Las Vegas, NV
The denizens of Las Vegas walk a fine line between adulation and misery. All it takes is just one turn of the card, or how the dice spins on the felt, or how a seven-foot goober from Germany missed a free throw.
The weathered faces at the Rio look like those languid mugs shots in the anti-Meth campaigns used by rural police departments who post before/after photos of citizens they arrested (multiple times) due to meth-related incidents. The photos often look like the jailbirds aged twenty years in a matter of months -- a brutal side effect of speed abuse. "Speed kills" is a haunting catchphrase that originated in San Francisco in the 1960s, and ironically came from hippies, many of whom dabbled in every possible intoxicant on the planet. If known drug fiends are steering you away from the perils of a specific drug, then you know it's got to be shrouded in 100% pure evil.
Back in the day, casinos pumped in pure oxygen and played subliminal messages -- barely audible whispers conjured up by a bunch of Scotch-soaked Don Drapers in a boardroom on Madison Avenue somewhere. I'm not 100% sure which casinos still use the pure oxygen to induce a dream-like intoxicated state which encourages tourists to gamble more of their money.
One of my long standing friends in Vegas once spun a conspiracy theory that free beverages in casinos were laced with speed to keep everyone up for as long as possible in order to donk off every single cent in their pocket. You didn't think a 24/7 city like Vegas actually ran on Redbull and coffee did ya?
Speaking of oxygen, if you're in need of a boost of fresh air, there's an oxygen bar in the hallways of the Rio. Times have changed for the worse in America, a country on the brink of financial disaster, where the USD is about to be worth less than toilet paper. It's no wonder we're busto as a nation because we're culturally bankrupt. That's what happens when our most known contribution to the world these days is Snooki.
The hallways of the Rio is indicative of America's depressed economy. Scant. That's the best word to describe what was once a thriving bazaar and marketplace of poker goods. Ah, I do miss the gravy days during the poker boom when the entire hallways was packed with different booths hawking different poker related goods, materials, and services. A quick walk down the hall in 2011 is kinda depressing, like driving around the Vegas burbs and seeing half-empty neighborhood and hordes of vacant strip malls. Many corporations are not renting retail space in Las Vegas anymore, and the same applies to the hallways of the Rio.
A lot of credit goes to WSOP bigwig Ty Stewart for being a remarkable salesman and securing major non-gambling sponsors for the WSOP during an economic black hole. Stewart and Jack's Link beef jerky extended their relationship, meanwhile, even though the Miller Brewing Company ended the Beast Light campaign, they actually took a step up and pimped a more palatable Miller product. Ty Stewart also hooked up a fat deal with GoDaddy.com -- a product/service I actually use. Oh, and I almost forgot the slippers company -- Dearfoams -- which is one of the new sponsors. Dearfoams would've been major hit with online poker players (who make their money sitting in their pajamas in the confines of their own home, while ripping bonghits and playing 12 SNGs simultaneously). Yep, for an industry where players don't even have to wear pants, slippers as sponsor made sense. That's to say, it made sense before Black Friday. Without online poker in America, all of those former online grinders will be looking for "real" jobs in cubicles. Here's a suggestion to Ty Stewart -- how about the job search site Monster.com? A lot of pros are going to need that service if they go busto at the end of the summer.
Gone are the days when the hallway leading up the Amazon Ballroom was cluttered with stripper poles and scantily clad girls, with spectacular punching bags sagging from their top-heavy chests, fresh off the afternoon shift passing out fliers to Sapphire. Gambling and sex are like peas and carrots in Nevada. It wasn't too long ago when the sex industry nonchalantly pimped themselves to poker players. Let's face it, 98% of WSOP participants have cocks, so it makes good business sense to advertise a sex-related industry at the Rio.
It's Vegas after all -- so win some money at the WSOP and celebrate at a strip club. Or, if you have a shitty day and bust out of an event by a one-outter, then head to a strip club and let a busty vixen named Celeste bury your head into her mammary glands.
As much as I love reading books, there's a very slim chance that the act of buying a book in the hallway of the Rio will actually get your dick rubbed, however, if you go to a strip club (the seedier, the better), you can get a hand job if you find the right girl, for the right price.
But the 42nd annual WSOP is a much more mature and cleaner entity. The sex industry workers are a thing of the past. The WSOP entered the realm of charity and medical research. You won't see strip clubs or online poker sites shilling their product in the hallways. Instead, a couple of charitable organizations -- the Bad Beat on Cancer booth (a worthy cause in which poker pros donate 1% of their winnings to cancer research) and the One Drop booth (a foundation which fights poverty in third world countries by creating better access to drinking water).
Guy LaLiberte's One Drop
If you have some free time at the Rio, I encourage you to stop by both booths and do your own research into both organizations if you want to actually do something with your bankrolls instead of setting it on fire.
