PokerStars VIP Invitational, Practice Delay Make Up Opening Night of F1 Las Vegas
After an exciting week of buildup that included the unveiling of PokerStars-branded 'Poker Chip' wheel covers and an RB19 car hanging from the ceiling at Omnia nightclub, the F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix kicked off on Thursday evening with two practices around the Las Vegas Strip.
The long-anticipated Las Vegas Grand Prix got off to what can only be described as a bumpy start as the first practice was postponed after just 8 minutes as Ferrari's Carlos Sainz Jr. hit a drainage cover to severely damage his multi-million-dollar vehicle.
But there were still plenty of highlights on the opening night of Formula 1 festivities, including the PokerStars x Oracle Red Bull Racing VIP Invitational at Resorts World Las Vegas that featured celebrities including famed Simpons voice actor Hank Azaria and Red Bull Racing CEO Christian Horner.
Red Spade Pass Winner Bests Next Gen
Spirits were high and plenty of laughs were had in the celebrity-packed VIP Invitational, just one of the tournaments held in the Resorts World Poker Room as a PokerStars Charity event the same evening that saw Dylan Erks winning the coveted PokerStars Spade.
PokerStars commentators Joe Stapleton and James Hartigan emceed the VIP Event that featured various racing personalities and the aforementioned Azaria, who spoke poker lingo in his classic Moe Szyslak bark to the delight of his starstruck table mates.
The PokerStars crew was also out in full force, with Maria Ho, Maria Konnikova, Parker Talbot, Arlie Shaban and the Next Gen Poker guys all getting in on the VIP action. Next Gen's Jack hit the rail alongside PokerNews' own Chad Holloway in a double knockout shortly after the event got down to two tables.
Jack's Next Gen compadre, Frankie, had a better run at things and found himself heads-up against Paul Hunn, a Red Spade Pass winner who bested the poker vlogger to continue win a race suit signed by Red Bull's Sergio Perez.
“It’s amazing to win," Hunn told PokerNews after the victory. "I’m just really excited about it all. Great experience.”
The New Zealand native who said he mainly plays "a bit of online and pub poker" was also excited about his Red Spade Pass victory, which brought him to Las Vegas for the spectacular race weekend.
“That was unreal winning that," he said. "At first I didn’t believe it, but now it’s amazing and definitely real.”
F1 Las Vegas Finds Its Footing
After the VIP Invitational, those at Resorts World and thousands of others in Las Vegas navigated their way to the race track in high anticipation of the first F1 practice.
Around 8 p.m. on the chilly Las Vegas fall evening, the roar of several multi-million-dollar race cars could be heard coming around the track as audience members cheered in excitement for the driver of their choice.
That excitement turned to confusion after just minutes as the jumbotron displayed the message "Race Control: Session will not resume" as Ferrari's Carlos Sainz Jr. pulled to the side of the track.
"I'm at a loss to explain why, with what appears to be a perfectly ready-to-go race track, they don't want to send the cars back out," one of the commentators noted.
"The engine looked like it was a rapid unscheduled disassembly," added another commentator. "You saw a few sparks on that back straight."
Not long after, F1 announced on social media that "a concrete frame around a manhole cover had failed during FP1," which resulted in significant damage to Sainz Jr's Ferrari.
"The FIA are commencing checks on all other covers across the circuit," the announcement said. "Any changes to scheduling will be advised in due course."
With several hours until FP2, attendees treated themselves to an array of complementary food options and checked out the F1 simulator as music blared and lights flashed through the race area.
Those at the race with PokerStars and Red Bull Racing, including Ho, Stapleton and Hartigan, kept the party going before the FP2 was postponed from midnight to 2 a.m. ahead of an announcement that the practice would take place without any fans in attendance.
After a smooth but fanless FP2 that went late into the Las Vegas morning, eager fans are surely ready for FP3 kicking off on Friday at 8:30 p.m. local time before the Qualifying Race at midnight.
PokerNews is on-site and will continue providing updates on the Las Vegas Grand Prix and all of the surrounding festivities. Check out poker player and cryptocurrency investor Wesley Fei's $400,000-per-night suite on the Las Vegas Strip in the meantime.
*Photos courtesy of Danny Maxwell via PokerStars
In this Series
- 1 F1 x Poker - Top 5 F1 and Poker Destinations
- 2 First Look! Las Vegas F1 Oracle Red Bull Racing Car Features PokerStars Wheel Covers
- 3 F1 Las Vegas 2023: A Quick Spin Round the Casino Capital
- 4 F1 x Poker - 5 F1 Drivers You Won't Believe Play Poker
- 5 PokerStars VIP Invitational, Practice Delay Make Up Opening Night of F1 Las Vegas
- 6 F1 Day 2: Q&A With Racing Superstar, PokerStars In the Red Bull VIP Suite
- 7 Inside Poker Player's $400k/Night Caesars Palace Suite During Las Vegas Grand Prix
- 8 Max Verstappen Wins F1 Las Vegas; Phil Hellmuth Attends w/ Michael Phelps