LAS VEGAS – It’s 8 am, I’ve been up since five, which means my body clock has turned around so that I’m now in Toronto. And I won’t play the event I’d planned to play today. If it was at noon, I might, but not with its late afternoon starting time.
Back in the primeval days of poker theory, Mike Caro observed that in poker, you don’t get paid for winning pots. You get paid for making the correct decision, and this, I think, qualifies. As Caro also noted, money you don’t lose is just as good as money you win.
And, in Las Vegas at World Series time, it’s not as if there’s a shortage of tournaments to play – Binion’s, the original home of the World Series until they sold it to Harrah’s a few years ago after going broke, is running a “mirror” tournament – the same events for one-tenth the price, a day earlier – which means I should play their Omaha hi-lo tournament tomorrow as a tuneup for the Series event on Tuesday.
There’s also the Venetian’s “deep stack” tournament series – most tournaments are designed to churn people through the tournament and into the more lucrative cash games or even onto the casino floor. Giving the players lots and lots of chips – deep stacks – puts more play in the event and gives the player more value for their tournament dollars. Plus the Venetian has the most beautiful poker room I’ve ever seen. (I’ve always thought Bellagio was overrated, except for the chairs.)
Yesterday’s monumental lines turned into a 3000 player tournament that sprawled out of the main tournament room, which has about 230 tables, into the tent, which is referred to as a "permanent temporary structure", my favorite oxymoron of the series, and even into the Rio’s actual downstairs poker room, which is closed for the duration as all the action is moved back into The Rio’s convention center. At $1500 a head, that’s a four million dollar plus prize pool, for those keeping score. As to who won it, we won’t know until tomorrow – they’re in the middle of it now.
* * * *
You have no idea how big a Las Vegas mega-resort is until you start walking it. I’m staying next door at the Gold Coast – well, for a few more hours, until I move to The Palms, across the street, for the duration. The Gold Coast is a small hotel, by Vegas standards, and only in Vegas would a ten-story, 800 room hotel be considered small.
I can leave my room and be inside The Rio in eight minutes – along the hall, down the elevator, through the casino, then a cut through the parking garage and across Valley View in mid-block. Once I’m inside, it takes longer than that to get to the massive room where they keep the World Series. The cliché may be tired, but it’s true – you could play football in this room, with room on the sidelines for benches, cheerleaders and a considerable set of bleachers.
Instead, you’ve got thousands of guys in sneakers and casino logo-ed shirts and baseball caps and sunglasses lounging around trying to look like the reincarnation of Doc Holliday, though without the TB-induced weight loss. Yes, there are some great female players, but this is still testosterone central. And you can tell the internet players – in a world with an almost vampiric relationship to direct sunlight, the internet players are palest of all. They also tend to be the ones asking the various poker celebs to take a picture or for an autograph. As someone who played poker before the current boom – I won my first tournament in 1999 – I find the concept of the poker celebrity bizarre. But then, I also find it bizarre that my telephone is also a really lousy camera.