Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Photo Dump Returneth: WSOP and Poker Dome Highlights

Let's take a break from them edgier stuff again today, and return to some of the sights from the World Series of Poker and the Mansion Poker Dome, two events of more than casual interest around these parts.

While I've yet to see a final summary posted on the web, it's safe to say that a significant percentage of all the WSOP Main Event entrants won their seats online, certainly several thousands of the 8,773 ME participants. Players who qualified through the largest sites, such as Poker Stars, Bodog, or Full Tilt, also had special access to the hospitality suites that ringed the Amazon Room and the action itself.

Most of the suites were split into two parts, a public-access area toward the front and a more-exclusive, players/staff section at the back. In most cases the semi-private players' lounges were designed to allow the biggest of the sites' endorsers a convenient spot to relax, talk, eat, play some cards --- in general, to just get off the floor for a bit. Of those suites that were closest to the action, Full Tilt's had the most style, as can be seen here:



A nice setup, tastefully classy, as compared to Bodog's back area, which was more like one of those dimly-lit, crimsom-appointed '70s-era singles lounges that, thank the forces that be, no longer populate the landscape in quite as huge numbers. (Which doesn't mean I wasn't expecting to see Calvin Ayre look-alikes in white disco jumpsuits, complete with hairy chests and cheesy bling. Thankfully, that was just a hallucination.)

Barely visible in the Full Tilt Poker photo above is the back-wall mural, which built upon that 'Fremont St. Gang' ad concept that Full Tilt has used for some time. Here's what that looked like, though this photo does not capture the scope of the work:



Of course, you might have the impression that these lounges were deserted, but although they closed in the early evening, that wasn't the case. Each had the usual looker traffic, day after day, and the players, especially after being knocked out of other events, often played their own cash games in the back. Andy Bloch took a break from a cash game in the Full Tilt area to pose for this cheap-camera shot:



One of the reasons I like this photo, poor quality aside, is that despite the cavernous nature of the Rio Convention Center, space can still a be a premium on the small scale. All those boxes full of promotional goodies and hospitality-suite decorations have to go somewhere, don't they? And though they might be obscured from the general public's view, rest assured that for everyone --- not just Full Tilt --- the clutter was just out of sight.

Moving on.

If you want to see the famous faces of the poker world, well, there's no place like (the) Rio in July. You've probably noticed a sprinkling of photos in past posts, but I didn't take that many poker-star shots; other tasks had greater priority. Still, here's a few for your entertainment...

Here's Gavin Smith and Joe "Spidey" Sebok on the last of the four Day Ones of the Main Event, part of the payoff in a rather famed bet between the two. Too bad I missed the "bear in a diaper" day, but then again, it could have been worse --- imagine Joe in a "Wonder Woman" costume or something. Ick. Anyhow:



Speaking of mugging for the camera, here's Minneapolis Jim Meehan hamming it up. Nice shirt, too!



And one for the guys, namely "Aussie" Sarah Bilney:



As you can see, Jennifer Tilly wasn't the only beautiful brunette drawing media attention. Oh, speaking of Jennifer:



There. You can't accuse me of not catering to the audience. Oh, and since I mentioned the Mansion Poker Dome excursion, you know what you do in the hours before the taping starts? You stare at the walls, that's what. Not long before Nila the Nanny confiscated all our electronics, I snapped a photo of Tony G and his unofficial better half:



Yes, that's par for the course in a green room. In a phrase, boring as hell.

Time to wrap it up, this time with one of those "what the %&*^?" moments. My last eight days in Vegas were spent bouncing between the activities at the WSOP and my room at the Gold Coast, next door, where I collapsed each night. One thing that I discovered --- there's apparantly a thriving black market for used small appliances. How else can one explain this:



Yes, this cheap iron is literally bolted to the ironing board; you ain't going nowhere with this Sunbeam, baby. Given the makeup of the Pai Gow players downstairs, I suspect this rampant iron-theft racket is a Yakuza thing.

Nahh, just kidding, at least the the Yakuza bit. (Black-market Brauns have a higher resale value.) Though the Gold Coast is convenient, it's also more than a bit run down; my room featured any number of things which didn't work or weren't as advertised, from a tub that wouldn't drain to an out-of-focus TV to free 'Net access... that wasn't. (And I recounted the horrors of the Gold Coast poker "room" in one of my first Vegas-themed posts, early last month.) All I can say about the Gold Coast is that it was a necessary evil, providing convenient and nearby access to the WSOP happenings across the street.

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