“The thoughts is its personal place, and in itself could make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”
On the chin
Again in August, the World Poker Tour (WPT) introduced a record-breaking assure of $40m for its end-of-year World Championship poker extravaganza. Many questioned if it was potential to hit such a gargantuan quantity. As a rule, Ryan Beauregard and his proficient workforce don’t do their math fallacious so the good cash was on them hitting it.
The straight-shooters at WPT simply took it on the chin. They ate it.
Sadly for the organizers, 4 Day 1s produced 3,835 entrants and a shortfall of $2,417,000, the second largest overlay in poker historical past. The very best-laid plans of mice and males typically go awry and it was noteworthy that, within the ultimate hours earlier than registration closed, there have been no last-minute satellites, no unscheduled turbo-flights added, and no scramble to place gamers in on partial freerolls. The straight-shooters at WPT simply took it on the chin. They ate it.
The outcome was a pleasant Sklansky bucks windfall for every participant and a complete lot of fine religion which can hopefully go a good distance in the direction of assuring the expansion of this competition for years to come back. The WPT is an iconic model in poker and The Wynn is a particular venue, a truth I got here to study on my first journey to Las Vegas again in 2017.
A two-dimensional Pandemonium, a fifth Circle of Hell
I’m going to be straight with you. Las Vegas by no means held any attraction for me. For the primary 12 years of my poker profession, I averted it. I simply presumed that I’d hate it. Sometimes, June would roll round and I’d expertise some FOMO however then I’d think about myself strolling down the sidewalks lined with artificial grass, inhaling deeply the inhospitable scorching, dry air, questioning how all of the gaudy, marauding, neon-lit monstrosities got here to be.
Generally, while studying the each day World Sequence of Poker (WSOP) updates, a satan would seem on my shoulder. “The tournaments appear so juicy. How unhealthy may it actually be?” For a second, the considered these effigies to Historical Greece, Egypt, and Rome constructed on a Martian panorama didn’t appear so horrible. A number of occasions, I even opened up Skyscanner however I may by no means carry myself to guide a flight. My thoughts would all the time conjure the picture of a two-dimensional Pandemonium within the fifth Circle of Hell.
when it got here to Las Vegas itself, my expectations have been very low
Then, in November 2017, my hand was compelled as Unibet Poker introduced that they have been holding an occasion within the Wynn. As a just lately signed ambassador for the model, I used to be anticipated to attend. I regarded ahead to the competition however, when it got here to Las Vegas itself, my expectations have been very low.
Poker Stockholm Syndrome
Poker is a peculiar endeavor. You don’t should be a masochist nevertheless it actually helps. You are taking repeated beatings till you develop a relationship with the ache and its inflictor. In the event you perceive the character of the beast, you develop a type of Poker Stockholm Syndrome. In the event you don’t, you’re doomed and the sport will devour you.
Then you definitely guide a visit to Las Vegas for the primary time and also you dread how all the things might be magnified. Dara O’Kearney had lengthy described to me the march of the misplaced poker souls; the weary, punch-drunk, and catatonic gamers nearing the tip of their World Sequence campaigns, strolling the halls like poker zombies, realizing not why they transfer ahead but seemingly compelled by some better drive.
So you’ll be able to think about my shock once I actually loved my first go to to Las Vegas. I embraced the silliness. I forgave the grubbiness. I ate Mexican meals overlooking the Bellagio fountain. I drank in dive bars. I visited the Neon Boneyard. I walked up and down Fremont Road and The Strip. As quickly as you understand that naff is the purpose, you get pleasure from what town has to supply each sarcastically and unironically. It additionally didn’t damage that the Wynn was spectacular.
The employees on the resort perceive service. They’re detail-oriented. They make you are feeling sorted. You really imagine that they need you to ‘have a pleasant day.’ That dedication extends to the poker site the place the match administrators, cage-workers, and sellers run a seamlessly clean operation.