Or you can have the best of both worlds -- play in the WSOP, create a sock-pocket account to make fun of pros on Twitter, bust a few donks during a Donkament, slowroll Men the Master, sell your food comp to Eskimo Clark, win a shit-ton of cash, donate 1% of your winnings to cancer research, donate a few more bucks to help people drink non-polluted water that won't make them shit their brains out, then blow the rest of your wad at the Rhino by saving a stripper named Shaniqua.
I bet on sports, more than I should, but life is short and I don't give a fuck about anything anymore. Besides, nothing equates to the intoxicating emotions sizzling through your body when you cash a ticket at the window. I stood in a long line at the Rio's book, which I dubbed the "winner's line", because everyone in front (and behind me) had just shipped a bet on the Mavs, or a bet on the OVER total in the game.
I pushed Game 4 when I was laying 3. I decided to let it ride on Dallas -1, but the line moved to +1 when I arrived at the Rio on Day 10. If I liked Dallas at -1, I loved Dallas at +1. I decided to do the appropriate thing and I doubled down.
Just before tip off I found AlCantHang and suggested we check out the game at the sportsbook. I was hungry and craving a burger, but the line at the deli was way to long so Al suggested McFadden's. The last time I set foot inside that particular establishment was the 2009 WSOP. Once the Tilted Kilt closed its doors, I found it impossible to become a patron at the new establishment... yet... we ended up at McFadden's to sweat Game 5 of the NBA finals because we were too lazy to walk across the street to the Gold Coast.
I had a couple of bets on the Mavs and Al became my personal good luck charm throughout Game 5. A few other friends and colleagues stopped throughout the game to have a drink and check up on the score. I was happy they were there to take my mind off the game, but once the fourth quarter began, it was sweat city and I tuned everyone out except the dudes running up and down the court.
I don't like watching big games in public settings because I do odd things that might get me 86'd from most establishments -- like hurling obscenities at the refs and ripping bong hits so huge it'll make Bob Marley's ghost say, "You gots the lungs of an elephant, mon." I also frantically pace nonstop when I'm nervously sweating a beat, but that odd quirk did not manifest itself until lass than five minutes to go in the game. At that point, I didn't care if people thought I was a freak. With the exception of the bong (although I often wondered how long would it take to get 86'd if I actually pulled tubes inside an actual casino), I shouted at the multiple TVs inside the bar and paced around our table.
Luckily, Dallas closed out Game 5 by hitting a couple of clutch treys down the stretch. They more than covered and the clock ticked down to zero, all I kept thinking was... "Why didn't I bet more?"
Rowdy binge-drinking British railbirds caused Poker Productions (the new team filming the WSOP for ESPN) to ban all alcohol consumption in the stands around the final table. I posed this pic via Twitter...
As @microbrefiend noted, "Is that the first no drinking sign you've seen in Vegas?"
My answer: Yes. What has this world come to? Welcome to the Nanny State Series of Poker. What are the fun police going to ban next? Hot chicks on the rail? They cleaned up the hallways, where strippers once roamed freely. The Hooker Bar actually used to have hookers, but the powers to be ran a lot of those harlots off the property.
If poker wants to be treated like a professional sport, then you have to allow fans to consume alcoholic beverages. Drinking beer at a baseball game is what America is all about. But if you take away the beer, you take away our freedoms, and then the terrorists win. That's right. I'm going to use the same low-brow tactics those fucking jackals in Washington used to ram through the UIGEA when it was attached to the Port Security Act. If you're soft on terrorism, then you'll get tossed into Gitmo with all of the Jihadists. If you ban beer at the WSOP, you're instantly an enemy of the state.
Let's be honest -- the TV producers just doesn't like British people, otherwise, they wouldn't have gone to such drastic measures to post signs with surly security guards enforcing the no beverage rule at the final table. The new rules are so Draconian that even media reps are prevented from bringing food or water into the press perch.
I'm sure once the WSOP's official beer sponsor learns about the "dry stands", they will raise hell and force the WSOP to re-instate booze at the final table. I've seen plenty of insanely retarded rules instituted at the WSOP, but this is one of the worst.
If you are going to ban booze at the WSOP, why is it held in Sin City? You might as well move it to Salt Lake City, Utah and host the final tables in the Mormon Tabernacle.
WSOP Required Reading
Here's a few items you should be reading...
Snoopy, one of my favorite British writers, shared his astute thoughts on early British domination of the WSOP after winning two bracelets. Check out: Cody, Perrins and the UK Upsurge (Black Belt Poker)Photos courtesy of Benjo.
There's more than just bracelet events at the WSOP. Timtern wrote a stellar piece Side Action Is Booming at the WSOP. (Bluff Magazine)
Listen in to Change100's appearance on the 2p2 Pokercast podcast. Her spot starts at the 1hr, 28 min mark. (Pokercast, 2+2)
Here's a quickie recap of Day 10 that I wrote for RISE Poker Blog.