About fourteen hours earlier I had been moving in the opposite direction, heading in to help cover Day 1d of the 2009 World Series of Poker. The intervening period was mostly a blur, passing so quickly as to give an uncanny quality to the walk back to my rental car. As if the hot wind had been carrying me, and I had just then landed back on my feet.
You’ve no doubt heard by now about how the fourth and final Day One of this year’s Main Event attracted an all-time record number of players for any single day of ME play ever. A total of 2,809 were seated around tables in the Amazon, Brasilia, and Miranda ballrooms, as well as in the hallway outside of Buzio’s restaurant. And there were hundreds more who wanted in, yet weren’t able to play.
Just plain wild. A far cry from the modest group of 873 who came out on Saturday, when I’d last been in to help cover the sucker. This was something else. This was the Main Event!
On the 2009 WSOP Schedule that appears on the WSOP website, there appears a parenthetical note that reads “3,000 players” next to each of the first four Day Ones -- Day 1a, 1b, 1c, and 1d -- suggesting that would be the maximum allowed number of players to be admitted on each day. When I walked into the Rio about 11:30 a.m. yesterday, I had already heard in the hallways before I made it to the Amazon that they had sold out for Day 1d. I assumed that would be mean 3,000 players would be playing yesterday, although for some reason the actual total ended up being 2,809.
During the first couple of hours of play -- i.e., the first level -- all sorts of rumors were flying around the Amazon room, where I was stationed. Like leaves in the wind, as it were.
The first was that there would be a Day 1e played today (Tuesday), with Days 2a and 2b being moved forward a day. Such a plan could work in theory, since Thursday is a scheduled day off. Seemed like that could possibly have happened, but most of the people I talked to were doubting that would actually come to pass.
Next came the idea that they’d somehow figure out a way to allow the hundreds of players who’d gotten squeezed out to start playing at 3 p.m. yesterday, after some of the original players had busted and tables had freed up. They’d play just four levels -- which would take them until 2 a.m. or something -- then the survivors of that second shift would get a few hours’ sleep then join the group for Day 2a.
That one had enough plausibility to cause many of us to entertain (for a while, anyway) the idea that we might be there a long, long time -- if we were going to try to cover the second shift, that is. Just the thought of that weird audible kind of added a extra layer of excitement to the workday. How long are we going to be here, we wondered? And what’s it going to be like?
Finally came the late afternoon meeting with Jeffrey Pollack, Jack Effel, and the “suits” that you’ve read about elsewhere (such as on Pokerati, the source for that picture on the left). We PokerNews reporters who were inside reporting on the tourney didn’t attend that, but many of those players who’d been shut out surely did. The decision was made not to attempt any sort of last-minute makeshift plan to accommodate the players who hadn’t gotten seats, which all things considered was really the only option that would not potentially cause further problems as far as the functioning of the Main Event was concerned.
Of course, the resulting PR problem is as massive as yesterday’s field was. You see, this is truly historic -- no one has ever been turned away from the WSOP Main Event before. And this year not just a few players, but hundreds were. Gonna take a lot of work moving forward to repair the damage from this one, I’d think.
The day itself was full of interesting characters, several good hands and stories to report, and amazingly not too many headaches as far as trying to cover the massive field with our relatively modest crew was concerned. If I concentrated hard enough, I could probably rehearse a few of the highlights from the day, but I’m going to leave it all in the day’s blog for now and maybe look back later.
Because like I said, those fourteen hours were mostly a blur, as if I’d been whipped around and around by that hot wind blowing across the parking lot in the Vegas night.
Did I enjoy it? Most certainly. But I was glad to be standing upright and walking on my own when it was all over and done.
(EDIT [added 7/7/09, 12 noon]: Not that anyone reading this hasn’t already tripped over to Tao of Poker, but if somehow you haven’t then check out Dr. Pauly’s excellent summary of yesterday's fiasco for all the details about what happened and its significance.)
(EDIT [added 7/8/09]: Also, if you happen to know French -- or can at least muddle through it passably like me -- check out Benjo's excellent account of Day 1d, which also includes some links to other relevant posts/articles on the subject.)