You don't want to miss the first week of the 2008 World Series of Poker. Although some of the biggest stories of the 2008 won't materialize until later in the series, those epic stories often take root during the first couple of days at the Rio. Don't wait until the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event to roll around to start following the action in the most prestigious poker tournament in the world, because you're guaranteed to miss out on the little fires that have the potential to ignite into raging infernos.
The 2008 WSOP will be my fourth consecutive WSOP that I cover as a writer. If there's one thing I learned from my previous experiences, it's that the climate during the first week of the WSOP often shapes the remainder of the series. It's those interesting stories that initially appear on our radar in the first week which usually sets the tone for what's to come.
At the 2007 WSOP, there were nine events played out during the first week. The list of first-time bracelet winners included Steve "MrSmokey1" Billirakis (Event #1 $5,000 Mixed Limit/NL Hold'em champion), Tom "DonkeyBomber" Schneider (Event #5 $2,500 Omaha 8/Seven Card Stud 8 Champion), and Alex Kravchenko (Event #9 $1,500 Omaha 8 champion). The first wave of champions featured the youngest ever WSOP bracelet winner (Billirakis), the eventual Player of the Year Winner (Schneider), and a Main Event final table player (Kravchenko). Both Schneider and Kravchenko went on a tear after their early victories and were among the 2007 WSOP's standout players.
Keep an eye on the pros who jump out to a hot start this year. At the 2005 WSOP, Allen Cunningham was an early standout after he won Event #2 $1,500 NL. Cunningham made three more final tables that summer and won 2005 ESPN/Toyota Player of the Year. At the 2006 WSOP, Jeff Madsen made a name for himself in the first week of action when he final tabled the $2,000 Omaha-8 event. A week and a half later he won his first WSOP bracelet ($2,000 NL). When the 2006 WSOP was complete, Madsen won two bracelets, made four final tables, and edged out Bill Chen for Player of the Year.
And don't forget about the wild and the wacky things that add flavor to the WSOP circus such as outrageous prop bets among your favorite degenerate gamblers. If you blew off the first week of the 2007 WSOP, you would have missed out on an insane prop bet wagered between Mike Matusow and Ted Forrest. The Suicide King bet Matusow $100,000 that Matusow could not lose 54 pounds in one year. He has to get from 235 to 181 and cannot get surgery (either liposuction or stomach stapling) and he cannot amputate any limbs.
One of the most bizarre and tragic stories at the 2007 WSOP involved Vinnie Vinh and the controversy surrounding his empty chair. The Vinnie Vinh story initially broke during the end of the first week. At the completion of Day 1 of the $1,000 NL w/ Rebuys event, Vinh was among the big stacks. He failed to show up for Day 2. His stack was blinded off and he finished in 20th place. Several media reps took photographs of his empty chair while numerous threads popped up on internet forums and blogs pontificating about the disappearance of Vinnie Vinh. Some online pundits suggested that he was murdered. Several poker pros indicated that drug use was involved. Whatever the reason, Vinh left with a big stack and a shot at winning a bracelet and he didn't return.
In the ensuing days, the story received a ton of buzz in the poker industry as it became the most discussed topic at the tables, in the hallways, and in the media room. Vinh's problems first bubbled up to the surface at the end of the first week and would continue to simmer through the Main Event.
It was also during the first week of the 2007 WSOP where we first found about the atrocity called "The Poker Tent." During the first week of the 2007 WSOP, several players vehemently vocalized their low opinion of the tent. The tent area, which held the poker kitchen in 2006, was transformed into a playing area that often housed spillover tables, 5 p.m. events, mega satellites and second-chance tournaments. The tent was outside of the Rio and baking in the blazing Nevada heat. The lack of consistent air conditioning was an immediate problem, not to mention the fact that it almost blew one evening over during a massive windstorm. The Poker Tent was a potential death trap and drew tons of criticism from players, fans, and the media. The Poker Tent was the universal whipping boy of the 2007 WSOP and became the butt of everyone's jokes. I nicknamed it "The Poker Sauna."
What is going to be the big story in 2008? Stay tuned to the first few days of Poker News' comprehensive coverage to find out.