Friday, June 17, 2011

2011 WSOP - Day 17: Mike Sexton Heads-Up for Bracelet and Liquidating the Sahara

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

"Hmmmm...what would Vince Van Patten do?"

One of the more controversial innovations at this year's WSOP is the 10-level hard-stop rule. I understand why it was set forth in motion -- to give everyone ample rest, which means floor staff, dealers, players, and media. Everyone works their asses off to pull off an amazing event. Even if you hate Harrah's/Caesar's, you have to give everyone credit for their diligent work under duress and sleep deprivation. Everyone following along at home loves to talk shit, but very few people can actually survive the mental anguish and physical grind that an event like the WSOP puts people through. Players can take off a day or two, whereas staff cannot. In order to keep the troops fresh and mentally sound, the powers to be attempted to figure out a compromise to keep the WSOP moving along as fast as possible, but not to the detriment of the people whom are truly responsible for making it happen. It's truly a thankless task, and very few customers don't say a peep when things progress smoothly. However, the moment something is outta whack, everyone hears about it.

I've spent many a late night at the Rio as the darkness bled into the morning and those are the moments when the job of working at the WSOP really sucks. The reason I have an edge over the average reporter is that I'm an insomniac and I'm used to sleeping a couple of hours a night. The WSOP is a marathon and by mid-way through the series, I see many of my colleagues run out of gas. They become zombies and operate on vapors for the rest of the series. As soon as I see that happening, I kick it into high gear (as the song lyric goes -- the high gear of my soul, you gotta run like an antelope, out of control). But I'm a freak of nature and not everyone has a steady Adderaall connection to stay awake and sharp during a seven-week grind.

An individual late night at the WSOP is not troubling, rather it's the cumulative effect of a plethora of late nights over the seven weeks of the WSOP which drives people batshit crazy. Throw in hangovers, personal problems and vendettas, and having to eat the same shitty food day after day, then you start to wonder why so much weirdness abounds at the Rio.

So, in that regard, the 10-level hard stop rule is a blessing because it looks out for the mental health and physical well-being of the players, staff, and media. Being inside a casino for 12, 14, 16 hours a day, seven days a week, really squashes your brain like a grape. I fall asleep hearing the dissonant buzzing of slot machines. I have bizarre dreams that make your worst acid flashbacks look like a feelgood Norman Rockwell painting. Everyone I know who does their first extended WSOP (players, staff, media) often speaks about the bizzaro dreams they have. Dreams are the equivalent of your brain taking a shit and releasing backed up waste. So, when you're bombarded by constant casino stimuli and flashing lights and roaring casino sounds, your brain is going to soak all of that up during the day like a sponge, and then ring it out at night when you're trying to sleep.

Any time you can score extra sleep, even if it's 15 fucking minutes, is a welcomed. It might be the only thing that prevents you from diving off the edge of the cliff.

However, from a purist standpoint, the 10-level hard stop rule takes away the grittiness and toughness of the WSOP by dragging out a tournament. Some of the most amazing bracelet events I've seen happened because of marathon heads-up matches. A few come to mind like the inaugural $50,000 HORSE Championship with the late Chip Reese and Andy Bloch. Fifty years from now, poker scribes and fans will still be pointing to that amazing evening/morning in 2006. But the entire outcome of the tournament would have been altered if there was a hard-stop time. And although it was the WSOP-E... John Juanda's marathon against RRG (Random Russian Guy) also applies as one of the more combative mental matches in poker. I crashed at 6am and woke up at 9am, and it was still going on!

Last year, Matt Savage created an Iron Man Tournament at the Commerce Casino in LA with no breaks and you play straight through until one player is left standing. It sounded like a gimmick, and it partially is, but it also tests stamina and mental toughness. That's why I thought it was unique but an interesting throw back.

Dare I say... the 10-level hard stop rules at the WSOP is just another example of the pussification of America. This isn't Salt Lake City in the Nanny States of America; this is Las Fucking Vegas -- the last bastion of freedom and the "fuck all, anything goes" mantra.

