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Best of Vin Narayanan

Gaming Guru

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Top 10 observations from the World Series of Poker Main Event

8 July 2013

10. Healthy living
For decades, poker players were a notoriously unhealthy group of people. They ate too much, drank too much, smoked too much and didn't exercise. That's changed dramatically over the course of the past few years. Poker players watch their diets now. Many order healthy fare from All American Dave, which is delivered directly to their tables. Others opt for the fruit plates from the Poker Kitchen. And some are diligent about bringing healthy food from home with them to the table. The people serving drinks to the players don't carry alcohol on their trays anymore. There isn't enough demand. Instead, they walk around with water and Red Bulls. Alcohol is available on request. And more poker players seem to be exercising and staying fit away from the table. It brings a different vibe to the Main Event, but one that's ultimately good for the long-term health of the game.

9. Binion's is a memory
For decades, Binion's was the home of the World Series of Poker. The two were inextricably linked in gambling lore, their identities intertwined in ways that made it hard to envision how any venue could replace it. But the Amazon Room in the Rio hasn't just replaced Binion's. It's made it a distant memory. When players step into the Amazon Room, it's clear they're entering hallowed grounds. Giant portraits of previous Main Event champions remind players of the history of the tournament and the game. The sight of poker tables for as far as they eye can see is awe inspiring. And thanks to ESPN's coverage of the Main Event, the Amazon Room is the only home for the WSOP Main Event they've ever known. Caesars has turned the Amazon Room from a venue for the WSOP into the home of the WSOP. That's a remarkable feat.

8. It's quiet
Players just don't talk at the table very much any more. They have plenty to say to their friends who come to visit them on the rail. But conversation at the tables is minimal. Down time is spent on smartphones and tablets now. And I think that's a great loss for the game.

7. Sunglasses are no longer fashionable
This is a trend I can get behind. For most of the past 10 years, sunglasses at the table were a normal accessory. Everyone wore them. The theory was if they couldn't see your eyes, they couldn't read your eyes. Now, players realize they're not really giving away any information with their eyes. Or that wearing sunglasses indoors is stupid. Either way, I'm happy sunglasses are disappearing from the table.

6. The Main Event matters
It's absolutely remarkable how many people come to Las Vegas hoping to qualify for the Main Event. They don't always succeed. In fact many of them of don't. But the fact that so many people are trying shows just how much this one tournament matters. The Main Event is the big dream for these players, and they're chasing it hard. Satellite tournaments are jam-packed. So are the cash tables, where a lot of people are trying to earn enough money for a Main Event buy-in. Even at other casinos, people are eating, sleeping and dreaming of playing at the Main Event. They were talking about it in line at the Gold Coast Buffet, while waiting for a prize drawing at the Gold Coast and at the Pai Gow tables. With all the talk surrounding the high roller events, it's important to remember that for most poker players, the Main Event is the tournament that counts.

5. Dealers are really good
The dealers at the World Series rarely make mistakes of any significance, which is remarkable considering how many hands they're dealing. But what's more impressive is how they handle being the public face of the tournament -- and the Series. Watch a dealer walk the halls of the Rio. They're constantly being approached with questions. "Where's this table?" "When does this tournament start?" "Where's registration?" "What tournaments are being played today?" And these dealers patiently answer all of these questions with a smile on their face. It's incredible. For most players, their primary interactions with the WSOP are with the dealers. And if the dealers are not good at handling them, the players won't come back. But these dealers are really good. And that's why this Series, and the Main Event, work.

4. Day 1A will never catch on
No matter how hard the World Series tries, they can't seem to convince players to start on Day 1A of the tournament. Day 1As consistently draw fewer than 1,000 entrants, while Day 1C fields are enormous. If ever there was going to be a big Day 1A field, it was this year. The Main Event opened on a Saturday. It was two days after July 4, so it was part of the long weekend, but not the day after the holiday. It was the perfect storm for Day 1A, yet only 943 players showed up. It looks like Day 1A will always see smaller fields, and there's not much the WSOP can do about it.

3. Poker players are procrastinators
As word spread that the WSOP was expecting a massive Day 1C, so did fears that the day would sell out. The day isn't going to sell out. But it illustrates just how badly poker players procrastinate. They could have registered for Day 1A. They could have registered for Day 1B. They could have registered in advance for Day 1C. But they did none of those things, and started panicking about the possibility of not making the field. Come on, people. Get your act together. The schedule is released months in advance. You can register well in advance of the tournament. Just do it.

2. Doyle Brunson is still the man
Poker fans love Doyle Brunson. They want pictures of him. They want to be like him. Dealers want him at their table. The WSOP unveiled a Doyle Brunson bust Sunday. And in a tournament where 20-somethings have been dominating, Brunson, at age 79, is the rock star. This is Brunson's world. We're all just living in it.

1. Field size
With 6,352 entrants, this is the smallest Main Event since 2005, which had 5,619 entrants. There were 6,598 entrants in last year. In the larger scheme of things, the drop in entrants isn't that big a deal. It's not a sign that poker is on a downwards swing or the Main Event is in trouble. In fact, that's the furthest thing from the truth. From 2007-2012, Main Event fields ranged from 6,358 to 7,319. If you include this year's field, the median field (2007-2013) is 6,598 players. That's probably the market size for the Main Event right now. So every year, we'll see anywhere from 6,300 to 6,800 players in the Main Event. What can change that? The return of online poker to the U.S. in a sizable way. That can expand the pool of players with the interest and bankroll necessary to play the game. An economic recovery wouldn't hurt either. Regardless, this is where poker is right now until something changes.
Top 10 observations from the World Series of Poker Main Event is republished from CasinoVendors.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.