Today is a sad day for this reporter, one of the guys that works at Aces Casino, THE los angeles casino night leader.
The "Main Event" of the 2010 World Series Of Poker is starting today, without us.
So, around Aces Casino headquarters, one of the top los angeles casino night juggernauts in the industry, well, we're feelin' slighted. (Dog-Gone July-4th holiday.) We've all attended the yearly pilgrimage to the WSOP annually, so, because of scheduling conflicts, the los angeles casino night leader is stayin' home.
Well, nothing helps to get rid of the pain quite like writing about it, so we decided to print a lil' blurb in our blog about the 2010 WSOP.
UNTIL, that is, UNTIL we saw Gary Wise's column for ESPN.com.
Gary Wise is one of the top poker writers in HIS industry, and is WELL respected here at Aces. We could NEVER do ANY better than what our friend, Gary Wise, has written about this years' WSOP, so, with permission, here is his article. Enjoy.
Forty-one years ago a relocated Texas gangster named Benny Binion, looking to drum up passerby interest in his Horseshoe Casino, rallied seven of the world's finest poker players to gather under its roof for what he termed the World Series of Poker. With the promise of free food, lodging and plenty of action to be had, eventual Hall of Famers like Doyle Brunson, Johnny Moss and Amarillo Slim gathered and played, electing Moss champion because tournament poker hadn't yet been envisioned.
So began one of America's greatest success stories. Starting the day after many celebrated America's Independence Day, we begin an event that flies closest to the spirit of all that holiday represents. The $10,000 World Series of Poker main event.
How is poker the most American of all games? Poker is capitalism. Poker is a might-makes-right game in which anyone can try to assert their will and must defend themselves from others trying to do so. Unlike football or baseball or basketball, every player puts up or shuts up, using his own money to play and ultimately risking its loss. In poker, you are accountable for your actions in the most American way possible: through your wallet. Ultimately the strong survive, through smarts, through skill and through the kind of strength of spirit that allows for two weeks of intense, uninterrupted focus. That's right: two weeks. On July 17, nine players will position themselves for the final table run where one of them will win anywhere from $8 million to $10 million in first-place prize money.
Poker is democracy. Anyone can play and every player is simultaneously an individual and part of the whole. Each player can make himself or herself heard with his or her actions. Poker players speak a unique language of bad beats and value and that dialogue brings them together with a bond that overcomes differences in race, religion, color, gender and creed. Israelis and Palestinians will shake hands when one knocks the other out of a tournament. Poker brings them all together as a nation. It's the melting pot. An Independence Day press release from the WSOP announced that thus far, players from 107 countries were already signed up for the main event with more than three days remaining for registration. This year's Olympic Winter Games had representatives from 83 nations. The final field size, after four starting days, is expected to hover around 7,000 players.
Poker is the American dream. Players like Johnny Chan and Scotty Nguyen went from floating off their respective nations in under-gassed boats filled beyond capacity with countrymen who would often die from the journey. They each made it to America with little to their names, adopted it as their home, worked their way up, found this game and made millions through becoming WSOP champions. When Nguyen won his championship in 1998, he turned to Jack Binion, who'd succeeded his father in operating the tournament, and said, "This is my dream, to sit next to you." Through this tournament, he'd reached the peaks only his imagination would have allowed to seem possible.
Between those three American icon philosophies, I challenge you to find a more American game than poker. The World Series of Poker main event is its pinnacle.
Through the years, the main event has been universally recognized as the tournament that crowns poker's world champion. After Binion's original attempts, the fields began to grow (13 players in 1973, 34 players in 1977, 113 players in 1982, 215 players in 1991, 839 players in 2003) when ESPN's cameras were on hand to capture Tennessee accountant Chris Moneymaker taking out Johnny Chan and Phil Ivey before toppling Sammy Farha to win the championship. Suddenly, anything was possible. Suddenly, anyone could win and become famous in the process.
Since then, the main event has ballooned. The wealth and fame captured by Moneymaker, then Greg Raymer, Joe Hachem, Jamie Gold, Jerry Yang, Peter Eastgate and Joe Cada in the years that followed, are the dream and goal of every poker player from Ivey and Brunson on down to the guy who wins "some of the time" in his small town home game. That's because while we know poker's a game in which skill will eventually win out, on a given day -- maybe this given day -- anyone can win. The only way to find out if it's your day is to play.
"This is how you make your name, baby," said 1998 champion Nguyen in his signature voice. "The main event is the ultimate rush. People dream just to play in it, but winning it … the world knows who you are and your name will live on a hundred years from now."
"If I was to meet a complete stranger to the world of poker, I guess the only way I could describe the main event is to say it's like the Kentucky Derby, the U.S. Open and Wimbledon all sewn into one," explained 2005 champion Hachem. "The number of people who come across so many continents from so many countries to play for one prized trophy is unequaled in sport."
With the growth of the event being what it is, the view of it from those on the inside has changed. Where once a top player's career was incomplete without a main event win, now most are resigned to the fact they'll probably never win it.
"It's a totally different ballgame today" said Chan, who won back-to-back championships in 1987 and 1988. "You have so many bodies you have to go through. When I won, I was young. I'm not young anymore. You have to play 10 hours a day, day in, day out, sitting for all those hours, it's tough on your body."
He then added with a smile, "I love it though."
The pain comes with just rewards. In a professional community in which branding and skill are of equal importance, it's become increasingly difficult for new faces to pierce the public consciousness in a way that will pay off in endorsements and sponsorships. Success in the main event is the exception.
"The poker landscape has changed to where its difficult to become a household name," Daniel Negreanu said. "You can still do that at the main event. You see the same faces on TV all the time and it's difficult for anyone else to build a fan base. With the main event, it's instant and it's automatic. The way it's structured now, if you make the November Nine, you're going to be remembered."
For so many, that's what the main event is all about. It's an equal opportunity way to etch your name in stone, the one poker tournament in which success assures that your name will become an institution because the WSOP is poker's greatest institution. It rubs off. It's the culmination of democracy, skill, capitalism, luck and the American dream. On July 5, with the launching of the tournament they call "The Big One," we'll see the early formation of the institutions of tomorrow.