15/08/2006

Although I still had a couple more chances to be a World Champion I decided to call it a day after Monday. I'd played pretty well in the last three $1500 nlhs I played and it seemed like it just wasn't to be this year. Looking back I played 17 WSOP Bracelet competitions and I only cashed in two. I feel a bit disappointed about that, but I think I played pretty well in most of them. I can only think of two days when I just played badly, it's a pity one of those days was in the Main Event.

The last few days were among the most restful of the trip. Had a nice couple of days by the pool with a Cabana. For those of you not familiar with the concept it's like having a beech hut. Think middle class tent (more bedouin than mountaineer) with a nice fridge, sofa and safe in it. For just a couple of hundred dollars you get the chance to buy overpriced food items and then overtip a guy who continually comes round to check on you, while enjoying your own personal sunbathing area setback from the plebs. Great value.

The terrorist problems then caused a flight delay of 8 hours, which caused a knock-on effect that these extremists couldn't predict. A whole extra day of blackjack where Miss C and myself were introduced to a concept of "house edge" which we formerly hadn't realised existed in double deck.

Back here in blighty I've already started thinking about next year's trip. I'm fairly sure they'll be bringing it back to the old May/June time which will probably be better in terms of weather and not missing the whole summer. While they're at it there's a few things I'd like to see change.

  1. The length of it. I would love to see a slightly shorter series. There are just too many events now, the prestige of winning a bracelet has to be devalued by this. I understand the arguments for keeping the buy-in of the Main Event at $10k but if they can't cope with the numbers in the smaller events maybe they should have less of them, but with a bigger buy-in. I'd like to see the smallest buy-in set at $2,500 and the number of events reduced to 40 or less. I was one of a very few Europeans to stay the distance this year (slow old plodder made it round) and it's obviously impractical for most people to spare the time.
  2. The schedule. This is something that really needs to be looked at. With the Series so long now people obviously pick and choose their events more. Harrahs are definitely costing themselves business by poor scheduling. Having the $10k PLO the day after the $1000 NLH rebuy is one example of how they got it wrong. These are the two biggest events outside the ME and the HORSE and they ran them back to back. They then had a $1000 NLH which would attract a totally different player on the Monday after. The smaller guys had nothing to do for that weekend and this should have come in between the two. Another example is when they have two events on the same day. It was hard to get busted from the noon $5000 Limit Stud event in time to play the $2500 PLH at 2pm (Chufty did manage it - good effort Richard). If they'd have been the other way round they'd have got a lot more stud players.
    It surprises me that a company who have proved so good at getting money out of players in the past are so poor in this area.
  3. The room. If the numbers stay at these kind of levels it's clear that even this enormous room is not big enough. The Rio has a lot of other space around the Convention Centre but they are too greedy to turn away other business during the Series. It cannot be acceptable that World Championship events are played 11 handed with 100s of alternates. If more space was opened up this would not be necessary. If Harrahs were more interested in the long term they might realize that giving people a good poker experience is what will get them coming back. With short-stacks playing 11 handed is not giving many people much bang for their buck.
  4. The cards. It is unbelievable to me that if Partypoker are prepared to spend $20million on getting their name on the table Harrahs cannot find a company to sponsor the backs of the playing cards. Surely they are missing out on an enormous source of revenue. If a sponsor can be found it wouldn't seem unreasonable that the cards used could be of a higher quality. Failing that maybe they could dip into their enormous profits from this year's event and buy a few new decks for next year. I think you can get them on Ebay.

Those would really be the main four for me. I can see why people might argue for lower vig on the tournaments or better comps and obviously those things would be nice. It is a bit naive of us to expect them to give away too much when people keep queuing up to get raped anyway.

In terms of improvements they did make, yes, they sorted out the toilets and opened a beer garden to banish the smokers to. Foodwise they could do a bit more though. Inviting thousands of people to that part of the casino and keeping the Sau Paulo Cafe closed half the time isn't that smart. In a city with no clocks it surprises me that the Starbucks can't stay open 24hrs and when it is open they only have one person to serve.

The Cashiers cage was a bit better and buying in was an easier process. It's just a pity they didn't work out that some people would have to collect money. It's not much fun spending two hours hanging around at midnight when you're pissed off at being knocked out and you're barely doubling your buy-in.

I could go on about media access restrictions, Harrah's censorship of Card Player's reports, tax problems for the Europeans, extra chips turning up in the main event, last minute changes to the schedule, poor quality of the newer dealers who replaced the ones who walked out, the "poker rate" that you pay to stay in the Rio and the inconsistencies in the rulings. I better not though as I've probably already lost most of my loyal readership. If anyone did last the course with me I say "cheers to you". It's always nice when a total stranger comes up to me and says they've been reading my stuff (even if most of them turn out to be total nutters).

Neil Channing is sponsored to play poker tournaments by BetUK.com and BetUSA.com.