Monday, September 29, 2008

WSOPE Main Event: Everything In Its Right Place

By Pauly

I returned to London for my second WSOP-Europe. I had a blah time last year covering the event for Poker News. The long days killed me and I was bleeding money with a super expensive hotel. At that point, I had been in Europe for almost two months and I was desperate to return to North America.

This year, things were a lot different because I didn't have to carry a huge workload Poker News and skipped all of the preliminary events. This year I'm only covering the WSOPE for me... which will include a few half-baked posts on Tao of Poker and I'll also collect some fodder for my Bluff Column. I'm also crashing at a cool flat in Soho that Poker News rented for Change100 and their newest on air host, Gloria. Yep, those are my roomies in London.

I showed up late to the WSOPE in true Hellmuthian fashion. Very late in fact, at almost Midnight on Day 1a. My flight from Amsterdam was delayed over two hours due to fog at Heathrow. Then I had two tournaments to play. Of course, my shitty day was made worse when my laptop died in the middle of Saturdays with Dr. Pauly. That sent me on ubertilt. I don't have many material possessions. I don't even have a home. What I have is what I can carry with me during my travels on the road. My laptop dying was like Tom Hanks losing Wilson the volleyball in Cast Away.

"Wilson! Wilson!"

I spare you the remainder of the bad beat stories. Suffice to say, losing one of my appendages overseas cast a dark veil of misery and gloom over me.

The positive spin on the situation was that I had to go old school. Pen and paper. I grabbed my pad and headed down to the Empire Casino in Leicester Square, the locale of the second installment of the WSOPE. Leicester Square is sort of like Time Square with lots of jailbait British hussies running amuck. On the weekends, the square is filled with late night party people getting their drinky drink on before they pack themselves onto night buses and hope not to get puked on by an inebriated binge drinker slurring incorrect lyrics to Oasis songs.

Last year, the organizers fucked the pooch by trying to spread out the £10,000 main event championship over three casinos. Although the Fifty was super swanky, the plan backfired mainly because they did not get the massive turnout that they originally anticipated. The WSOPE just can't compete with the EPT which is the premiere tournament series in Europe, dare I say, the entire world? Aside from the American superstars and underaged internet players, only a handful of Europeans showed up for the WSOPE. Numbers in the preliminary events were unimpressive consider that Europe is supposed to be one of the areas of booming poker popularity.

This year, the entire main event was hosted at the Empire which meant that gaming tables had to be removed in order to make sufficient space for tournament tables. The Empire had three different areas with tables but all were in different parts of the casino. It was impossible to watch all of the action in one spot. Although the Empire relaxed their entrance policy (no more waiting in line to get your passport scanned and get ad admission card) to accommodate spectators, viewing space was still limited.

One positive change included having the media room in the actual casino. Last year, the media room was located in the basement of a hotel across Leicester Square which may or may not have been a bunker during the sullen days of WWII when the Luftwaffe rained down bombs onto the streets of London.

Dozens of media outlets are cramped into a lounge area. Benjo wrote his updates from a couch. Neil was uploading photos while sitting on a stool at a bar, while Martin from PokerListings and Court from Pocket Fives had to share a tiny table. Some might think those are poor working conditions, but that's just par for the course in European casinos where space is extremely sparse.

Annette15 was the reigning champion and the PR gurus set up a heads up match between herself and Doyle Brunson. I missed the match, but Texas Doyle schooled the young Norwegian chick. Brunson has underwear that's older than Annette15. Score one for the grizzled gunslinger.

Although Dolye Brunson was able to fend off an hyper-aggressive Scandi, He could not beat gravity on Day 1B. Benjo saw Brunson fall as he waited to take his seat after a break. I had just walked past a camera crew interviewing Brunson as he leaned up against his single crutch. Apparently, moments after the interview ended, Brunson took a nasty spill. It wasn't anything serious such as a heart attack or stroke. Brunson simply lost his balance. He managed to cut his arm in the fall. But Brunson is a warrior. He didn't let the fall distract him. He survived his flight and advanced to Day 2 despite having a tough draw that including Jesus, Chino Reem, and several Scandis in hoodies at his table.

Overall, there were 362 runners in the WSOPE Main Event. That equaled last year's number. The prize pool is £3,620,000 but the 2008 Champ will win £868,800, which is less money that the £1 million that Annette 15 took back to Norway last year. Seems as though the prize pool is less top heavy this year.

Sunday in London meant that Americans were jonesin' for NFL action. I was fortunate enough to be invited to sports bar to watch the games. The suits at Harrah's rented out a private suite which included free food and booze. Seth, Nolan, and the TDs Steve and Charlie invited me to check out the action. NFL games come on at 6pm so I was able to get a couple of hours of work in before I headed down to sports bar.

As soon as I walked inside, Phil Hellmuth was slumped over a stool with his eyes peering into the souls of the players in the Packers game. He was rooting for his home state team. A few pros were in the corner on laptops sweating their bets and fantasy football pools. At one point, Hellmuth retreated to the corner to play high stakes (either hearts or spades) with Brandon Cantu, Layne Flack, and Jeff Madsen.

A couple of super agents, Chris and James from Poker Royalty were there. I didn't recognize them since they were in their civilian clothes and not wearing suits. I grabbed several Stellas at the bar and kept my eye on the Jets game. Talk about a shoot out.

I also met a player named Craig from Texas. He told me that he read my site a few times and it wasn't until 15 minutes into the conversation when I realized that he was Craig Marquis, one of the November Nine. Good kid and he hasn't let any of the hype go to his head.

I left the suite and headed back to the Empire where I chain smoked with Benjo. Yeah, I'm been super stressed out the last couple of weeks. My left eye ball has been twitching uncontrollably which I was told was a sign of high stress or epilepsy. Awesome. I have turned to tobacco as a stress reliever.

As Gavin Smith put it best, "Where you able to import your pharmaceuticals into this country?"

Sadly, no. And that's why I'm smoking like an angry Frenchman.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

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