Putting the ‘World’ in the World Series of Poker | Vegas Seven

In this week’s Green Felt Journal, I explore how the World Series of Poker has changed during the past decade at the Rio:

When Harrah’s Entertainment—now Caesars Entertainment—bought Binion’s Horseshoe in January 2004, it also acquired the World Series of Poker. Harrah’s more or less sold the Downtown hotel-casino to West Virginia-based MTR Gaming three months later, retaining the rights to the Horseshoe name and the World Series of Poker. That April, Harrah’s held the WSOP at the newly renamed Binion’s, which, in both name and neon, had lost its Horseshoe. The following year, the competition shifted to the Rio. The move was straight out of the Las Vegas playbook, sacrificing a tie with tradition for future growth.

via Putting the ‘World’ in the World Series of Poker | Vegas Seven.

My question is, what will the WSOP look like ten years from now?

Updated 2004-2011 poker study up

While answering questions about the impact of the Black Friday indictments on Nevada poker, I thought I’d take a look at what impact previous interdiction attempts (the passage of UIGEA, the implementation of UIGEA) had on Nevada poker. So I compiled a month-by-month summary of Nevada’s poker results for the past seven years. Because I didn’t want to keep all of the fun to myself, I turned my table into a little Center for Gaming Research report that you can now enjoy:

From 2003-06, Nevada poker saw an unprecedented boom, with revenues nearly tripling. From roughly the summer of 2006 to the summer of 2007, revenues then stabilized, showing continued small increases. Following a major jump in June 2007 (coinciding with an earlier start for the World Series of Poker), revenues then declined steadily. Since July 2007, poker revenues have increased year-to-year only five months out of forty-three.
In general, poker has, since 2006, become steadily less profitable for Nevada casinos. The win per table has fallen dramatically to early 1990s levels. The large number of tables, however, indicates that it is still an amenity that many choose to provide, though it does not produce significant revenues on its own.

Nevada Poker, 2004-2011

If you want to read my analysis based on the report, check out this Two Way Hard Three post.

Casino Facebook games in Vegas Seven

At last I’m able to update my blog–it’s been a very busy day. I wanted to do a win/slot analysis to address the “fewer slot machines, but they have more games so it’s OK” idea, but that’s going to have to wait. Instead, read about my latest Vegas Seven column, which covers casinos breaking into the social games market:

Casinos in Las Vegas have been marketing through social media for some time now, mostly via Facebook and Twitter. Recently, however, two Las Vegas-based casino companies have taken their investment in social media to another level with Facebook applications.Facebook allows third-party developers to create applications, or apps, that users can access through their Facebook pages. Social games are some of the most popular apps available. Unlike sites that offer play-for-free or play-for-cash, these games require no download and can be played in a standard Web browser. By definition, they allow players to invite friends to join games and compete in friendly competitions.

via Casinos now playing Facebook games | Vegas Seven.

I played both games, and found the casino-builder to definitely require more attention as you play–no replying to emails in another tab while you play it.

This is probably going to be a big growth area, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see casinos big and small partnering with game developers.

Early WSOP bust-out in Vegas 7

It’s Thursday, so you’ve got another Green Felt Journal column to read in Vegas Seven. This week, you can read my column on one of the first players to bust out in the main event; I wrote about my time at the tournament a few days ago, and here are the literary results:

So what about those players who don’t have a shot at walking into history this November? The ones who gambled early and gambled big but came up short?

The first player busted out after little more than a half-hour, and didn’t care to share his feelings about his quick exit.

Peter Turmezey, a 24-year-old professional player from Budapest, Hungary, lasted longer, but in the end the results were the same: His $10,000 bought him just 74 minutes of poker action.

via Hungarian pro stays positive after quick exit from WSOP | Vegas Seven.

He seemed like a nice guy; I felt bad that he was out so quickly. But he seemed pretty philosophical about it, which I guess is the key to being able to bounce back from something like this.

First WSOP bracelets in Vegas Seven

If nothing else, this story was much easier to research than the one I wrote earlier this week (but won’t be out for another week or two). Instead of pouncing on players who’d just been eliminated from the main event early in level one, I got to sit down and chat with a guy who was 48 hours removed from winning his first WSOP bracelet. That makes for an upbeat Vegas Seven column:

There’s no better example of what the bracelet means than Gavin Smith, who was born in Canada but now calls Las Vegas home. Smith, who’d worn the unofficial crown of “best player never to win a bracelet” for years, has been playing poker professionally for 13 years. Nothing was sweeter than his finally winning a WSOP bracelet at Event 44, a mixed $2,500 Texas hold ’em game, on June 28.

“It’s the Holy Grail, what everyone’s after,” says Smith, a likable 41-year-old who’s won more than $5 million at the tables, including a $1.2 million payday for winning the 2005 World Poker Tour Mirage Showdown, part of an incredible run that saw him named WPT Player of the Year.

