There are some significant improvements to the WSOP this year. One is the improved poker kitchen at the Rio. It now features a New York City workday lunch staple: one of those create-your-own-salad bars. This will allow me to eat relatively healthy food for the duration of this trip, an accomplishment that has traditionally been easier said than done. Another WSOP improvement is the new allocation of the Rio’s convention space. The newly dedicated and ginormous “Pavilion” room now comfortably houses all Day 1 action along with the cash games and sit ‘n go’s. It replaces the Amazon Room, which once was an utter madhouse but now is utilized only for Day 2 and final table action.
The WSOP also continues to get some things wrong. My personal favorite among these things is the gallantry that awaits players as they return from the first break of the day. At that time, the CEO of the WSOP appears on a stage and bracelets are presented to the winners of the events that concluded the prior night. It would suffice to announce the winner’s name and to hand him or her with the bracelet before the assembled crowd. But no, Harrah’s takes it several steps further by:
1. Presenting the winner with his/her very own Diamond Total Rewards Card. This endows the bracelet winner with the lifelong right to skip buffet lines at Harrah’s properties and to avoid parking fees in Atlantic City garages!
2. Having the winner pose for photographs whilst gripping the bracelet with both hands above his/her head. The Neanderthal who discovered fire might have looked this way holding the world’s first lit torch.
3. Having the winner face the crowd for the playing of his/her country’s national anthem. This is both incredibly indulgent and a farce. The people in the room have no idea what to do while the music plays. As the opening notes are played, some immediately remove their hats and stand at rigid attention. The rest of us take their cue, slowly rise, glance around, and wait for the music to end so that they we can start gambling again. On the plus side, I heard the Hungarian National Anthem for the first time.
What the hell does national pride have to do with poker? These are just freakin’ poker tournaments, not international competitions. Never once in my life have I felt that I was representing the United States of America at a poker table, and I doubt I ever will. I’m neither anti-American nor anti-establishment. I just know ridiculous when I see it—I find this sort of pageantry absurd even in the Olympics—so playing multiple national anthems during a break in a card game strikes me as downright retarded. If I’m fortunate enough to win a bracelet at the WSOP, I will wear a powder blue leotard to my ceremony and insist on performing an interpretive dance to Flight of the Bumblebee in lieu of standing for the Star Spangled Banner.
By the way, I have made Day 2 of Event #13 with a decent stack. Hoping to run good today.