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Best of Vin Narayanan
Massaging chairs big hit at Poker Palooza3 July 2009
For the last two years, strip clubs have dominated the scene at exhibit shows that have accompanied the World Series of Poker Main Event. One year, there was dunk tank set up so patrons could try and knock strippers wearing white t-shirts into the water. But it appears that the strip club booths are thing of the past.
This year's show, renamed Poker Palooza, is strip-club free. And poker fans seem to like it so far.
Hundreds of fans poured into Poker Palooza as the first day of the World Series of Poker Main Event picked steam, lining up to get autographs from Mike Matusow, Greg Raymer and Phil Hellmuth. Others visited booths displaying custom poker chips, while others browsed poker magazines and books.
But the most popular display at Poker Palooza had nothing to with poker, and everything to do with relaxation.
The Inada Sogno massaging chairs were the runaway smash hit of Poker Palooza. There were three massaging chairs on display and they always had someone in them getting massage, with more people in line waiting their turn.
Judging by the looks of bliss and giddiness that the people trying the chair out had on their faces, there was no doubt that poker fans were enamored with the chairs. So I decided to give the Inada a try, and I was impressed with the results.
Unlike the massaging chairs normally seen in malls, the Inada actually grasps, tugs and stretches you like a real massage therapist. It stretches shoulders, legs, mid-back and hips. And the set up of the chair envelops your body so completely that it can effective massage the thighs and hips in addition to the traditional, neck, shoulder and calf massages that most chairs provide.
Exiting the chair, I felt the best I had in ages. And I really wanted to buy one for myself.
Inada salesman Bob Taylor says he's already sold four – at price of $4,999 per chair --, and hopes to sell a total of 16 by the end of the show.
The $4,999 price tags brings with it delivery to any location in the U.S. and a five-year warranty.
"We sold 16 at a billiards conference recently," Taylor said. "That's why we signed up for this. We're hoping we can do the same here."
"I've had a few wives who said they'll be bringing the husbands by, so hopefully those will turn into sales."
Given the "massage culture" in poker and at the WSOP, he might do even better than that.
One of the more intriguing sights in the Amazon Room is people playing poker while getting massages. An armada of massage therapists wander the room, providing there services (for a fee) on demand. When their services have been engaged, the therapists try to work out all the kinks in the player's shoulder, back and neck while the player never misses a hand.
During this year's $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. tournament, Chau Giang frequently looked like he was in pain while receiving a massage, but his concentration never wavered as he won pot after pot with an elbow pressing into his shoulders from behind. Tony G, Victor Ramdin, Daniel Negreanu and John Duthie are other well-know pros who have been know to get massages at the table.
And for player who can't concentrate while receiving a massage at the table, therapists offer seated massages in chairs located just outside of the Amazon Room.
It's not a stretch to think that poker pros, many of whom love gadgets, would love to get their hands on an Inada massaging chair. And who knows, maybe if they make a deep run at this year's Main Event, they'll choose to relax in comfort and help Taylor make a buck.
Best of Vin Narayanan