Las Vegas, NV
By the end of the second week of the World Series of Poker, the honeymoon is way past over, and everyone hits the proverbial wall. I've heard different comparisons about the WSOP and even wrote about a few in Lost Vegas. Here's a sample from Chapter 20....
The daily events at the WSOP are like attending an AA meeting that never stops. Everyone has a worried and demoralized look about them and most need spiritual guidance after living a bankrupt existence for one day too long. The media room reminded me of an Irish wake. Everyone was raging drunk, talking loudly, and telling wild stories about a dead guy while another group huddled together in the corner and sobbed uncontrollably.Some of my friends use the "summer camp" metaphor and sometimes it fits. I prefer the "climbing the mountain" metaphor because the WSOP is both a physical and mental task. But the two-week mark at the series is time when you really have to take a step back and reevaluate your mind and body, because if you don't "look under the hood" or do some headshrinking, you might slip off the edge and fall into the abyss somewhere around week 3.
I've traveled the world with a lot of interesting, funny and entertaining people in my life but the folks I bonded with during seven weeks of the WSOP were in their own class. They kept me sane and entertained on the tough, sad, and dark days. Because we worked in close quarters, an instant camaraderie developed, and on the good days the job seemed like we were at summer camp. Wil likened the experience to shooting a movie on location. Michalski thought we were more like plane crash survivors. Flipchip called us grunts entering the jungle for the first time. All I know is that I'd gut salmon in a frigid Alaskan fishery seven days a week for sixteen hours a day (without piss breaks) if one of them asked.
By the end of the second week of the WSOP, the newness of the event wears off, even for newbies. That's when they develop "the stare" and look right through you when shuffling down the hall in a demure zombie-like glare. The lack of sleep begins to add up. The liquor consumption adds up. Pharmie stashes dry up. And you get utterly sick of eating the same fucking overpriced chow day after day.
The end of the second week of the WSOP is when the first wave of dealers defect. The really miserable ones wait to see their first paycheck before they hit the road. A few dealers are astonished at their paychecks, so they bail and return to dealing in their regular casino (in Vegas or back home in California or in some other regional gaming Mecca).
The end of the second week of the WSOP is when some players skip out on the middle part of the series and return just before the Main Event -- if they have enough money to return. Some flame out after ten days of playing every event, which means they no longer have the bankroll to continue to play. It's also the end of the second week when backers and staking syndicates make their own adjustments and double down on their sure things that came close and missed, or ditching dead weight who whiffed on every event, or they are seeking out new horses (trying to scoop up unknown players/comeback players who got hot in the first week).
One semi-pro confided in me straight up, "I fucking hate poker after two weeks at the WSOP. I can't wait to go back to my normal life."
I laughed. What is considered normal for poker people? We live in a bizarro world, where normal rules of society do not apply, and it's not uncommon to walk around with a 10K wad in your pocket or a couple of Bellagio cranberries. Poker is one of the few communities where anyone can become famous -- if the perfect conditions are present -- like the next donk du jour who ships a bracelet or hot chick with the slightest interest in poker will become the industry's next superstar.
Attending and surviving the entire WSOP is not an easy task. Those who can make it to the end are true warriors, but then again, sometimes Las Vegas swallows you up and you're never seen or heard of again.
Photo courtesy of WSOP.com
In 2010, the Brits got off to a auspicious start when they gobbled up bracelets in the early days of the series. By the end of the summer, the Brits accumulated five total bracelets, which marked a resurgence of British poker on the international scale.
This year is no different. Two weeks into the series, the Brits have three bracelets and came close to a couple more. Twenty-something Darren Woods shipped his first bracelet on Monday night in Event #19 $3,000 Limit Hold'em (6-handed). The former accountant ditched the calculator and decided to play poker full time. It was a wise decision and he walked away $213,431 richer.
The final table was significant because a woman, Kim Nguyen from San Diego, finished second. Along with Maria Ho (she finished second to Allen Bari in the 5K NL), Kim is the second female to get a legitimate shot at an open bracelet in the last ten days. Alas, she ran into the Brits mission to dominate the WSOP and could only muster up a runner-up performance.