Estragon and Vladimir
After enjoying within the Wynn, I went again to Las Vegas seven months later for the WSOP. I’ve gone again 4 extra occasions since. Rooming with Dara is all the time a pleasure (though operating with him within the desert warmth is rather less so). I benefit from the buzz of the Sequence nevertheless it all the time seems like an prolonged work journey. If I’m going to go away my household for a fortnight, I must justify it by flicking in all the things that I can to maximise my probability of a monetary return. I’m fortunate that Dara feels the identical method and we each go into grind mode.
two Irishmen in a desolate place with a doubtful raison d’etre
I’m additionally fortunate most of my journeys to Las Vegas have been profitable. I’ve made the highest 3% of the Predominant Occasion twice in 4 makes an attempt. I’ve made a number of deep runs in facet occasions. My solely dropping journey got here in 2019. Dara has been on my rail as I’ve been on his, most memorably for his ultimate desk run in 2021. I generally consider us because the Estragon and Vladimir of poker, ready for our time to be collected; two Irishmen in a desolate place with a doubtful raison d’etre, enjoying, failing, enjoying once more, failing once more, attempting to play higher, attempting to fail higher.
Final yr, once I knowledgeable my accomplice Saron that I’d be going again to the Wynn for the WPT World Poker Championships, I assured her that, like my journeys to the WSOP, it was all enterprise. She checked out me incredulously, seeing proper by means of my less-than-best poker face. “You’re staying within the Wynn!” she exclaimed and I had no rebuttal. She had accompanied me to the Unibet occasion for that first journey in 2017 so knew nicely that I’d be staying within the lap of luxurious. After I instructed her that it will be one other cannot-miss occasion this yr, she merely shook me down for 10%.
The Mexican standoff re-visited
Final yr, the WPT constructed it and so they got here however this yr, they wanted to come back in even larger numbers. Not solely that, however the World Championships needed to jostle with the excellently run European Poker Tour (EPT) Prague which was coming off the again of a record-setting occasion in 2022 and a extra direct type of competitors from its largest rival.
GGPoker/WSOP actually did their greatest to upset the apple cart, attractive folks to the Bahamas with the promise of $50m value of prizepools. When that didn’t work, they upped the ante, providing freebies, parlays, and a ‘two for the value of 1’ provide. They even debuted an ‘OnLive’ hybrid, an internet Day 1 which they badly wanted to cowl 30% of their Predominant Occasion assure. I suppose even Paradise sees its share of storms.
it’s the gamers who made out with the Accomplice gold
In a latest article, I likened the conflict between the EPT, WPT, and WSOP to a Mexican Standoff and I made some predictions about who would emerge as Clint Eastwood on this explicit showdown. Maybe the deeper reality, nonetheless, is that it’s the gamers who made out with the Accomplice gold.
A Heaven of Hell
The underside line is competitors is sweet and a robust EPT, WPT, and WSOP is necessary for poker’s long-term success. When there may be turf battle, it’s the gamers who profit and we badly want that rivalry to proceed. Dara and I each keep in mind being on the opposite facet of that coin, when the market chief took benefit of their monopoly, squeezing us with egregious rake and a dearth of promotions.
All instructed, the three major occasions produced 9 prizes in extra of $1m, life-changing cash for these gamers. Dara and I each managed to money however sadly that seven-figure cheque alluded us. We’re nothing if not persistent although. Like Estragon and Vladimir, we might be again, hoping for a greater consequence.
If good sense prevails, there received’t be a conflict subsequent yr. There are already rumblings that EPT Prague may begin per week earlier and it actually makes extra sense for the WSOP to farm the empty pastures of January. No matter occurs, my very own first alternative would be the World Championships. If Vegas is a scorched desert Inferno, then the WPT has managed to create an oasis within the Wynn, an end-of-year refuge for degenerates, a chic wellspring of poker motion. They’ve made a poker Heaven out of Hell.