Saturday, July 04, 2009

2009 WSOP, Day 38: The Big One

The Big OneSo the Main Event has begun. While the first 56 bracelet events will be remembered by some of us, for most they will quickly fade, mere trivia that will only be of occasional interest for mostly tangential reasons. The $40K event will be televised (later this month), so that one may form part of some folks’ memory of the 2009 WSOP. But for most, what happens over the next two weeks and in November is the World Series of Poker.

Yesterday 1,116 showed up for the first of the four Day Ones, down a hundred or so from last year’s Day 1a. Hard to say, still, what the overall total might be, but the early indication here is that 7,000 may be wishful thinking.

Of those 1,116, a large number -- 821 -- survived the day, though that number is bigger than one would have expected in large part because at the very last minute it was decided only to play four two-hour levels rather than five. Sounds like none of the players nor the media knew a thing about this switch until right about the time things got going yesterday. A little inconvenient for the media (though we should be able to roll with it), but especially unfair to the players, a lot of whom have been mentally preparing for this first day of Main Event play for months and months.

Is it a bad idea to play just four levels and not five on Day One? I guess it depends on what the plan is for Days Two and following, of which we now can’t be sure of anything, it seems. Seemed to me playing five levels per day -- as was done last year and was the plan for each of the first six days of play this year -- worked just fine.

Schedule for Main EventHowever, I do think I see why the decision was made -- had to be because of the relatively low turnout. The schedule has them playing six five-level days, then down to 27 on the seventh day, then down to 9 on the eighth day. They certainly don’t want to get down to 27 too soon so as to mess up the latter part of the schedule too greatly. So, depending on the actual number of total entrants and perhaps the rate of bustouts, we might be looking at more shortened days here as we proceed. The structure sheet does say, actually, that “Adjustments may be made to the number of levels played each day.”

(EDIT [added 7/5/09]: Dr. Pauly made a good point to me yesterday that the shortened Day Ones may also be part of an effort to avoid reaching the money before Day Three, when all of the players will finally be combined and will play at once.)

I was off yesterday, and so spent some of the afternoon playing limit poker. I’ve been mostly just sticking with the 2/4 game, but have played some 3/6, too. Had a fun, winning session (at 2/4) yesterday. Saw people repeatedly limping with pocket aces again, as well as some other oddities. There were a couple who’d limp and then fold to preflop raises -- amazing, but true.

Sat to the left of a woman who was probably one of the better players at the table and we engaged in conversation a bit. She and her husband were taking a Vegas vacation, as they do a couple of times per year. Both like poker and play online a lot. She mentioned something about her husband playing a WSOP satellite. I thought she’d meant a live one at the Rio, but she clarified it was online (at Absolute Poker). She had actually made it through one of those “steps” deals to win a seat in a mega-satellite which awarded something like 50 WSOP Main Event seats, then gave the seat to her husband for Father’s Day. Certain elements of the story (i.e., playing on AP, his playing her account) were a little sketchy, but I told her it sounded like a terrific present, nonetheless. He almost won the seat, but didn’t quite get there.

Come dinner time I met up with the Poker Grump and we went over to the Rio to check out “Poker Palooza,” what they are calling the expo this year. I’d missed it last summer, having worked all four days it was going and never managing to get over there, not even on a break. So I was making a point this time to check it out.

Have to say, for the most part, the expo was kind of a letdown. There were a lot of booths set up with folks selling various clothing or other products with some vague connection to poker, none of which seemed even the least bit interesting. And as usually happens at these type of affairs, the folks manning the booths were all eager to stop you to describe their wares, so there was a lot of “No, thanks” happening as we wound our way through the large ballroom.

Lame ooker-themed T-shirtsThe Grump described the whole scene as like walking through advertisements in poker magazines, although it wasn’t even really that interesting. He took some pictures (including the one I stole and posted there to the left) -- check out his write-up for more pics. Best thing going in there was the completely-out-of-place reggae band (whom almost everyone was ignoring).

We ate at Rub BBQ where Grump told me the story of the amazing cab ride he and Cardgrrl took the other day. Read about it here -- hilarious stuff.

Afterwards we ducked into the Amazon Room briefly. The vibe was slightly edgier than on a typical day of preliminary events, with the added media and more spectators floating around. But mostly we were looking at just another day of poker. Still too early. Once we get to the money, then down to a couple hundred players, that’s when the adrenaline starts to rise.

I’ll be there in just a little while, helping cover Day 1b with my PokerNews colleagues. I recall being there on the Fourth of July last year. Little American flags were passed out to everybody, I believe, though they did have a few non-American flags, too, to give to people to wave. They put ’em all down quickly, though, so as better to handle the cards and chips.

See you over at the PokerNews’ live reporting page.

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