So Harrah's informed me that there were only 200 tables in their main tournament room and therefore their math, which arrived at 2305 starters (or runners, as they are called in Europe) for event number 2 was correct. Of course this also means that the main event, the 10,000 buy-in in July will begin with every table 11 handed, a "tradition" that began last year at Binions downtown because they did not want to turn away anyone with 10,000 cash in their hand (does anyone remember that in 2004 there was a 'hard' cap of 2000 in place?). It is my hope that we do not go beyond 11 to a table even though that may be to my advantage in theory because I have a lot of hours in games with large numbers of participants.
As a player it is obvious that every number of contestants at your table affects how you evaluate your hand, how big the average pots are, and what is likely to win. This is an issue that I will address in detail in future writings, with specific recommendations for every number of players from 13 down to 2. I have played a lot of hours in various games with two to twelve players, but only rarely with 13. One place that regularly spread 13 player games (at stud tables!!! where we had to sit sideways to reach our cards!) was a weekly limit holdem tournament at the Showboat in Las Vegas in the early 1980's. The only other player that I remember specifically from those fields was Tom McEvoy.
In the 2005 edition of the World Series of Poker I have now played in 7 main events and 22 lesser events. It is a poker carnival that never stops. The main events usually start at noon every day, with an emphasis on various types of holdem. I have also played main events that feature Omaha, 7 Stud, and 7E.
The fields are enormous, usually more than double the entrants of last year, and liberally sprinkled with players that I have never seen before in my life (if we were to travel back three years in time this would be very unlikely to happen in a single event, even if the entry fee was only 100 dollars). It is challenging to survive the first few hours, with limits and blinds often starting at a higher level than in years past. Nonetheless it seems like the cream rises to the top, meaning specifically that good players, often name players, arrive at the final tables to contest the titles.
If one wishes to play in the peripheral events they inundate the landscape. There is a no-limit holdem tournament at noon every day at the Palms casino (across Flamingo from the Rio) with entry fees of 230 or 550 or 1060. There is a 500 or 1000 buy-in no-limit holdem tournament every day at the Bellagio at 2 pm. There is a super satellite no-limit holdem event at the Rio every day at 3 pm and again at 7 pm with a 225 dollar entry and 200 dollar rebuys. There is an evening no-limit holdem tournament at 7 pm at the Palms for 230 every night (with an optional rebuy for 200) with good dealers and a reasonable structure. For late night owls there is a Last Chance event at the Rio where you get 1,000 in chips for a 230 buy-in at 11pm every night (prepare to put your stack in the middle when you play a hand!) and a similar event at the Palms.
There are too many other tournaments around town daily and weekly and run especially in conjunction with the WSOP for me to mention.
If this is not enough action for you they also have a cash game section that apparently goes around the clock (not to mention the cash sections located in many other local casinos) and a large satellite section with tables of various limits (from 50 to 1000). I have mostly played the 500's and the house juice is a very acceptable 25 per player with 120 of that coming back to you in cash along with the units of 500 in tournament chips.
I often hear that players miss the 'personality' and comps of downtown. A comment and/or observation which flat amazes me. We are finally away from the dumpiness and grime of downtown and now some players whine about not being there? Wow! I love the clean air-conditioned environs of our new home. During the seventies and early eighties I sometimes went into Binions during the WSOP and looked on with amazement that anyone could survive that. The that I am talking about was the tobacco haze that was so heavy that you could literally see air about one quarter to one inch off the floor! Stand on our heads? It was not the world championship of poker, it was the smoker's world championship of poker, and I get a bit testy when I hear nostalgic remembrances. After Binions bought the Mint I began to play in about two events a year, but still lived in dread of the permitted cigars sitting down next to me and giving me an outrageous headache. When the WSOP went no-smoking I began to play a lot more events, still less than one half, but quite a few (a note for the curious; I have never won a bracelet at the WSOP. I do have 5 final tables there in the last 3 years4th, 4th, 5th, 8th, and 9th) and I am very happy we moved out to the strip.
One can find little things to complain about at the Rio if you wish to, like the amount of juice on big events, the cost of some drinks, the cost of some food, the lack of experience amongst the floor staff, but I have only one serious complaint and that is that in regards to the bathrooms the new convention center was poorly engineered, blue-printed, implemented, and built. Getting in and out of the doors to these facilities once you get to them is reason enough to cease doing business with the builders. How could they build such a nice property and bungle this one crucial item so badly?
Now playing well is often a state of mind. You know you should do x but as you reach for your cards you hear the voice saying "call" or "fold" and geez, it is your own voice committing to do the opposite of what you feel is correct to do.
Which is a segue to a conversation I had with Mel Judah in the Rio hallway the other day. Mel is a really excellent no-limit holdem player and he wanted to tell me what a donkey he was and how badly he was playing and how shocked he was at what he had just done (blown himself up and knocked himself out of the 5000 buy-in no-limit holdem event). This is the exact hand as he described it (remember me mentioning what a dangerous hand this is to play in an earlier column?). He had 6500 in chips (the tradition at the world series is to start with exactly what you have bought in for, in this case 5000) in the third hour of play and felt that he was controlling the table when he picked up KhJh in early position and raised it to 300 (over a big blind of 100). The player right behind him had not played a hand in an hour and called, another player also called. The flop came Js 10s 4s and he bet 800 at it with top pair, second kicker. The first player called and the other one folded, leaving a pot of 2650. At this point Mel decided that the player behind him held a spade, likely the Ace of spades, and likely an Ace-King with a spade, and that he would call him down with his holding if a spade did not fall off the deck. This is an example of brain-lock where you focus on what you think and ignore all the evidence to the contrary. In this case the evidence came on the turn when a 7h came off, Mel checked and his opponent bet 3000. This would be Mel's last chance to realize that he had plenty of chips to play on and look for a better spot (I have many times seen Mel lay down even a better hand than this for exactly these reasons, but the 'modern' hyper-aggressive game gives us more reason to call as accumulating chips is very very important.), instead Mel called, leaving him 1400 which he called off on the river when a 2d appeared and he checked to the all-in play by his opponent who then turned over 8s7s. Mel was stunned that the fellow, not a splasher, had called his raise with this hand, but, in truth, that is irrelevant, there are many other hands that he might have had. I hope that the readers of this column are getting an insight into how difficult it is to play no-limit holdem correctly. It looks easy on television but that is not how it plays out in the trenches.
Until next timeplay good...and get lucky!
Ed note: Party Poker have multiple tables available at every limit, 24 hours a day.