Las Vegas, NV
Saturday at the Rio. Nothing quite like it, especially at the World Series of Poker. During the preliminaries it's easy to forget what day of the week it is as all the days blend into one long chimera -- that is, until the weekends roll around because the Rio takes on a vastly different vibe with more tourists, more drunkards, more working girls, and scores of weekend warriors.
Today was Saturday, which coincided with Day 1C of the Main Event. It's no coincidence that it also marked the first time that the vibe at the Rio resembled the circus-like atmosphere of the Main Event. Alas, it only took three days for that magic to appear. Of course, a lot of that had to do with the number of entrants -- almost 2.5 times as many as Day 1A -- a result of amateurs and semi--pros with real jobs opting to play on the weekend instead of a weekday.
Day 1C's field featured 2,181 runners bringing the total to 4,056 (through three flights). With even more players scheduled to play on the final day, the Main Event will easily pass 6,000. A few suits suggested that they had a legit shot to crack the 7,000 barrier. So much for Black Friday killing the WSOP, eh?
The first two flights had less than 1,000 on each day, whereas the weekend flights were boosted by weekend warriors. My colleague Homer from England likes to refer to them as "Romantics" because they have a unique zest and passion for poker that cannot be matched by a dozen jaded vets. It's difficult to be immersed in the poker scene for several years without losing some enthusiasm for the game we all used to love. Maybe it's the grind of living in Vegas, or the mental fatigue of being on the international circuit and living out of your suitcase and waking up in strange hotel rooms with maids barging in an hour after you finally fall asleep.
But for the dreamers, er the "Romantics," the Main Event is Christmas, New Years, and the Fourth of July all rolled into one event. The best part? If they catch a gnarly wave of luck and play the best poker of their lives for two weeks straight, they have a shot at poker immortality.
It really started to feel like the Main Event with random flashes going off inside the Amazon Ballroom from railbirds snapping photos of their favorite players or their friends/family whom they came to rail. The congested hallways made it difficult to navigate because of cupcakes and slippers. Everyone who played in the Main Event got a voucher for a free pair of Dearfoams -- which they picked up in the hallway, adding to the traffic. Then there was the cupcake frenzy, in which people were hoarding cupcakes and rushing down the hallways to binge-eat the tasty treats and obtain a sugar rush that can only be topped by blowing biker rails off of the backside of a Thai hooker.
So what's the deal with the cupcakes? What is this, the World Series of Potheads? Well, depending on which table you walk by, you can get a whiff of some of the dankest kind nugs in Sin City. You'd be surprised that mary jane is not just for 20-something online pros. The most random people are hardcore tokers and many of them are holding at any given time. I always wondered how many players were holding at any given moment? 200? 300? 420? Add it all up and you could scrounge up a QP or more.
Sorry for the tangent. I was supposed to tell you about the cupcakes. Annie Duke was tapped to do the honors for "shuffle up and deal" but she invited Cupcake Wars winner Tina Swanson up to the stage to actually do the duties with her. For some reason, both Ray Romano and Brad Garrett were also invited by Annie to share the spotlight in front of the Mothership. Comedy shtick involving cupcakes instantly ensued.
"Cupcake is my favorite stripper at Crazy Horse," deadpanned Ray Romano.
Mmmmmm, cupcakes. I've never gotten a handjob from a cupcake before.
Bouncin' Round the Room on Day 1C...
According to my notes, here's what I saw:
Hoodies. Lots of hoodies. When I first got into poker, only one person wore a hoodie and it was the Unabomber. I mean, players might have worn hooded sweatshirts, but no one actually pulled it up over their heads to conceal themselves. Unless it's Arctic Circle-like freezing temperatures or if you have a bald spot like me, I never understood the appeal of pulling up the hoodie unless you were trying to intimidate your opponent into thinking you were a deranged Luddite who wrote anti-technology manifestos and concocted incendiary devices in a shack in the middle of nowhere.
The hats far outweighed the hoodies. Tex Barch wore an ordinary golf visor and at the table next to him, Humberto Brenes sported his trademark visor with the Costa Rican flag on it. Even though Bobby Baldwin was playing on Day 1C, I missed the days when he wore his old- school visor (think Hunter Thompson from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas). Baseball hats with actual MLB teams were in the minority (but the Yanks, Red Sox, Cubs, and Dodgers were well represented) and I even noticed a couple of Full Tilt and UB hats, but my favorite was the guy in the bright canary yellow Sponge Bob Squarepants lid. Lots of backwards hats, a couple of sideways hats, plenty of flat-billed hats, crooked-brimmed hats, and the typical trucker hats -- more popular among denizens of Williamsburg and Silver Lake than actual truckers these days.