Like I stated, this is a controversial topic because I see the good and the bad in the hard-stop rule. As someone who sees their friends in anguish, it's a gut punch every summer because you know you can't do anything to help them, because in the end, they have to pull themselves out of their downward spiral into hell. When you sit at home and follow along with the coverage, or of you just come out a weekend at a time, you don't get to see the glazed look, and dejected shuffling of the feet on players, staff, and media after they lose their shit. Some folks go through multiple mental breakdowns. It happens a couple a times a summer for me, and I'm a savvy veteran. That's why the last few summers, I set aside a couple of excursions to get the heck out of Vegas and away from the Rio in order to reboot and refresh my beatdown mind.

The hard-stop times are a godsend to improve everyone's mental health and morale. But from a fan perspective, I want to see players duke it out way past sunrise. That's what makes previous WSOP events historic...when East Coasters like my brother wake up and go to their office, fire up a computer, and still see a bracelet event playing out.

I'd like to offer up a solution -- use the hard-stop rule for opening days of an event, but if you start a final table -- play it out until someone is left standing. No exceptions.

Case in point -- Event #25 $2,500 Stud 8. Play was suspended with two remaining -- Chris Viox and Mike Sexton. The veteran in Sexton probably wanted to play it out. Sexton is one of the few links to old school Vegas -- when men were men, who rolled their own cigarettes and women rolled their own tampons.

To sum up, hard-stop times are good in theory, but suck donkey balls when final tables are postponed. I think the WSOP is going to have to make each tournament a four-day affair with the final table played out on Day 4 -- from start to finish.

In case you were wondering, Mike Sexton is down 3-1 in chips when play was suspended. Action will resume at 3pm PT.

* * *

I had too much going on to attend the liquidation sale of the Sahara Casino. I really wanted to go to buy a Pai Gow table. A few friends tried to go to the sale, but the lines were too long (in excess of five hours to get in and two hours to check out and buy something). If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out... The Sahara Doesn't Live Here Anymore.

Also, listen to this episode of Tao of Pokerati podcast that I recorded with Remko and Benjo... Episode 7: Sahara Liquidation.

I heard that Jesse May was one of the first people standing in line. I'm waiting to read his thoughts on the spectacle.

Luckily, a few French colleagues got inside the Sahara. Jules, Jerome,and Camille wandered around and Camille shot this video, so check it out...

L'hotel et casino Sahara de Las Vegas en... by poker52

Amazing camera work. Parts of the Sahara look like the leftovers from a zombie apocalypse.

That's the sad part about Las Vegas. When something gets old, they blow it up and rebuild on top of it. History is erased with one click on a demolition switch. Las Vegas is the opposite of New York City and European cities, where they preserve old landmarks as a testament to that particular time and space. Ever walk into an old church in Rome or Paris that was built in the 18th century? You can feel the energy derived from spirits, ghosts, and other paranormal entities dating back hundreds of years.

The Las Vegas ghosts are without a home. No wonder they are so pissed off and haunt every one of us. We destroyed their memories.

* * *

That's it. For a quickie wrap, head over to Rise Poker and check out Change100's Day 17 Recap.

Follow @taopauly for Twitter updates throughout the day.

Also, help support indie writers and buy my books: Lost Vegas: The Redneck Riviera, Existentialist Conversations with Strippers and the World Series of Poker, and my recently released novel, Jack Tripper Stole My Dog. Both are also available for Kindles and iPads.

Photo credit: @WhoJedi


  1. Is your email messed up? Keep getting bounce backs. Got knocked out of the Senior Event close to dinner break. Will you be around Sat?

  2. I am going to miss the Sahara. First time I went to Vegas, stayed at there. Air and Room in a package deal for 5 days and 4 nights for under $300. I feel old now :-(

    Great idea on the hard stop rule for the Final Tables. Seems like a very acceptable compromise.

  3. who did the viva las vegas version in the Sahara video?