The recently completed World Poker Tour (WPT) Championship was held at the Bellagio’s Fontana Lounge, which affords one of the nicest views in all of Las Vegas. It’s right in front of the famed Bellagio water show and features a gorgeous view of the Paris Hotel’s Eiffel Tower. With nearly 200 entrants, the WPT Championship was 42% smaller than last year. Fortunately, the prize for first place was still significant at $1.5 million, which any pro here would do anything they could to take down.
There was a lot of talk among all the media as to why the numbers where down, but the conversation was short because we all knew the answer. First, the terrible economy made events like this one with a huge buy-in prohibitive to a large number of mid- and even high-stakes tournament players. People simply don’t have the bankrolls they did three years ago. Second, the restrictions on online poker have prevented these games from getting more attention than they could have. With fewer people playing online in the United States, there are fewer people building their bankrolls to get in. Also, there were very few online qualifiers to this event.
I was able to meet some of the big-name pros for the first time and came away most impressed with Tom “durrrr” Dwan. Let’s face it, the kid is good for poker. He’s arguably the best player in the game, very affable, and he’s young enough that the kids identify him, but at the same time, he shows a decent amount of maturity for his age.
Some of the fresh faces in the world of live poker were also in attendance, specifically Shawn Buchanan and Faraz “The-Toilet” Jaka. You might remember Buchanan’s name because of his amazing showings at the PokerStars North American Poker Tour (NAPT) events. Jaka is in line to win the WPT Player of the Year title, depending on the outcome of this event. Luckily, both of these players are amazing people away from the tables.
The number of railbirds at the Bellagio was impressive. I made the comment to a few bystanders that it’s hard to think of another pastime that has such a wide array of people who enjoy watching and playing. There are people of every color, ethnicity, gender, and income level who love the game. It’s amazing to me the passion for the game that the average person has.
I’ll share one story that had the entire room erupting with laughter. On one day, players used their 15-minute break to head outside to the Fontana Lounge’s patio. During this fateful break, there was a mad rush to the doors by what had to be two-dozen poker players in a mad panic. We’re talking “The Titanic is Sinking” panic. Suddenly, only after three or four made their way inside, the entire patio and 15 foot doors were completely sprayed with water in what looked like a ride through a car wash.
A 40mph gust of wind hit during the Bellagio’s water show and a stream of water became caught in the wind. The players actually saw it coming at them like a tsunami and immediately tried to avoid the onslaught of water. Unfortunately, they were completely soaked from head to toe in their vain effort to avoid getting drenched. Thankfully, there were plenty of towels handy in the Fontana Lounge to dry everyone off.
I know what the odds are of someone hitting a gutshot on the river, but I have no idea what the odds were that the break of the tournament coincided with the Bellagio water show and for this gust of wind to hit at that exact moment. Keep in mind this didn’t happen on any of the other breaks. That had to be the worst bad beat of the tournament.