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2007 World Series: Coming in from the desert

In Dallas, storms pounded DFW airport. It was so bad, at least as rumor had it, that the airport actually shut down for two hours this morning. The line for the flight to Vegas was as deep as the number of seats on the plane--deeper, even--and nobody but me seemed to care to muse about how Benny Binion would've handled such a situation. There, in the A terminal, hundreds of salivating gamblers were dying to get on a plane and couldn't. Rain stopped all progress. Word on the street had been that the Dallas PD (or "po-po" as a local card slinger had taken to calling them) had been enjoying an all-out assault on poker rooms. It all reminded me that Benny left the fair city years ago when his sheriff lost the election. Since then, the Binion legacy--even such as it is now under Harrah's control--remains a product of Las Vegas and not Dallas. It may be called Texas Hold'em, but the game's championship is right here in the Rio.

Five days respite outside Nevada state lines have done nothing to cool the air here. It's hot in only a way a desert can be. Anthony Holden's new book "Bigger Deal" reminded me that his fellow author Jim McManus once referred to it as holding a hair dryer a couple inches from one's nostrils. And that's just about right. I would only had that one would need a second hair dryer for the eyes.

The desert stretches in so many acres outside of this neon city, it's improper to simply call it vast. It's impossibly vast. It's a dry forever, where miles and miles stretch like an old lady's skin--liverspotted and cracking--and then more miles and miles are as windblown and smooth as an ice skating rink. Solitary mountains rise up from the flatlands and cast purple shadows over the scrub and remind us--at least those of us looking from 25,000 feet--that there are still places in America where nobody lives.

And then, when you hit that special spot on Flamingo, you realize there is still a place in Las Vegas where seemingly every poker player on earth has chosen to spend part of his or her summer. It is here at the World Series where records are still being broken. It is here at the World Series where poker players will continue to vie for a prize so coveted, they are willing to...well, they are willing to do almost anything.

I did not, sadly, return to find friends at the final tables running today. It was for that reason only I cut my Father's Day weekend short and landed here in Sin City (can we still call it that?) with typing fingers ready. Alas, it was not to be. However, as I told some friends upon my landing, when you look out across the desert and see that fabled capital "n" Nothing, you can choose to look at is a place where nothing exists...or nothing exists yet.

Or, choose your own glass half full/half empty scenario. They all apply here in this place where, on many days, hope is as valuable as chips. Team PokerStars' and its minions have already had a great Series. Final tables have been graced with names like Raymer (twice), Greenstein, Paul-Ambrose, ElkY, Thater, and Brenes (three times!). I have little doubt the ethereal pages of this blog will see more of those names and more from Team PokerStars in the coming days. What's more, there are tons of other PokerStars players here with their eyes on the same bracelets. That is to say nothing of the hundreds of PokerStars qualifiers who will converge on Las Vegas in a couple weeks for the Main Event.

There is a great opportunity here for one to become jaded, to begin to doubt one's self, or begin to doubt the game the brings everybody together. It's a fatigue that can only be described and understood by people who have actually felt it. Those same people know, though, that all it takes is one...good...day to turn it all around.

And so, we begin again. ESPN has taken a short break and returned. The PokerStars Blog has taken a short break and returned. Now begins 30 days in the desert in which any scenario is not too wild to consider. In just the first week here, we saw a well-known pro collapse at the table and leave in an ambulance. We saw another pro leave Day 1 with a chip lead and never return.

It's the World Series...and we're back.

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