Yet the big one always got away, until now.

via A long journey for that first WSOP bracelet | Vegas Seven.

Smith was genuinely emotional about winning the bracelet, and seemed legitimately proud to have secured his poker legacy.

The bracelet ceremony was also pretty neat. Playing the national anthem is a great tough, because it highlights the international nature of the competition and gives the ceremony an aura of solemnity. Whoever thought that up deserves a bonus.

Day 1A WSOP 2010

As those of you who follow my Twitter stream know, I spent a good chunk of yesterday down at the Rio, cruising around Day 1A of the World Series of Poker.

Oskar Garcia has the action cover here. I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts.

The story I was looking for at the WSOP was to profile the first person to bust out of the main event for next week’s Green Felt Journal in Vegas Seven. Luckily I’ve got a great deal of latitude with my subject material there. I thought that it would be interesting to share the experience of someone who came to Las Vegas, plunked down $10,000, and left the game quickly.

I’ve been seriously planning this column for over a month, and it never occurred to me that there might be a logistical problem or two. After all, it’s not like I was planning to interview the winner, who’s readily accessible to the media and usually in a mood to talk. Instead, I had to patrol somewhere around 150 tables, look for an all-in and a call, and quickly grab the unlucky one.

It sounds a lot easier than it is.

After about 20 minutes, I settled into one of the quads of the Amazon ballroom, loosely shadowing a poker supervisor who promised to let me know if he heard anything from one of the other quads.

By 20 minutes, my mouth was dry, and I was noticing how hot it was, with the lights and the excitement. It felt about 10 degrees cooler by the rail than it did at the tables.

I got a heads-up that a player was down to 200 dollars, and sped over. Turns out it was Greg Raymer, who kicked off the action with the official “Shuffle up and deal.” He bounced, and didn’t look anywhere close to being eliminated by the time I got to him.

32 minutes in, I felt like an undertaker waiting for a customer, circling the tables, looking for short stacks, or any inkling that someone might go all-in. This is around the time I started collecting a few statistics. In my section, about 10% of the players wore sunglasses; 25% wore baseball caps, mostly with the bill forward; 3.5% were women.

(someone busts out in another quad 35 minutes in, but I’m not there, and he wasn’t talking, anyway)

41 minutes in, I swear that the players know what I’m here for, and I can’t even look them in the eye. It’s like I’m a poker angel of death or something.

53 minutes in, I’m convinced that this is the worst story idea I’ve ever had. It’s the same feeling that I usually get around mile 22 of a marathon.

62 minutes in, I start to consider that I’ve crossed over into the Twilight Zone. No one will ever bust out, and I’ll spend eternity circling the tables, waiting for an interview that never comes, while a thousand players continue to push chips around the table without ever losing or winning.

68 minutes in, someone goes all in, but made the right call: he doubles up, and lives on.

70 minutes in, this is the idea from hell. Why did I ever think it was a good idea to write a column about failure?

71 minutes in, another all-in call, and this one wasn’t the right call. The player, who looks vaguely like Oliver Stone, busts out. I ask him if he wants to talk, and he says no before scooting out the door. Maybe he’s staying ahead of the snipers on the grassy knoll.

74 minutes in, another all-in call, right in front of me, and it’s another unhappy outcome. This time, the player is shell-shocked, but personable, and we find a few chairs in the media section to do a quick interview.

Turns out his name is Peter Turmezey, he hails from Budapest, Hungary, and he’s a professional poker player. Nice guy, too.

You’ll be able to read all about it in next week’s Vegas Seven.

Vegas Seven double shot

It’s Thursday, and if you like my writing for Vegas Seven, it’s a lucky Thursday, since I’ve got my usual Green Felt Journal column and a more in-depth Latest Word.

The Latest Word piece takes a philosophical and even theological look at poker, winning, and losing:

In other words, poker isn’t always fair. Of course, it’s all about perspective. The best hand at the showdown wins the pot. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t the best hand pre-flop, or that someone with a better hand folded on the turn, or that your opponent made a miracle draw to fill his inside straight and won a pot he had no business playing for. That, as they say, is the luck of the draw. And it has absolutely nothing to do with whether you’re a better friend, lover or parent than your opponent, or whether you need the money to save a life and he’s just going to blow it at the craps table. The cards have no conscience.

The Winning Hand is Not to the Swift …

For the Green Felt Journal, I took a look at the business and organization behind the World Series of Poker. It’s considerable.

If you’ve watched the World Series of Poker on ESPN, you might think that it’s a pretty laid-back event. Sure, there’s plenty of tension at the final table, but it’s basically just a bunch of guys and gals getting together to play cards, right?

