Thoughts on the 2006 WSOP
While the WSOP has a long tradition, it has transformed immensely over the past couple of years. Instead of being played at Binion's by a small group of players, the WSOP is now held at the Rio and attracts tens of thousands of people. Here are our thoughts on the direction of the WSOP and poker in general:
The community that you will find at the WSOP is, in general, a very young crowd.
The average person walking around the Amazon Room (where all the poker is being played). is a late-20s male that is slightly out-of-shape looking. Online poker has really helped contribute a large group of young players who have spent most of the last few years playing poker. There is also a large group of middle-aged Steve Dannenman-types who you can tell are just here for a few days to play a little poker in order to get away from the wife, kids, and job. A third group exists, which is the "well known pros" who have been making a living at poker long before anyone had ever heard of "Joe Hachem". This last group composes less than 5% of the total males found at the WSOP. In other words, the average person at the WSOP appears to be a recreational player or wannabe.
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While men outnumber women by a large margin, there does seem to be two distinct groups of women at the WSOP. The first group appears to be the typical middle-aged woman playing some poker while on vacation. The second group is young, gorgeous, and at the WSOP largely based on their looks. Members of this second group are either models/actresses that have been hired to promote a poker-related brand-name or are riding their good looks to a poker sponsorship at the tables, generally though an online poker site.
Online poker and the WSOP are more intertwined than ever.
In the past, online poker rooms merely were avenues for a few players to win seats to the WSOP. Some online sites were also small advertisers on WSOP broadcasts. Now, it is clear that online poker rooms play a crucial role in the popularity as well as the bottom line of the WSOP.
Not only is it expected that the vast majority of WSOP Main Event entrants qualified through online sites, the online sites have a huge physical presence at the WSOP. Most have hospitality booths right outside of the Amazon Room. Party Poker is one of the major sponsors of the WSOP; its logo is front and center on every poker table at the WSOP.
Let's not kid ourselves folks. The future of the WSOP largely depends on the online poker rooms. In a time when some politicians are fighting to restrict online poker, we have a feeling that Harrah's and the other major land-based casinos are going to try to defend what is certainly helping them butter their bread.
The WSOP event coordinators are much more adept at dealing with large fields than in the past.
We've noticed several significant changes in how they handle the logistics of the tournament. For example, large tournaments (when almost 200 tables are being used for the tournament), now have staggered breaks. Half the field will go on break while the other half plays and vice versa. This has the effect of limiting bathroom lines and decreasing the hectic nature of the breaks. They have also added a poker kitchen area outside, complete with a small restaurant and extra toilets. While these changes may seem minor, it is a definite plus for the players' experience.
Some professional players (most notably Daniel Negreanu) have been complaining about this year's schedule and are now referring to it as the "World Series of Hold'em".
These complaints stem from the fact that most of the events at the WSOP are small buy-in hold'em events. However, as much as the pros might complain, these events appear to be insanely popular. Event #17 was a $1,000 buy-in no-limit hold'em event which drew 2,891 players, the most ever to participate in a poker tournament in which all players began play on the same day. Very rarely have any of the sub-$2,500 buy-in hold'em events failed to draw more than 1,000 players. Complain as they might, the pros can't help but recognize that all of these small buy-in hold'em events are drawing in a sea of amateurs and dead money for the picking.
Harrah's has changed the smoking policy.
Smoking has not been allowed in the Amazon Room both last year and this year. However, last year, when players went on break, they would all leave the Amazon Room, walk right outside into the hallway area, and begin smoking. This resulted in a hallway area that looked like something straight out of Cheech and Chong movie, not to mention annoyed many non-smokers.
This year, Harrah's has listened to the complaints from many non-smokers and have set up designated smoking areas. These designated areas are placed away from the crowds of people.
For more coverage from Las Vegas, check out our blog, Live from the WSOP