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The World Series of Poker is all grown up

9 July 2011

LAS VEGAS -- Day 1B of the World Series of Poker Main Event saw another 978 players begin their quest to win poker's biggest tournament. While Friday's field was bigger than Thursday's Day 1A flight of 897 players, the atmosphere was remarkably similar -- quiet and studious.

The new mood in the Amazon Room at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino is a marked departure from the poker boom era Main Events from 2003-2006.

Those tournaments had an almost carnival quality to them. Players tried to get on ESPN by wearing the wackiest costumes. Strippers roamed the halls trying to get players and fans to visit their clubs. Online poker rooms threw lavish parties and paid for elaborate player lounges where people who satellited into Series tournaments could rest, eat and play some video games. The WSOP was an excuse for poker players to come to Vegas, party and take a shot at becoming famous. But winning the Main Event wasn't the priority.

One of poker

One of poker's young guns, John Racener, chipped up on Day 1B. He ended the day with over 80,000. (photo by Vin Narayanan)

Much of that was due the nature of players who were arriving in Vegas. Internet poker was in its infancy. Anybody could sign up for an account at an online poker room. And at that point, it seemed anyone could win a satellite to get to Vegas. You just had to get a little lucky. Sure, there were many players who were seriously honing their craft. But they were a drop in the bucket compared to the casual players.

All of that changed in 2006 when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act became law. Casual poker players dropped out of the online poker ecosystem. And what emerged was a group of young, hungry poker players who earned a living and perfected their craft online before coming to live tournaments.

As this next group of professional players emerged, the WSOP changed. In a sense, the WSOP grew up, even as the players in the field became younger.

The costumes disappeared, as did other props that people thought would get them on television. These players had all played thousands and thousands of hands. There was nothing -- from a poker sense -- that they had not seen before. They understood the math behind every situation. They were here to win tournaments, not get famous.

The last three Main Event champions have come from this new generation of pros. Peter Eastgate and Joe Cada were both 21 when they won the Main Event. Jonathan Duhamel was 23.

But even with a new generation of pros taking over the game, there was still a bit of buzz in the room during the four Day 1s. You could usually feel the excitement and energy of 1,000 or 2,000 players hitting the felt at the same time.

Erica Schoenberg couldn

Erica Schoenberg couldn't catch a break and busted out of the Main Event on Day 1B. (photo by Vin Narayanan)

That buzz is missing this year. And that could be the first sign that the takeover is complete. These players know that the Main Event is a long grind, and they're treating it that way. So instead of outward excitement, there's quiet focus.

Notable players eliminated on Day 1B: Erica Schoenberg, Michael Mizrachi, Eric Froehlich,

Notable players surviving Day 1B: Ben Lamb, Patrik Antonius, Jason Lester, Vivek Rajkumar, Jean-Robert Bellande, John Racener, Dario Minieri, Eugene Katchalov, David Sklansky, Maya Geller, David Chiu, Justin Bonomo, Tony Dunst, Mike Matusow and Scott Seiver.

The World Series of Poker is all grown up is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan

Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.

Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.