I just came back from a trip to Las Vegas – where I played in the World Series of Poker.
This six-week poker competition is known best for its Main Event, the $10,000 no-limit hold'em contest. That's the one that where the winner earns several million dollars, gets his face in the mainstream magazines and newspapers, and attracts the interest of the general public. But it's really much more than that one event. It's 55 events in many different poker disciplines, culminating in the famous $10,000 Main Event.
What makes the WSOP special for me is that it, unlike nearly all other multi-day major tournaments, it actually features a few stud events. This is unusual these days – as the nation has gone hog wild for hold'em, to the exclusion of stud.
In fact, the biggest event at the WSOP, at least in terms of the initial buy-in, is a stud event! That's the $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. (Hold 'em, Omaha-8, Razz, Stud, and Stud-8) event. It generated a prize pool of $7,104,000, with a winner's purse, won by Freddy Deeb, of $2,276,832. Even the-second place finisher, Bruno Fitoussi, managed to earn over a million for his efforts.
That being said, only three of the twelve events with stud were actually pure 7-card stud tournaments. The rest were either mixed events such as H.O.R.S.E. or S.H.O.E., or variants of 7-card stud, such as razz (low stud) or stud-8 (high/low stud with an eight qualifier for low).
The event I entered, $1,000 S.H.O.E., featured stud, hold'em, Omaha-8, and stud-8. I played for seven hours, got knocked out on an uneventful hand of stud-8 after having my stack slaughtered in an Omaha-8 hand. I left well out of the money, probably finishing at about 200th place out of 730. Alas.
The side games at the WSOP were disappointing for stud players. Though an occasional game of $50/100 stud-8 was offered, stud itself was never spread (at least based on what I observed and heard from the three floor people I spoke to). I checked in during the entire week I was there and saw no stud, stud-8, or razz in either the low- or high-limit sections. There were plenty of limit and no-limit hold'em games, and of course numerous satellites being run for the Main Event, but absolutely no stud.
The only live stud game I found in Las Vegas during my visit from June 30th until July 6th was at Sam's Town. They had a nice, quiet $1-5 game with a $.25 ante and a $.50 bring in. I was the only tourist in the game, and the youngest player by about thirty years or so. They told me that they had it every day. They never spread a bigger game. They told me that I'd be lucky to find a game elsewhere in Las Vegas – except for the $20/40 game at the Bellagio.
I checked over at the El Cortez, in downtown Las Vegas, where I had played stud as recently as last year. They did not have a game going. But they added that they usually got one going on Saturday morning at about 9am. When I called on Saturday morning at 9am they had three people on their list
I checked in with the Mirage. They normally had a $1-5 game, though never anything higher. When I checked with them on Saturday morning they didn't have it going – with only one name on the interest list. They hoped to get it going later in the evening. They hadn't had a larger game for "quite some time," they told me.
The Bellagio did not have a game when I called over on Saturday morning. They hadn't had a game since Friday evening. Though they spread a $20/40 stud game daily, they said, the stud hostess wasn't sure when it would get going. The last time I stopped in, on a Wednesday night, they had one table of $20/40 stud with 15 people on the list. I asked when they thought they'd get a seat or start a new game. I was told to come back in four or five hours. With encouragement like that, no wonder more people aren't playing stud.
Treasure Island, a place that sometimes has mixed games with stud, didn't have a game at all during the week I was in town. "We never spread stud," I was told. "We only have it as part of a mixed game," the hostess added. When I asked when she last saw it as part of a mixed game, she said she didn't know.
The Orleans, which still lists a stud bad-beat jackpot, hasn't spread a stud game for one or two years, according to a floor man I spoke with. "The bad beat stays up for the stud-8 game we get sometimes." When I asked him when he last had stud-8 he said that it was sometime in the last three or four months.
I visited the Gold Coast, a casino west of the strip, next to the Rio. They list $1-5 stud in their ad in Poker Player Newspaper. Though they had three rocking tables of $1/2 no-limit, a couple of $2/4 limit hold'em games and three $4/8 limit hold'em games with a half kill, they did not have a stud game. When I spoke to the shift manager he informed me that in the three or four years that he's worked there he's never seen stud spread. I kidded him about the ad. He explained that the ad meant that they were willing to spread stud, but that they never get enough players for a game. I thought to myself that with that reasoning they could have an ad saying they spread $1,000/2,000 razz. But I bit my tongue.
None of the Station Casinos spread stud, nor do any of the following: Binions, Golden Nugget, Plaza, Rio, Imperial Palace, Luxor, Stratosphere, Tuscany, Monte Carlo, Hilton, Cannery, South Point, Harrah's, MGM, Sahara, Tropicana, Wynn, Venetian (except sometimes as part of a mixed game), Caesar's, Palms, O'Shea's, Poker Palace, Flamingo, Planet Hollywood, or Paris. What was amusing was the routine response to my question "Do you have stud here?"
Almost universally, the answer was, "Well, I'm sorry to say, we don't have it. This is really too bad because I, personally, love to play stud and I'm sorry I can't find a game in town." It's the opposite of the famous Yogi Berra line. Stud is incredibly popular in Las Vegas. All the casino staff love the game. They just don't spread it any more because there aren't enough players.