Change has brought many a sponsorship deal and TV appearance but
is the train comming of the tracks?
In July 2005, I witnessed
strange goings on in Las Vegas, more precisely the Rio Casino and more
precisely still, a convention centre behind it some ten tedious minutes walk
from anything. It was of course the
World Series Of Poker
2005 and of course not to be confused with any one that had gone before
If anyone was in doubt that poker had changed after seeing 2000
people play on each of the first three days of the Championship event at the
2005 WSOP, then the advent of the 'Poker Lifestyle' Convention immediately
adjacent to it would have brought it finally home. Change it has and for some
people this means a lot more money for sitting on their arse.
sad development in Las Vegas this year was the all too prevelant sight of the
poker groupie. Not, you would think, young ladies trying to catch the eye of
Wayne Flack before he falls over, but people, even players, having their shirts
signed by Tod Brunson. Who? You might well ask for he is the son of God, or
Doyle Brunson as he is known when he walks upon the earth. Tod is the next
batton runner for the Brunson team and he can out eat his father and swear at
journalists as well as Princess Anne.
At the end of the six week World Series
Of Poker, the Championship event to produce the World Champion took eight hard
days to complete. The final two of these were held downtown where until last
year the WSOP had been home for 34 years. Once again there were plenty more
autograph hunters, sycophants and general droolers getting under my feet in the
eight day long Z-list celebrity party that ended in sad tribute to the way we
were at the once Binion's Horseshoe, now named
Hall and Hotel. Benny Binion is turning in his grave.
blighty, sanity resumed for me at the local £50 No-limit Holdem
tournament but soon I was on my way to London to see what the tsunami of
success had dropped on our shores. Bad news. At the CelebPoker event held at
the Palm Beach Casino in Mayfair (late in July) bad things were afoot.
Customers who had toiled over weeks to qualify for the big money televised
event were shabily treated when actually competing in it. Firstly, after
removing celebrities that had been shoe-horned into the event free of charge,
they themselves were booted out of the event in lightening quick time by the
most ridiculous blind and time structure ever seen. It made your average
£5 thursday night rebuy competition look positively
Having reduced the CelebPoker field down to 10 without
much ado, the final was played on the Sunday in the casino restaurant with
camera crews. The blind structure was stepped back two levels to lengthen the
play. Thomas Kremser and his new wife Marina Rado were in charge of very
little. The reason for the whole event was very evident, TV publicity of their
website, playing poker a distant runner-up.
So onwards to the Grosvenor
Grand Prix at the Grosvenor Casino, Walsall, England during 15 Oct - 16 Oct
2005. This was notable because the qualifying structure allowed for ordinary
players to qualify around the country without top players being able to pay to
enter, thus ensuring a value for money tournament. Pino Valentino (Italy) won
first place but with money deals he picked up £50k instead of
£100k. That wasn't the problem.The problemo was how shabily people were
treated once the organisers had their captives at their mercy and the cameras
were switched on.
All players had to turn up at 3pm Saturday yet only
half could play at one time because of the venue size. The second half had to
wait 6½ hours to play if you could understand the seating plan and
timetable. Top seed Alan Vinson of London read the sheet and quietly sat
6½ hours at various gaming tables in the casino until 21:30 arrived. He
was then informed that he was disqualified because he should have played at
15:00. Plenty of people will not be going back to that place ever
These events put me in mind to rest from the poker scene until
sense had returned. Perhaps, I thought, I could watch a few "onTV" tournaments
and listen to the erudite commentary. Yikes! Who are these people? The
exception to the rule of TV poker seems to be the
World Poker Tour programs with Mike
Sexton and Vince Van Patten commentating. Mike was a journeyman poker player,
legitimately making a living from poker, albeit a thin one, before he lucked-in
with the current poker-craze. Van Patten was once the 25th highest ranked
player in the tennis world.
The WPT shows seem to conjure up some of the
mystique of poker lost in the home grown (UK) product. Sexton's knowledge comes
over well and Van Patten is there to provide some colour (a bit less than that,
maybe color). It is a professional presentation which can actually be watched
from beginning to end, which is singularly impossible with any I have seen from
the UK. And those programs were really invented here!
and this time its going to be longer than
ever. Once more held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino from June 25
August 10 2006. This year there will be no final day return to its old
home Binions Horseshoe because once Harrahs (the owners of the Rio and for a
short time Binions) had purchased the name Horseshoe they saw no point in
keeping the downtown joint. It is now Binion's Gambling Hall and Hotel and it
still has the best Steak House in town.
Just past (11-03-2006) was the 298 player
event of the final EPT event (European Poker Tour created by John Duthie) won
by American student Jeff Williams, 21 years of age from Atlanta, Georgia. He
made it there from an on-line tournament and pockets $1,078,000. By the account
of Anthony Holden (author of Big
Deal and All In) the event was
hearteningly enjoyable and maybe the train is still on the tracks.