On Sunday I drove to the Rio hotel/casino to register for Monday’s $1500 tournament and play the afternoon “Rio $230 deepstack” to get a flavour for the venue and “feel the vibe” of the WSOP.
The above photo is from the entrance into the convention center at the Rio so you “know you have arrived” at the WSOP. Originally the WSOP was held in Binion’s in downtown Vegas. As more events were added it moved to the Rio but they held the final table of the “Main Event” at Binion’s for a few years in a special room. But several years ago that too changed, and they moved the final table to the Penn and Teller Theatre in the Rio (in fact, although the 60+ WSOP events are held from June – July the final table of the main event is in November for additional publicity and suspense).
The first order of business was to take out the $1500 I had won in Orangeville and use it to buy into “Event # 6” the next day. And also bought into the $230 Rio Deepstack that started at 2:30 in the afternoon.
“Deepstack” means you start with more chips, usually at least 15,000 which is twice the 7,500 you get at many of the official events. The blinds are every 30 minutes so you can afford to wait for better hands. The Rio deepstack is a little deceptive because after 2 hours they ‘skip’ a couple of blind levels which means around hour 3 many people start shoving, or going “all in” quite frequently. A true one-day “Deepstack” should last 10+ hours so hour three is a little early for so many “all in” moves.
A big issue with playing poker in Las Vegas during the WSOP is the chronic lack of good dealers. The Rio Deepstack has about 1700 entries (which is around 170 tables to start, requiring 180 dealers to be ready) and there are many other tournaments running at the same time including satellites to events and cash games. And the $1500 tournaments have close to 2000 players. Here is my photo of the main Pavilion room at the Rio:
There are a couple of other ballrooms where they play poker but this is the largest. And all the poker I mentioned above is just at the Rio. Many other casinos (like Caesar’s, Wynn’s, The Venetian, The Golden Nugget etc.) all have their own series to take advantage of people coming in for the WSOP. So many dealers are required for this 2.5 month “bubble”. And they are often not that great. I’ve been sitting at tables where an older dealer is trying to shuffle the cards and I’m thinking “just give the cards to me, I’ll shuffle them more quickly and efficiently and then you can deal”. Sometimes the pots get complicated with the chips and multiple bets and some dealers get overwhelmed. So the players wind up working out how the chips should be split! And some of the players are surprisingly slow to act as well so the advantage of the half hour blinds get eroded by slow dealing and playing. I would not expect that at the WSOP, but it happens!
The poker on Day 2 was not so great. I played in the $230 Deepstack from 2:30 to around 6:30 pm I think and never had very many good hands (meaning, none) and eventually got knocked out. I decided to play a cash game which means the blinds remain the same so there is no pressure to go all in. You can lose as much money as you wish! I chose the 1/2 No Limit game and bought in for $200. It was a fun table and we all joked about stuff, the drinks were free (I think) and you tipped the waitress $1. So it was a relaxing time. Here is a photo of my table.
I believe I was up over $100 and was preparing to leave soon (it was around 10 pm which would be 1 am Eastern time). Then I got into a hand with the young guy to my left (who had actually re-bought for $200 a couple of times!).
I was dealt KK and, rather unfortunately, he was dealt AA! I suppose I could have avoided losing all my chips on this hand, but it would have been tricky. I raised initially and he re-raised. Then the same thing happened on the flop, so a better player might have folded KK, but I did not and lost. So instead of leaving up $100 I was down $200. Some people would say, “hey, you sat at the table for a few hours and had a good time and did not lose that much in the bigger scheme of things”. But at the time I was frustrated that I’d played well and made some money and then lost it all on a freaky hand. But as they say, “That’s Poker”.
I drove back to my hotel to prepare myself for my “big day” playing the $1500 tournament.