A chip and a chair
July 7, 2005 5:12 PM   Subscribe

A Chip and a Chair: The World Series of Poker's Main Event started today at the Rio in Las Vegas. That's a change from every other year, when Binion's Horseshoe hosted the event. With the rise of online poker and televised tournaments, it's no surprise this is the biggest year ever: 5,661 people registered for the $10,000 no-limit event. That's about $50 million in prize money, once the tournament and casino costs are taken care of. CardPlayer has up-to-the-minute updates on the tournament. Things at the WSOP can get pretty crazy, as you've got thousands of gamblers ready for any sort of action. For instance, poker celeb Phil Gordon put together a Roshambo tournament (paper rock scissors) together with a $10,000 first prize, just to kill time. The main event, by the way, is only one of 45 events, started back in 1970 by a group of hard-core gamblers. Despite the record turnout, however, there's still plenty of people who didn't make it to the main event, including former Harper's reporter James McManus, who placed 5th in the Main Event in 2000 and wrote a fascinating novel on the subject.
posted by Happydaz (22 comments total)
Chip Counts

You might notice that both Jennifer Tilly and Shannon Elizabeth are playing, and aren't doing half bad. Guys are probably focusing on the wrong deck.

posted by cyphill at 5:40 PM on July 7, 2005

Poker is merely a passing fad, like swing dancing in 1998.

Except you can't make 40 million listening to "Jump, Jive, and Wail".
posted by wakko at 5:48 PM on July 7, 2005

Funny, I was into swing dancing, too. In related news, I hear Pogs are pretty popular. Should I collect some?
posted by Happydaz at 5:57 PM on July 7, 2005

brand synergy: phil "poker brat" hellmuth card-protector pogs

posted by wakko at 6:03 PM on July 7, 2005

Jennifer Tilly (yes, that Jennifer Tilly) actually won the $1000 ladies-only no-limit hold'em championship event; Shannon Elizabeth is supposedly dating well-known tournament player Antonio "The Magician" Esfandiari.

The field this year has been divided into three "day ones" on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. After that it'll be a little easier to keep track of what's going on.

The main event was going to be capped at 6600 entrants (2000 players plus 200 alternates on each day one.) I'm surprised the event didn't sell out.

In a nod to tradition the final table will take place at Binion's.
posted by bdk3clash at 6:11 PM on July 7, 2005

Bad Texas hold-em blog comment spam aside, I'm a fan of the poker fad. It certainly makes for good, albeit very edited, TV. Then again I collected Garbage Pail Kids and I'm pretty sure goatees are going to make a comeback.

posted by heybate at 6:16 PM on July 7, 2005

The only problem I have with televised poker is it's so bleeding obvious what's going to happen sometimes.

If it's heads up, and a guy is down to two chips and there's a half hour left to go.....
If (like during the WSOP coverage) someone gets all in with aces preflop...
If someone is drawing to one of five cards (and the commentators let us know this)...

...it can be pretty predictable.

It is still, for the most part, good entertainment, and good fun.
posted by wakko at 6:23 PM on July 7, 2005

I was a poker player when I was 11 before the world series of poker was on television. I will be a poker player after it goes off television. What happens to most people who play poker now is of no interest.
posted by Rubbstone at 7:03 PM on July 7, 2005

It wasn't a novel.
posted by kenko at 7:34 PM on July 7, 2005

I remember watching the poker championships a few years ago. Mildly interesting. I can't quite believe that the game has changed much in the last few years. So WTF is up with poker all of a sudden?
posted by dreamsign at 7:54 PM on July 7, 2005

I can't quite believe that the game has changed much in the last few years.

Yeah, I could hardly believe it when they introduced the General (there were only 52 cards in the deck just a few years ago). And then when they started awarding points for technical skill, instead of just counting everybody's chips like they used to.

I don't think the popularity of poker will be a short-lived fad. I see it as part of a longer-term wave of gambling in general (up to and including real estate speculation).
posted by sfenders at 8:29 PM on July 7, 2005

Once it becomes an olympic sport, you nay-sayers will be eating your words.
posted by davelog at 10:38 PM on July 7, 2005

I thought Roshambo was taking turns kicking each other in the nuts. Perhaps I watch too much South Park.
posted by jeffmik at 10:46 PM on July 7, 2005

It might as well have been a novel. There was enough narrative between "good Jim" and "bad Jim" in there, fantasies about what he should do or shouldn't do to make it one. But ok, it was really just jazzed-up non-fiction. I stand corrected.
posted by Happydaz at 11:51 PM on July 7, 2005

So WTF is up with poker all of a sudden?

