With 5,619 players vying for the biggest prize in poker history, Harrah’s management had roped off the entire hallway leading from the tournament area to the rest of the casino so that the little girls involved in the final stages of the dance competition might continue unmolested. Meanwhile, they routed all the people who had paid $10,000 each to enter this event through a cheesy poker trade show. With $600 per person being raked from the prize pool, including $200 earmarked for the staff, Harrah’s still gave back nothing other than a single $10 food discount and it wasn’t even usable at the tournament snack bar.
I had drawn the first of three flights for the big event. The Maitre D’ had given me a corner table, which made it easy for my fans to watch me play, but unfortunately I had three good players at my table, all to my left. I had table 179, seat two, and the two players to my left I didn’t recognize but they obviously knew what they were doing. In seat seven was Hooman Nikzad, a tournament regular who had busted me once before. The guy in seat nine was making ridiculous preflop raises, making it difficult to see a lot of cheap flops with marginal hands. I played very few pots and was down from 10,000 to 9750 at the first break.
I had planned to bribe one of the 14-year-old girls with a $10 buffet coupon to say I was her uncle and get me into the men’s room behind the ropes but given my corner table location it was unnecessary and I was one of the first to get to the main restroom. When I returned I played a few more pots but had no success and was down to 7925 at the end of level two, and then 7900 at the end of level three.
With the blinds at 100/200 with a 25 ante, it was time to start playing pots and I raised in early position with Ace-King suited. The good, aggressive player in seat four made a small reraise and it folded back to me. I decided he was medium-strong and decided to move in, perhaps getting him to lay down the best hand or getting a race if he called. He immediately called and showed pocket Jacks. They held up and I was down to 1250.
Then a four-way pot limped to me with King-Nine in the big blind. I decided to see a flop and it came King-Four-Trey rainbow, making it likely I had the best hand. I decided to check and see what the others did. Somebody bet and I called. He turned over Ace-Ten for the bluff but caught an Ace on the river, knocking me out.
Dinner was at Shibuya with Russell Rosenblum, Matt “Jacks Up” Matros, Chris Fargis, and his girlfriend Jodi. We all had Kobe steak, washed down with the 2001 Phelps Insignia.
While the Rio was indisputable a nicer hotel than Binion’s Horseshoe had been, in many ways Harrah’s was a poor host. The enormous rakes they took from the events combined with the negligible complimentaries offered opened the door for a competing group to take the franchise away by offering better value to the players. The lack of restroom facilities was inexcusable. The dealers were overworked and undertrained. The playing cards were used over and over again, picking up marks and scratches along the way, not retired after a few hours as they are in games where the house’s money was at stake. To be fair, Harrah’s put this thing together quickly. Let’s see if they correct these problems next year.
It was a disappointing World Series but tomorrow started the Ultimate Poker Challenge series at the Plaza, which I had been looking forward to. Shortstack said she had a feeling the Lion was going to tear up “La Ultima.” We would see.