Pommo #4

What was supposed to be an exciting few weeks at the World Series turned into a BIG disappointment

Each WSOP creates around 40 new ‘world champions’, which degrades the concept of the bracelets

I’ve just got back from my first ever WSOP and my overriding feeling is one of disappointment. I think I might have built it up too much in my own head. I had such a good time in Vegas last December that I was literally itching to go back. I’d also never experienced a WSOP before so there was plenty to look forward to. But if you’ve never been to Vegas and are looking forward to the WSOP next year then maybe you shouldn’t read the following.

Vegas is a weekend place, and if you stay there too long it kind of gets you down. There are plenty of downsides to being a professional poker player, and Vegas highlights all of them at some point during your stay. Firstly, the travel is a killer. I haven’t been away since the Heads-Up Championships in Barcelona so was well rested for a change, but still felt the effects of a 10-hour flight and an eight-hour time difference for a good few days after my arrival.

There’s also the hotel environment. In Vegas you can’t open your hotel windows (I’ve always thought this must be to prevent ‘jumpers’ given that it’s a gambling city!), and the air con is guaranteed to make you ill after only a few days. You leave your room and head down to the casino and, guess what? No fresh air there either! It’s pretty hard to maintain a normal sleeping pattern in Vegas, so taking all these factors into account, after a week or so you’re not exactly going to be in great shape.

Seedy side

The weather is great, but if you take a walk around the convention centre at the Rio, everyone is white as a sheet. Come to think of it, I actually think I had a better tan before I left! There’s a certain seediness about Vegas – on my first trip there it made for a better trip, but this time it was too evident.

You’re sure to see plenty of strange people just by taking a walk down the Strip at two in the afternoon. Then you have the down-and-outs. As I said before, it’s a gambling city, so you’re going to see more than your fair share of life’s losers. One guy even offered to sell us his shoes (a story which is far too long for this column) for $30. I’m pretty sure I would have to walk up and down Oxford Street for hours before I could convince someone to sell me their shoes for $30!

And the poker? Well, for months now I’d said that I envisaged the WSOP as being too much of a crapshoot and that it wasn’t high on my list of poker priorities. Unfortunately, I still stand by that. With the change of venue, it’s lost a lot of its prestige – Binion’s had a lot of history behind it but the Rio just doesn’t have the same feel about it.

Each WSOP creates around 40 new ‘world champions’, which kind of degrades the concept of the bracelets. Yeah, I’m sure it’s great if you win one, but where’s the prestige? At this rate, in a few years everyone will have one! I also think the prize money is too big when you consider that there’s a good chance that an amateur will win it. The reason this is a bad thing is that the money isn’t likely to be put back into the poker economy. I know poker is booming still, but $12m is a lot of money to take out of any economy.

I actually think the WSOP should be scrapped and a new World Championship started. Some people consider Chip Reese to be this year’s true world champion given that he won the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event, but I also disagree with that. No-limit Hold’em is the most popular form of poker, so surely a world champion has to be judged on that game primarily?

I think a model based on golf’s PGA tour would be the best idea, but given the amount of luck involved in any given poker tournament it’s always going to be hard to find a real world champion. There are a group of players who are considered to be the game’s elite based on their long-term records, and seeing as poker is a long-term game, maybe that’s the only way to really judge it.

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