Actually, the two-month tournament at the Rio is all about the cards, but it is orders of magnitude more complicated than your Tuesday night home game. With 57 bracelet events, daily satellites and nearly 80 cash games going on over the course of the tournament, the World Series of Poker is more than an event.

“It’s an organization, not an event,’ says Jack Effel, vice president of international poker operations and director of the World Series of Poker for Harrah’s Entertainment. “It’s got to be that way to be successful.”

Inside the WSOP

Two very interesting columns to write. Enjoy.

Podcast up: interview with Jack Effel

I spent a few hours down at the World Series of Poker this morning, and came away with one of the best interviews I’ve done yet. It’s now podcast #22 in the UNLV Gaming Podcast Series:

22-June 14, 2010
Jack Effel, Vice President, International Poker Operations and Director, World Series of Poker at Harrah’s Entertainment
In this interview, conducted June 14, 2010, WSOP Director Jack Effel talks about his early interest in poker, the path of his career, and the logistics behind puttng on the World Series of Poker. It’s an extremely informative interview, and a must-listen for anyone interested in how tournament poker works.

Listen to the audio file (mp3)

Keep in mind that this is the busiest time of the year for Mr. Effel. I asked for 30 minutes, and would have been happy with 20. I got an hour and fifteen minutes of his insights into the WSOP, for which I’m grateful. If you’re a student of poker, you really have to hear this to believe how great it is.

I’m hoping to set up a few more interviews at the tournament with some of the pros.

Jesus and the WSOP

Most of us–unless we’re Phillip Pullman–would like to think that God, or Divine Providence, is on our side. It’s comforting to think that, in the words of Pharaoh Sanders, “The Creator Has a Master Plan,” and that you are part of it.

But we usually keep our mouths shut about it. Apparently, this year’s WSOP winner was pretty insistent about asking for God’s help during the final table, and that’s got Jeff Simpson irked. From the LV Sun:

This year’s winner, Jerry Yang, a Laotian-American from California, was way more likable than the obnoxious Gold, but the unassuming therapist found a way to annoy me during his final table triumph.

Yang, it seems, is a devout Christian. Good for him.

But there’s something unseemly about a gambler, in the middle of a gambling event, beseeching God for help.

Among Yang’s televised remarks at the final table were: “Let people see a miracle “; “Thank you Lord, Thank you God “; “Lord, you know you have a purpose for me “; and “I will glorify your name.”

During one particularly tense hand, after all the chips had been pushed into the middle but a couple of cards had yet to be dealt, Yang asked for help.

“Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, let me win this one,” he murmured.

Maybe it’s me, but it just seems wrong to be asking God to deliver a card.

Las Vegas SUN: Jeff Simpson notes that the past two winners of the World Series of Poker’s main event haven’t been great for the game

Actually, in my research for Roll the Bones, I happened across a description of a Roman dicing board dating from the early Christian period that said pretty much the same thing as Yang. Here’s the relevant text:

If after this manner one should play at the throws of the alveus, Jesus Christ gives victory, and assistance to those who wrote his name, even in such trifling matters as playing this game.

That’s from James Christie. An Inquiry into the Ancient Greek Game Supposed to Have Been Invented by Palamedes, Antecedent to the Siege of Troy. London: W. Bulmer and Co., 1801.

My point is that this has been going on a long time. Even back then, they thought it was inappropriate to ask for divine intervention into gambling, but they kept on doing it. It’s easy for us to say that it’s just a game, but I’m guessing that when you’re a the final table of the WSOP, it seems like anything but a trifle. Still, this might be a prayer better offered without words–at least ones that everyone else can hear.

WSOP 2007 rundown

Was this year’s WSOP, held under the shadow of UIGEA (also known as the Internet gambling ban), a success? Look at some of the numbers from CardPlayer and judge for yourself:

The dust stirred up by the thousands of players who traipsed through the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino the last two months has cleared, and now it’s time to look at some of the figures that came out of the 38th World Series of Poker. With 55 events, the 2007 version was the most ambitious one yet, attracting more entrants than ever before.

The folks at the cashier’s booth greeted 54,281 entrants this year, which is 5,925 more than the 46 events last year drew. Despite this, there wasn’t much difference in the total prize pool. This year’s was $159,492,119; last year’s was $159,018,925.

Last year, each event averaged 1,051 players; this year, that average was 986.

As far as the numbers are concerned, the biggest difference between this year and last year was the number of entrants who played in the main event. The 2007 WSOP champion, Jerry Yang, was one of 6,358 players who vied for a share of what will be the largest live poker tournament prize pool of the year.

Poker News – World Series of Poker by the Numbers

So there were more events, with more overall participants, but each event had a smaller number of entrants.

If you can’t get enough of gambling-related numbers, check out the Gaming Abstract, which we’ve been updating. In that sense it’s the New and Improved Gaming Abstract.

Here’s one item of note: Nevada casinos made almost $161 million from poker last year.