Slightly less than one month from now, thousands of poker players from around the globe will gather at the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino for the 36th Annual World Series of Poker. The simple mention of the title "World Series of Poker" sends a shiver of anticipation up the spine of every rounder, whether a grizzled veteran or a newcomer to the game, as it is, and has been for nearly four decades now, the pinnacle of success in the poker world. A World Series bracelet is the crowning achievement of many a poker player's career and playing at the highest level of poker competition is what all players, whether amateur, recreational or professional, strive for.
Over the next month, we'll look at many subjects that you might want to think about before heading to Las Vegas from June 25th to August 11th. In the first part of this series, we'll take a basic look at what to expect when you come to Las Vegas for the World Series. While some of the things here may be obvious, they will be things that have to be considered.
If it will be your first trip to the desert in June, July or August, you can forget bringing any jackets or sweaters (this may sound simple, but surprisingly many don't think of it!). The only spot that these items will come in handy is inside some casinos, which can be cooled down to the point where you'll see your breath (this shouldn't be a problem at the World Series, where sheer numbers of people will counteract this). Temperatures in Las Vegas during this time of the year routinely hover in the 100-degree zone, making it more likely that you'll be swapping one air-conditioned location for another rather than spending any time outside! The evenings can still be a balmy 90-degrees plus, but it is the best time to even think about walking around the Strip. Have a good supply of water if you are going to spend any length of time outside, as in these conditions, you'll need it.
When it comes to driving, that is something else that you may want to do without. Whether you drive yourself to Sin City or rent a car, traffic in Las Vegas is highly congested (especially on the Strip) and, unless you have prior experience as a New York cabbie, difficult to navigate. Rather than taking the funding from your poker bankroll for the rental car, set some aside for cab fares or the Strip trolley and leave the driving responsibilities in someone else's hands. Walking, unless you were born on the sun (look back to the last paragraph), isn't a recommended mode of transportation.
With the weather and traffic reports out of the way, let's take a look at the thing that will be drawing everyone to the Rio…the World Series. At the World Series website (worldseriesofpoker.com) there is a complete listing of events for the six weeks of competition. While the first event is for casino employees only, Event #15 is the Ladies' No-Limit event and Event #19 the Seniors (50 and older) No-Limit tournament, every other tournament is an "open" event. You do have to be 21 years old to play in the tournaments, so if you are an online player who is under that magic age and you're trying to satellite your way into the Championship Event, please stop. There were a handful of hopefuls last year who could not play in the $10,000 tournament because they weren't old enough to legally step in the casinos in Las Vegas and, as such, had to railbird the action that they wanted to be a part of.
If your only desire is to watch the greatest poker players in the world ply their trade, it is encouraged that you do. There are some rules on that front, though. Flash photography is prohibited in the tournament arena, so kill the flash on your camera, put it in your pocket for possible photos outside the tournament floor or just leave it back in the hotel room. Additionally, floor traffic will be clogged with players, tournament directors, Harrah's staff, media and security, so if someone is brusque with you in asking you to move, please demonstrate the patience of Job and allow passage to whomever is making the request.
If you plan on playing, pre-registration for the events at the World Series are available online at the website. This is perhaps the best way to ensure that you get into any of the events on the schedule, including the Championship Event (where you can, at this moment, pick your starting day). If you get your registration in now and are paying by check, this allows enough time for Harrah's to ensure that the check clears and you can participate in the action. There are also other online methods to pay for your entry fee and is more than likely the preferred method to take care of that matter. If you are the type to pay right before you step to the felt, be sure to purchase chips in the casino before you get to the Amazon Ballroom (an aptly named arena for the World Series!). At last year's event, many people came, cash in hand, only to be turned away from the cages and told to get chips to pay for their entry fee.
In 2005, the poker room at the Rio was closed down and all action was moved to the Amazon Ballroom. This included all cash game action, satellite events (which will start on June 25th), second chance tournaments, World Series tournaments and Final Table play. The Amazon Ballroom could comfortably serve as a basketball arena for some Division III college teams, so expect the crowds to be humongous and cash game waits to be potentially lengthy. As poker players are known for their patience, bring plenty of it if you plan on taking part in the action at the Rio!
With that, our basic primer on the World Series of Poker is done. Coming up in our next part, we'll look back at some of the problematic issues that came up during the 2005 event and how Harrah's is looking to make changes regarding them. Also along the way, we'll look back at some of the history of the event and the actual play at last year's World Series and have some predictions as to how the 2006 World Series of Poker will play out. It should whet our appetites for the ultimate poker experience of a lifetime at the end of June!
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