The Doyle Brunson North American Championship started on Tuesday, but there was still some excitement before the tournament even started. The World Poker Tour held a gala reception to kick off the events of the tournament on Monday evening, even as many still battled their way into the tournament through the supersatellite that was going on at the same time. Held at the Light discotheque in the Bellagio, it was a chance for all to gather and enjoy some time with the legendary Doyle Brunson himself.
The party kicked off at 8PM with raucous dance music thumping across the dance floor, as Doyle held court in a cordoned off section of the club. Everyone enjoyed their time in the club and, as I made my way to pay tribute to the Godfather of the game of poker, it was an enjoyable evening. Although the music was quite loud, making talking difficult, I was able to wish the great player good luck, to which he responded, "I'm gonna need it!" With that, I was able to let Doyle enjoy his evening with the multitude of admirers that were there.
And there were definitely many there. Some of the more notable people joining us for the evening were Jennifer Harman, Doyle's son Todd, recent Aruba Poker Classic champion Freddy Deeb, longtime friends Billy Baxter and Jack Binion and Men "The Master" Nguyen all were in attendance. Even Nicky Hilton made a stop to speak with Doyle (and THAT was a conversation that I would have liked to have been a part of!).
After awhile, though, the poker room beneath us was calling my name. The Bellagio poker room is probably the best one in Las Vegas and, for the entire time of the Festa al Lago tournaments, has been abuzz with a wealth of poker games. You can play from the smallest limits ($1-$2) to the high roller levels and all games are available. Whether it is Limit, No-Limit, Omaha, Seven Card, and even that oddity of all poker games, Chinese Poker, everything is available and the action is non-stop. It wasn't a long wait, either, to get into my $4-$8 Limit game.
In a change to the game I had played at the Wynn the night before, this table was quite playful and talkative. I was able to chat up my neighbor, Dave, whom I learned was a dealer on the World Series of Poker Circuit tour. We discussed many of the things that happened at the World Series this year, tipping dealers and generally enjoying the game along with the action at the table.
If you go into the Bellagio poker room, be prepared to bring your best game. The players there, as a general rule, are quite knowledgeable and will play their hands strongly. While saying that, this doesn't mean they always are coming in with pairs or big Aces. The players are well skilled at playing their position and will come at you. Be prepared to use every bit of your poker acumen when you step to the felt.
It was a good night all around. Beside enjoying a night in the club with Doyle Brunson, I was actually able to make a little bit from my play at the tables. While not a huge win, it was the icebreaker for this trip to Vegas, somewhat lessening the sting of the previous evening at the Wynn! What shocked me the most, however, was upon my departure from the poker room, Doyle Brunson was leaving the party at Light. With a tournament tomorrow, I had figured that he might have been off early to rest. But the Man lasted through a long evening, entertaining his fans and showing why he is one of the greatest legends of poker!
Tuesday was another rainy day in the desert. In fact, I thought at some point that it would be necessary to purchase a boat for my trip down to the Bellagio! The weather didn't dampen the mood of the masses that came to the Fontana Ballroom, which is where a majority of the field in the Doyle Brunson North American Poker Classic would begin play. The main Bellagio poker room also served as space for the remainder of the field.
All the big names were in attendance, including the current Player of the Year leader John Phan, many of the members of Team Full Tilt, David "DevilFish" Ulliot, Kathy Liebert, Chau Giang and many others. There were some unfortunate early victims, including Chip Jett in the early going and Amir Vahedi just before the end of the second round. Giang seemed to be making the loudest noise, as I noticed him on two occasions eliminate opponents from his table while building a nice stack.
The most unfortunate happening was a fall taken by Doyle Brunson himself. The main table is set on the stage of the Fontana ballroom, which is where Doyle happened to be playing. On his way back to the tables, he stumbled and crashed to the floor. Immediately everything stopped in the ballroom as several players, including Jennifer Harman and Freddy Deeb, rushed to him to check on his condition. With a bold smile and a wave of his Stetson, Brunson rose from the floor, to the rousing applause of the room. Doyle also was playing fairly well, with Barry Greenstein and Jason Lester at his table, so it will be good to see if he can continue into the second day.
First days are normally less than exciting, so we'll catch up on more of the event in my next report. We'll also have another trip into the poker battleground that is Las Vegas when I take a shot at the Mirage tournament on Wednesday night. Hopefully my "Excellent Vegas Adventure" will continue to be just that excellent!
Ed Note: Have your own excellent Poker adventure at Titan Poker