Thanks to Nolan Dalla for getting this funny quote from Darren Woods that sums up Vegas weirdness: "I got absolutely no sleep last night. Some crazy woman knocked on the door at eight in the morning. She knocked on the wrong door and woke me up and I went to bed at four last night. I really want to go out and party and celebrate, but I might just fall asleep instead. It’s pretty amazing to win."
Woods didn't let a wasted whiskey tango chick ruin his march toward the bracelet. I wonder if Woods and his mates celebrated his victory by getting so shitfaced that they were roaming the hallways at 4am and knocking on the wrong doors?
To stay sane, I accepted an invite for an"old school Vegas" night with some friends. We headed to Binion's steakhouse to indulge in meat before we got shitfaced and played 2/4 mixed games (HORSE plus Triple Draw). The view from the steakhouse is kinda cool because you get to glimpse into Vegas' past, like going into a time machine because around every corner, you can conjure up a story about the old Las Vegas -- whether it was the origins of Sin City or the early beginnings of the World Series of Poker.
The steak was delicious and our meal was a bargain (all things considered). As much as the meat rocked, the conversation even better. We vowed to do this again.
We received mixed reactions from the poker room at Binion's when AlCantHang led the charge inside. The players frowned at the drunken and raucous circus, while staff was thrilled that a group of bubbly and schwasted players wanted to have some fun -- which is the opposite of the usual, grumpy, gasey, ornery octogenarian clientele. They knew happy drunks tipped well, while the anger mongers stewed in their own bodily fluids.
The Lineup:We ran off the guy in seat 8 rather quickly, but the old guy in Seat 7 hung around. He looked like a cross between Goose Gossage (think his crazy facial hair) and Sam Elliot. He seemed confused during Triple Draw, like your grandfather trying to figure out how to set the clock on a VCR.
Seat 1: Your hero
Seat 2: Princess Donk
Seat 3: Kara Scott
Seat 4: Change100
Seat 5: AlCantHang
Seat 6: Poker Vixen
Seat 7: RANDOM OLD GUY
Seat 8: Random civilian
Seat 9: KevMath
Princess Donk awarded $1 bonuses to slow roll anyone at the table. I collected $1 after ambushed KevMath during Triple Draw. I gave the bounty to the dealer, who was bummed when she had to move off the table and deal to the silently angry cash game adjacent to your table.
I was having to much fun to write down hands, besides, at that point with the booze and painkillers, my mind was "foggy and groggy", so I have to re-read twitter and look at my cell phone pics to figure out what happened.
In the end, the old school Vegas night was what I needed to stay sane at the WSOP. I didn't feel too bad about only working a half-day at the Rio because after all, Binion's is where it all began, and I acquired some great material. That's my only issue with being a slave to live updates at the Rio -- it's that I miss out on fun, off-campus excursions. I vowed to take a night or two off every week this summer to engage in those hijinks -- for my own amusement and to stay sane.
If you're attending the WSOP for more than a week or so, you must take your own hajj to downtown Las Vegas and wander around Binion's to soak up the nostalgia and do a little ghost hunting. Check out the refurbished poker room, especially the classic black and white photos of the WSOP from yesteryear, which have been arranged on the walls. The postmodern WSOP at the Rio displayed wrinkled banners of the contemporary masters of the universe, but not a single one of those color murals gave me an army of goose bumps like I got when I strolled around the poker room and paused in front of the numerous sepia-tinged snapshots from the 1970s and early 1980s -- Stuey Ungar looked like a pet monkey sitting next to a behemoth Doyle Brunson, and Bobby Baldwin's curly afro made him look more like a 70s porn star than one of the greatest cash game players of all time.
There's nothing quite like the casual absurdity which you will only find in downtown Las Vegas. I walked into the men's room at Binion's and was greeted by two individuals engaging in regular activities -- a homeless guy took a shower (a.k.a. sink bath), meanwhile an old guy in jean shorts, black socks, and a green vest was jerking off into the urinal.
Yep, just another Monday night in downtown Las Vegas.