For WSOP Vendors, it's the Same ol' Story - Location, Location, Location
The famed real estate mantra is rarely more true than it is at the WSOP, with everything from the cramped play area to the vendor displays turning into topics for debate. While the squeezing of extra tables into play to accommodate the last of this year's nearly 9000-player crush has been well documented in many outlets, the location of --- and access to --- the vendor booths and displays that make the WSOP into the corporate festival it's become is the usual intramural squabble --- some vendors and sponsors end up pleased, others end up not.
Sometimes the vendors even make the correct decisions themselves, based on what was the best information at the time, but events conspire to turn that decision into one that didn't work out as planned. Case in point: Vincent Masi, the owner/president/do-all of Poker Frames, the freaky granny-sunglasses-with-holo-images made famous by Greg Raymer during his 2004 championship run. Masi's vendor booth is immediately outside the player hall, halfway down the west hallway leading to the outdoor beer-and-food garden added for this year's event. It had to look like a great spot, smack between the two main player entrances in that hall, and in fact, Masi wasn't the only vendor or sponsor who opted for the west hallway location over the north hallway ones, which remained all but unsold until the west hallway spots had been sold out.
Enter the big online sites and their hospitality suites, each with lots of freebies distributed by a never ending succession of beautiful, scantily clad models. Full Tilt was an early signee, but in rapid succession Bodog, Ultimate Bet and Doyle's Room opted for large suites, each in the North Hallway, quartering the player hall from on the side opposite that occupied by Masi and player vendors. (It should be noted that PokerNews.com also has a booth in the north hallway, obtained after the west hallway was sold out.) Whether the players themselves preferred the suites to the food garden, or the fans visited the online sites' suites for their obvious allures, the end result was the same: a drawing away of visitors to the west hallway to the goodies over in the north.
For Masi, it translated into lost sales, although he was quick to cite other factors as being more important, in particular the intermittent spectator access to the actual player hall. Especially early in the day, the crush of players, Rio staff and media had no choice but to keep the 30,000-plus square foot hall at or below its fire-code capacity for hours on end, making fans wait unexpectedly for hours to catch a glimpse of their favorites. "Quite a debacle," is Masi's outspoken summation of the matter, though the root cause for his dissatisfaction is less easy to decipher. Still, Masi estimates that he lost sales of between 50 and 60 pairs of his specs on the opening day of the Main Event alone, not counting lost sales of his other merchandise.
"We're thrilled with the location of our booth" Noted PokerNews.com CEO Damon Rasheed. "At first, we weren't too sure, as it seemed we were in the '2nd class' hallway, but once the online poker rooms opened their suites, its clear our hallway was the place to be. Our foot traffic has been ridiculously high."
Such is the strain that the modern-day WSOP places on facilities, even those of a giant such as Harrah's, which has admittedly struggled with the exponential growth of the WSOP. Still, it doesn't seem that Masi's blame is wholly justified, since other factors conspired to make his location perhaps not quite what he hoped it would be.
It's a situation with no easy solution, if not necessarily one of those "the felt is always greener on the other side of the table" tales. But it's the WSOP.
These things happen, and for vendors, like the players, there's always next year.