Back in the days of yesteryear, you'd see a lot more cowboy hats inside Las Vegas poker rooms, but those are endangered species. Straw hats were present, but only a few. Texas Dolly played on Day 1A, so I didn't see any Stetsons, but I saw a plethora of fedoras right out of Ray Davis' closet. There's a fine line between snazzy and hipster, and those players flirted with that line. One guy had a fake leather fedora and someone else had a latex one -- definitely a fetish or S&M freak if you ask me. I found an LA hipster wearing a wool ski hat, another one wearing a plaid cap, and someone with a Paddington the Bear hat. My favorite were a couple of rednecks wearing camouflage hunting caps -- if you're going donkey hunting, then you might as well dress the part.
Either you're a sunglasses-wearer or you think it's absurd. Chris Moneymaker wore his shades, while a few wealthy Scandis had designer sunglasses and a couple of broke dicks who cared about "looks" could only afford fugazi shades. I saw one guy with orange hipster glasses and plenty of aviators. People wore sunglasses on top of heads, sunglasses dangling behind heads, but I really miss Rolf Slotbloom's futuristic alien visor shades that he wore on Day 1A.
Courtesy of Winamax
Sports jerseys were abundant, but the few athletes in the field obviously went for the civilian look like cricket legend Shane Warne and Paul Pierce from the Celtics. I assumed players hoped their favorite athletes would give them some run-good. Among the jerseys I saw were Steve Yzerman, Jason Varitek, Tim Lincecum, Rajon Rondo, Doc Gooden, Darrelle Revis, Dwyane Wade, and Derek Jeter (on the same day he hit #3,000). I also saw one guy rocking a Hartford Whalers hat, and he was sitting at Ted Forrest's table.
Poker players and music are an interesting combination. It's hard to spot certain pros without seeing them with big-ass noise-canceling headphones or tiny ear buds connected to their iPods, which sat in the edge of the tables behind walls of chips.
The iPad has popped up more and more during this year's WSOP. Last year it seemed like a few early adopters brought out their new toy. Now, the iPad is prevalent inside the ropes and on the rail. Degen action junkies play Chinese Poker against each other. One bored guy watched an episode of Weeds, while other players followed WSOP.com's updates to see how everyone else in the field was doing.
I didn't see any Kindles at the table, but a few railbirds definitely had them to help kill time. I saw a hottie in the corner with one, which seemed like an oxymoron because most hot chicks didn't usually read books. During one of the breaks, I realized she was Brad Garrett's girlfriend who was trying to be supportive and hang out at the Amazon Room, but needed something to entertain herself.
Oh, and don't get me started about the railbirds. Many of them started drinking because of the "Bet on Taste" beer stand set up in front of the Mothership. The rest of them carried cocktails from different parts of the casino. I saw a couple of unenthusiastic folks standing on the rail looking utterly bored reading iPhones, or dicking around on Facebook, and even one Russian gal was playing some sort of Ruskie hangman.
On the flip side, fanboys gushed whenever they saw Scotty Nguyen or other recognizable pros from TV. A couple of scooters were parked in the walkways, and a few tired fans sat down on them. A couple of backers roamed the sidelines eagerly awaiting updates on their horses. They usually had some sort of electronic device to pull up the live updates and constantly refreshed the chip count page.
Supposedly, Hungarian model Krisztina Polgar played right in front of the press box. At one point, one of her friends (female) walked up and greeted her with a kiss -- mouth-to-mouth. Wish I had a video camera at that moment.
Although the amount of costumes were almost nonexistent, a couple of the Brits from the Poker Farm wore cow costumes. One guy wore a skeleton outfit, and then there was the railbird dressed as the sexy pumpkin.
A guy with pink hair ate sushi with chopsticks. A hick in overalls and flip flops wandered around in a daze.
The "water redbull" waiter was working and every few minutes you heard him shout out what he was hawking. He sounded like a cross between a ballpark barker and Tom Waits. Every now and then, Brad Garrett would mimic the waiter and we'd hear his version of "water redbull" echo from his section.
I saw more man purses than I'd like to count. I should be revoking man cards left and right. One Scandi wandered back and forth with a Louis Vuitton. Then there were the old-school fanny packs. A few players had them. It's hard to judge the because sometimes you have a lot of random shit at the tables and might need something to carry around your roll, but unless you have a shitload of Benjamins or you're holding a couple zips of bud, you're on my suspect list if you openly sport a fanny pack.
Brandon Adams reads books, which is why he's one of the smartest dudes in poker. He had a copy of ElkY's book underneath his seat.
KevMath told me he saw a hippie get 86d from the Amazon Ballroom shortly before cards went in the air. The guard and the hippie got into a verbal spat and he was quickly bounced. "Hippies don'tlike authority figures," I told KevMath. "Yeah," he agreed. "They got issues with THE MAN."
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