UK poker pro and PokerPlayer columnist Dave Colclough explains why he loves to hate Las Vegas

Five-star hotels, 24-hour gambling and millions of dollars to be made – surely Vegas is heaven for a poker player says Dave Colclough?

It’s hard to describe the affect the World Series of Poker has on players. As usual I left the Series shattered and depressed, telling myself I won’t be back next year. The intense pressure it places on you cannot be understood unless you have tried to do the six-week marathon in Sin City.

The temptations are everywhere with two bracelet tournaments a day, lucrative cash games round the clock and satellites loaded with ‘value’. Day after day after day. And if a poker player has the slightest inclination for just one spin of the roulette wheel, then the Vegas monster will exploit the weakness to inflict maximum damage.

As for the WSOP itself, there is none of this namby-pamby starting at mid-day and finishing at 9pm business. No way. The Rio puts you through the mill. Jet-lagged or not, a player must turn up full of beans at mid-day and still be compos mentis at 3am, a whole 15 hours later. Should you survive, you have to be back the next day, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to do battle for the real money.


It’s no surprise that the fatigue sets in. We get emotional. Some players just lose it completely. Praz Bansi resisted the temptation to get on the next plane home after being knocked out with a bad beat in one event, pulled himself together and returned the next day. Maybe he regrets missing that plane now?

James Dean once said something about an actor having to experience the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows. Well maybe he should have just attended the WSOP for six weeks. For the joy of every bracelet winner, there will be several severe casualties who are now minus a bankroll, or budding professional poker players left with their dreams shattered.


I can’t begin to describe how depressing it was to get a decent chip stack in so many competitions this year, only to continually just fall short of the money. It was like being kicked in the teeth every day, but being too numb for it to hurt.

A similar fate had befallen John ‘Skalie’ Kalmar. The WSOP had beaten him. He was a broken man. Not only was he returning home to the UK on the next plane, he was thinking seriously about giving up poker and going back to work. I know where Skalie is coming from, as I suggested the same thing to Keith ‘The Camel’ Hawkins at McCarran airport three years ago. Only the WSOP can do this to a poker player.

Of course, in Skalie’s case, the addiction fortunately begged him to give it one last try. So he gave one final satellite a go, and ten days later he was a poker millionaire.

But even those who taste success may end up emotionally scarred. It was great to see Ram Vaswani finally win a bracelet, but Vegas got to him too. He is far from returning in profit and I wonder if he looks back on the Series with fond memories.

One of my closest friends in poker is John Shipley, who lives close to me in Solihull. He came back from the WSOP a huge winner in 2002, but returned home a complete psychological wreck. He had blown a main event final table chip lead and crashed out in seventh place. For the next week we drank from 8pm each evening until 8am the next morning. And he told me endlessly where he had gone wrong. Fortunately, he has fully recovered now. I don’t know, maybe healing from the wounds brought him back stronger.

I refuse to stop at the Rio, Wynn or Bellagio during the WSOP. I like to hire a car and stop a mile away from the mayhem of the strip, just to help protect my sanity. God bless The Platinum Hotel & Spa, with not a slot machine in sight. Not quite the luxury mansion I stopped in last year, but it was comfortable enough to call home. Shame I won’t be back next year. Or then again…..will I?

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