao of Poker payroll feeding me information, but they are an invaluable source of information. Whenever I have to confirm the basics to a story, I always try to consult the dealers. When they feed me accurate information, I feed them booze and cigarettes.
Suffice to say, if you are a WSOP dealer and would like to dish anonymous info about gossip, scandals, injustices, and overall player douchebaggery, then feel free to shoot me an email. Dealers all have stories to tell, but can't tell them for fear of getting fired or retribution... which is why so many dealers seek me out on their breaks to give me the skinny on the daily events.
Dealers are an integral part of the daily operations at the WSOP. Without them it would be a bunch of fat dudes dealing to themselves and stuffing their own sausages.
Bouncin' Round the Room on Day 6...
Feed your wild side. If you were at the Rio on Wednesday, then you might have seen Sasquatch, the Jack Links Beef Jerky mascot roaming around the Rio shooting commercials. Some of them are going to be funny, so keep an eye out for the one when Sasquatch flips over a table after getting a bad beat from Phil Hellmuth.
The WSOP needs a proper mascot, like the San Diego Chicken or the guy in the gorilla suit from the Phoenix Suns. I'm partial to wookie-like animals since I spend a lot of my free time embedded with hippies. I'm hoping that Sasquatch and the WSOP can ink a full-time mascot deal.
We need the wookie roaming around the WSOP at all hours. It will add to the Disney World-like adventure of WSOP experience.
As much as the wookie is cool, I'm horribly disappointed at the lack of beef jerky in the media room and press box. Last summer, we were swimming in beef jerky and by the end of the 2009 WSOP, I was completely hooked like a meth head who sold all of his and his neighbor's furniture. Those bastards cooking up the beef jerky must be adding opiates to their "special spices" because when I left Las Vegas, I didn't have a free samples anymore and was going through withdrawal. I had to feed my own addiction with my own cash.
Brit Wins Donkament: The Hit Squad's most famous member is November Niner James Akenhead, but he's not the first one of them to win a bracelet. That distinction goes to Praz Bansi. Congrats to the Brits for snagging a bracelet in the first week of play, and for winning his second career bracelet. I heard a rumour that the Queen is going to make Praz a Knight for his bravery in the heat of battle after repelling two thousand donks in the killing fields.
Praz Bansi - Donkament Victor
(Photo by Flipchip/PokerNews)
Triple Draw Day 2: I was particularly interested in one table of the Triple Draw event that featured The G and Chris Fargis. I'm very sure that the G had no idea about Fargis, a former pro who has a Triple Draw title under his belt. The 20-something Fargis was an anomaly, playing Triple Draw when it was and old timers game way before PokerStars began beta testing the software. You might have seen a link dump a couple of weeks ago where I specifically mentioned a LA Times piece about Wall Street's latest trend is to hire poker players who can make quick decisions when trying to seek out talented traders.
A few years ago, Fargis reached a moment of clarity (Shaun Deeb and Timex have both come to similar crossroads) when he realized that maybe he wants to do something else with his life. He asked for suggestions on the next phase. I suggested that we open up a bar in Brooklyn together called Triple Draw. Heck, how about a coffeeshop in Amsterdam? It would make a great name. Instead of poker or pub owner, Fargis headed to Wall Street.
Fargis asked for vacation time to visit Las Vegas and play in the Triple Draw WSOP event, a welcome respite from the grind of daily trading. He doesn't exactly qualify for ringer status, but he comes close.
The G and Fargis battled on a couple of hands and I watched on the rail as the G slipped into the depths of tilt. He was running a bit bad and voiced his displeasure of Fargis' ability to make big hands.
"You run so effing good, catching two cards like that," screamed the G.
Fargis shrugged. He wasn't going to dignify the G's backhanded compliment. When I made eye contact with Fargis, he smirked. He knew exactly what he was doing. The best way to tilt a loudmouth/table captain is to ignore everything they say and don't respond.
Fargis busted the G on the bubble who got sent peddling home on his tricycle. It's been a tough week for the G, one of his toughest ever at the WSOP with a couple of lackluster performances at the table and the tech debacle in the opening days of the WSOP with the Poker News website, server, and code issues.
At that juncture in the event, Fargis wasn't the chipleader, but hovered in the top 5 in chips for most of Day 2. Alas, Fargis' run ended with an 11th place finish as he missed making the final table.
When you bump into former poker people after taking some time away from the game, they look and sound so friggin' happy. Fargis had that glow, that vibe, that energy. I see so many poker players wandering around with a pissed off look (and rightly so after the brutality that goes on inside the Amazon and Pavilion), but it was refreshing to see a refreshed Fargis. Even though he was on vacation, he felt the feeling that he forget. He didn't have to worry about making his nut, or worrying about bankroll management and what cash games/tournaments he was going to play in. He's a civilian now, and gets the best of both worlds. For a few days Fargis returned to wandered back inside the Thunderdome and he left with an almost-final table appearance despite the fact he doesn't play anymore. He's going back to NYC and returning to work on Wall Street as a trader, but he'll be back for the Main Event when he take a couple of more vacation days.