Since its explosion after the 2003 World Series, poker and events like this have become a celebrity affair on the scale of the major Hollywood award shows. Actors, athletes and most importantly, the “pros,” the professional poker players have descended on the Rio for 45 poker tournaments and a chance to win their share of the millions of dollars up for grabs and the coveted bracelet that signifies a world poker champion and is an instant status symbol in the burgeoning world of competitive poker.
It is impossible to imagine how immense this event (which runs from June 25 through mid-August) really is. A conference hall in the Rio has to be used because the events have grown too large for their original home at Binion’s Horseshoe.
I was able to watch some of the 2nd event, a $1,500 buy-in no-limit Texas Hold’em tournament. Two players, Ron Stanley and Don Zewin were eliminated in one hand when Lee Padilla’s (who as of this article is playing in 2nd place) Ace/Jack of spades dominated Stanley’s all-in bet with Ace/Nine of clubs and a turn jack of diamonds sank Zewin’s pocket eight’s. To add insult to injury, Padilla also rivered an unnecessary flush.
Ron Stanley finished in 7th place and won $107,614.
Don Zewin finished in 6th place and won $126,940
Not a bad consolation prize.
Some of the more interesting attractions, besides the makeshift poker room itself, are the promotional player/fan lounges set up by some of the major online poker sites. Full Tilt Poker took home the gold in this respect, setting up a room with plasma screens, free drinks and mingling pros like Mike Matusow. Full Tilt is, by estimation, the third most popular online poker community behind PokerStars and PartyPoker, but they are first in my book when it comes to advertising and promotion.When we walked in to the Full Tilt lounge, we were first greeted by an animated gentleman who joked that there was a three drink minimum. Their setup at the World Series of Poker is first class and if you’re going to be in Vegas this summer, check it out and grab a sack full of freebies, shake hands with a few pros and grab a few free beers.
The World Series of Poker is PR heaven. It has all the elements: a captive audience of thousands of different people per day, “merch” everywhere and as if it went without saying, beautiful people at every booth and lounge pushing the sales pitch for the web site or poker-related product.
Another interesting booth was put on by a newer-looking poker website called Vegas Poker 24/7. They are giving away a new car as part of their drive for membership and publicity. This is a great promotion leading the customer to a really nice looking website. Two of the aforementioned beautiful people were pushing the car promotion.
Left to right, beautiful person, Mark Scalia, yours truly, beautiful person.
That’s the buzz for now. I played in a no-limit hold’em tournament at Binion’s today and have been playing poker and craps at Caesar’s and Harrah’s. More to come later.