The addition of the hole card camera made poker interesting to the home viewer. Suddenly, you could watch the action and know for sure if someone was bluffing (or not). You could also (in theory) see some pretty interesting strategy decisions play out. Unfortunately, by the time most tournaments reach the televised final table, the blinds and antes have risen to such a degree that what you see is tends to be just naked aggression, rather than strategy or deception. And while the all-in confrontations are the most telegenic, they are also (somewhat perversely) often the least interesting hands to serious players, who would rather see how talented players manipulate each other when they DON'T have legitimate hands, which is much more common.

I love poker, and have been playing seriously (e.g., middle limits) for several years. So I'm happy with the recent increase in popularity, as it has made my games a lot juicier. But in general, I believe the poker/TV market is far too glutted at the moment -- c'mon, do we really need to see B-list celebrities playing cards poorly on TV?

But the Main Event of the WSOP, well, that's what it's all about. The Main Event IS poker on a grand stage, played for high stakes by fiercely competitive people, and that makes it compelling to people who are interested in the game. I don't mind the ESPN digests broadcast months after the event is finished, but it's a pity they can't broadcast it live for the full week on Pay Per View, as I would be glad to buy a subscription, sort of like the Golf Channel during the week of a major.

For a well written and fascinating primer on the high stakes poker scene, check out A. Alvarez's seminal 1981 book, The Biggest Game in Town . Like poker on TV, there have been a rash of poker books published recently, but this one is widely acknowledged to be the classic of the genre.

"Shuffle up and deal!"
posted by mosk at 12:18 AM on July 8, 2005

Non fiction books are not novels.

And it sucked.


Okay, it was kind of intresting, but only because it all really happened. As a novel, it would suck balls. You can get away with much poorer writing in a non-fiction book then you can in a novel.
posted by delmoi at 1:16 AM on July 8, 2005

kenko writes "It wasn't a novel."

It's true, it wasn't. I liked the stuff about poker, but I found McManus as a person to be incredibly annoying, and so strangely macho that I spent a lot of time preoccupied with that. I looked up one of his novels after reading the book at my local university library, just to see what it was like, and that book REALLY sucked. It was a strange apocalyptic novel about Chicago by someone who had read, but not understood, Ulysses. I was very disappointed, although I'm not sure what I was expecting after the poker book, which as delmoi points out, was quite poorly written.
posted by OmieWise at 4:29 AM on July 8, 2005

As a novel, it would suck balls.

But as a CSI episode, it wasn't half bad.
posted by bashos_frog at 5:38 AM on July 8, 2005

For those who are interested, there's a well-done (non-fiction) article on the poker circuit by Kevin Conley in this week's New Yorker, which covers some of same ground as most's post (online access unavailabe, but if you cough up the cash for the newstand version you'll also get Jane Mayer's harrowing piece on the use of physicians in the Guantanamo interrogations).
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 6:13 AM on July 8, 2005

For sausages these aren't bad cigars.
posted by kenko at 7:49 AM on July 8, 2005

Christ, is it just me, or is watching somebody else play POKER only marginally better than watching other people golf, bowl, play pool, or any of a number of other mind-numbingly boring subjects?

How can this be interesting? Don't you people have work, hobbies, kids, theater, reading, even a nap to accomplish that would be more interesting than this?

<curmudgeon>ACK. I feel like I'm getting so old, and the young are just about beyond hope now.</curmudgeon>
posted by mooncrow at 7:52 AM on July 8, 2005

Christ, is it just me, or is watching somebody else play POKER only marginally better than watching other people golf, bowl, play pool, or any of a number of other mind-numbingly boring subjects?

No real disagreement here, except for this personal observation: watching people play poker for stakes within my comfort level is only mildly interesting, however, watching people play for stakes of a considerably larger size IS interesting, especially since people tend to become more conservative as the money gets larger, a behavior which is exactly inverse to the correct strategy for play at this level. Sort of the difference between watching a group of Sunday duffers drag themselves across a muni course vs. watching pros on the PGA annihilate a nationally known course from the back tees. It ain't everyone's cup of tea, but then there's plenty of other activities I just don't get (e.g., NASCAR, hockey, dog shows, etc.) No knock on those activities, just that they're not for me...
posted by mosk at 9:08 AM on July 8, 2005

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