I went to the Rio yesterday to settle up a debt with a friend. While I was there, it occurred to me that it’s entirely possible that I’ll never step foot in the Brazilian-themed casino again. This isn’t because I don’t think I’ll be back for the WSOP. It’s that I don’t think the WSOP will be back to Rio.
There seems to be a pretty strong rumor that Harrah’s has all but sold the Rio and will move the WSOP to Caesars or possibly even Planet Hollywood next year. If that happens, there’s really no reason to go Rio again. The fact that the Rio sucks wouldn’t be the sole reason I’d never go back, a casino sucking has never stopped me from stepping foot inside before, but it’s off-strip location pretty much means you’d only ever go there if your objective was to do just that. Without the WSOP, there’s really no reason to go to Rio.
I allowed myself a moment of nostalgia as I departed the Rio property yesterday. When I came to Vegas for the first time in 2005, just a few short days after I had turned 21, Rio was the first casino I set foot in. I got off my plane, got in a taxi, and told him, “take me to the Rio.” A few minutes later, I was immersed in the WSOP atmosphere and have been hooked ever since. I still remember what it was like seeing Marcel Luske walking through the casino. “Holy crap! That’s Marcel Luske!” I remember thinking. I’ve long since shed any sense of awe I have towards TV poker pros, so it’s kind of funny to me reflecting back on how excited I was to see Marcel f***ing Luske.
If this is indeed the Rio’s curtain call, I’ll be quite happy. I’ve never had much of a problem with the WSOP at Rio. The Rio facilities are massive and house the action comfortably. But Rio is starting to feel kind of stale as the host of the WSOP. This is the Rio’s sixth straight year of hosting the WSOP. The property would probably play host for the WSOP indefinitely as long as Harrah’s is its owner. By holding the WSOP at the island that is Rio, Harrah’s can optimize the room occupancy across all of their Vegas properties. Since it is located off the Strip, getting people to stay at the Rio is pretty tough, but if you put something like the WSOP there, poker players will stay at Rio and away from their other properties (like Caesars and Paris) that don’t need any help filling rooms.
If Harrah’s sells Rio, they’ll have to bite the bullet and move the WSOP to one of their Strip properties. The Rio’s new owner will be left with the interesting task of figuring out how on earth to get people to visit an off-Strip casino that, as shaniac so appropriately put it, is like a cruise ship from hell. One thing is for sure: without the WSOP, myself and probably countless other poker players will find no reason to visit Rio again.