WSOP-Circuit Chicago Report
Poker is alive and well in Chicago. As the largest of the 19 stops on the WSOP-Circuit schedule, there is no shortage of excited and relatively inexperienced players cutting their teeth on the reasonably priced tournaments located at Caesars Hammond (a ten minute drive from downtown Chicago). We were there recently to soak in the scene and jump into the poker action at the largest WSOP-Circuit venue.
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The locals in the Chicagoland area that contribute to Hammonds large fields seem more upbeat and happy about being at the venue than is typical of other tournament stops. The players seem less experienced and thus are generally less fatigued by the poker grind. Poker is still a new and exciting experience for many of the local players. So not only are they more enjoyable to be around but they are also quite bad at the game.
However, the facilities at the largest WSOP-C stop leave something to be desired. Caesars Hammond is without a hotel on the property which must dissuade some players from participation since the surrounding area is a hellhole. In other words, to play at the WSOP-Circuit Hammond stop you've either got to commute or stay at a hotel in a seedy area of Chicago's suburbs. It's not an ideal stop on the roaming tournament series for lazy poker pros.
Helping matters are three giant projection screens in the poker tournament area displaying various sporting events. This allieviates the boredom of live poker. They also have a table with free coffee. We mention the free coffee only to emphasize how hard it is to say nice things about the WSOP.
As is typical of Caesars' poker tournaments, players are packed like sardines into 10-handed tables being managed by dealers hired on the cheap who therefore, oftentimes, suck. To manage WSOP-C events, Caesars relies on a traveling tour of dealers who pay their own expenses and lodging just for the chance to make $6 an hour (plus tips). That compensation model does not attract the best talent and contributes to the WSOP being as far removed from the classy, spa-like experience that one might hope poker's most prestigious brand could deliver.
In a demonstration of their diminishing relevance to poker, WSOP officials play a promo video prior to the start of events containing poker highlights featuring the likes of Howard Lederer and Annie Duke. That people whose incompetence has cost members of the poker community millions are still praised as the heroes of the WSOP underscores that Caesars doesn't really give a crap about you, the player. Your treatment by this corporation as a WSOP participant will require you to maintain low personal standards unless you happen to develop a slot machine habit during breaks from the tournament.
An unending number of second-chance and satellite events command so much attention from staff that it results in sometimes chaotic organization of other supposedly more significant events. For example, I asked the floor staff how many more levels we would play for the day and received an "it depends" answer. I asked him why he didn't announce the info over speakers for everyone in the tournament to hear since it's a significant point of interest and also so they wouldn't have to repeat the answer continuously. Another member of the staff interjected that it wouldn't matter and that people would still ask the question just as often. So rather than execute on a reasonable suggestion for creating efficiency, the WSOP staff makes a dubious claim that an announcement would leave players no more informed than they are without it. That is one example of the numerous small ways in which WSOP management can be maddening.
Other contributing factors to the WSOP being as classy as pigs at a feed trough include: a poker kitchen with prices aimed to kill ($8 for a bad hot dog), no seating area outside said poker kitchen, a refusal to accommodate poker players on a one hour dinner break with a line pass for the casino's buffet, and players being charged $5 for a beer at the table. Yea that's right, if you gamble at the WSOP in Chicago, Caesars will be seeking to directly profit from your thirst for alcohol. Where else in the U.S. does a casino charge an actively gambling patron for an alcoholic beverage?
When you are a customer of the WSOP expect the minimum treatment and to be squeezed for your maximum dollar at every opportunity. The WSOP is ran by a cash-strapped company that lacks the resources to provide a world-class experience to poker. As players continue to improve in poker, and thus there becomes less financial incentive for participating in live tournaments, the little annoyances of the WSOP become harder to deal with. Here's hoping that the brand is jettisoned from its financially distraught parent-company and into the hands of an entity willing to invest in creating a world-class poker experience.