Some observations from a week at the 2018 World Series Of Poker in Las Vegas:
It’s nice to hear so many languages and accents from so many countries. At various times, I sat at tables with players from Norway, Hungary, South Korea, Jamaica, Brazil, Egypt, England, and the Czech Republic. There was a guy from Narooma, a small Australian town that I’ve actually visited, so we shared stories about his homeland. There was an Italian guy chatting with his Spanish girlfriend. Having all these different nations represented in one place puts a smile on my face, but it creates a problem, too. Because of the language barriers — even those who speak English do it haltingly — it can keep conversation at the table to a minimum. To me, that’s death in a poker game, which is supposed to be a fun, social experience, even if we are trying to take thousands of dollars off each other. Still, I’d rather be surrounded by an international group than a bunch of young American pros who never say a word because they’re too busy staring at their iPads between hands.
As in previous years, the ratio of bad dealers to good ones was quite high. This can be especially frustrating in a pot-limit Omaha game where, unlike in Texas hold’em, the dealer has to keep an accurate count of how many chips are in the middle and calculate how much a player is allowed to raise at any point. That’s tough for the newbies who have just graduated dealer school after only a few weeks of lessons. They get nervous and go slower. I sat at one table where one of the players — who was losing, naturally — berated a young woman who wasn’t going quickly enough for him, so he kept yelling at her to go faster. It was clear to me that, rather than speeding her up, he was making her more nervous, which reduced her pace, which only made him louder. After a few hands of this immature behavior, I piped up and asked if he thought he was making things better by being so rude. He turned his anger on me, which was fine, because I remained calm while he went even further on tilt and, on the very next hand, made a dumb mistake that cost all of his chips. I tried not to smile too much as I added them to my stack.
I’ve run into volatile personalities like that in almost every poker room I’ve played in. I always wonder if those men (it’s always guys) wake up angry every day and go around looking for someone to take it out on. On this trip alone, I witnessed two players throw their cards at the dealer after a bad beat. I’m happy to say that in both circumstances, a floor supervisor immediately escorted them out with a recommendation not to return that day. In what other business setting would they act that way? Have they thrown food at a waitress because it wasn’t prepared to their liking? Are they the poster boys for road rage? Why does anyone, anywhere, put up with them?
One of the good dealers I encountered, Eddie, called everyone boss. “It’s on you, boss,” he’d say to whoever’s turn it was to act. Then he’d say the same to the next player, and the next, all the way around the table, hand after hand. Eddie had a lot of bosses, but he also kept smiling and dealing, so I enjoyed his half-hour at our game.
The cash games at the WSOP are played in the Pavilion room of the Rio, with one corner separated into an area called The King’s Lounge. It’s sponsored by King’s Casino, located in Rozvadov, Czech Republic (the largest poker room on that continent), and has since added a couple of other venues in other countries. It’s also the host casino for this year’s WSOP Europe, so this must be part of its sponsorship deal. The King’s Lounge is where you’ll find the higher-limit games (e.g. the $5-10-25 PLO I spent several sessions playing). It offers the most comfortable armchairs I’ve ever encountered around a poker table, as well as a free buffet of pretty good food for anyone in those games. The food didn’t have to be as good as it was, because poker players will swarm around anything even mildly edible and chomp down on it, but this was a nice treat.
In the elevators at the Rio, there’s an advertisement over the doors for the hotel’s Chippendales show. Late one night, I was headed up to my room and was followed onto an elevator by two young women who’d obviously had a few drinks. They looked up at the the ad and started making some comments about the guys in the picture, then turned to me and apologized. I told them they had nothing to be sorry about because, for me, looking at that photo was like looking into a mirror. Fortunately, they both laughed — with me, not at me — as the doors opened on my floor and I exited. Sleep well, ladies!