WSOP Main Event: Begin the beginning

[Otis' note: Howard Swains, a longtime member of Team Blog, is back with us for the WSOP. Howard will be keeping a keen eye on our European qualifiers as the WSOP progesses.]

by Howard Swains

It is Day 1A of the main event of the World Series of Poker. Genesis. The beginning. The start of something that might be big - and might well be even bigger than that.

Unless, of course, this journey began many months ago, maybe on the other side of the planet. For the PokerStars qualifiers, this is perhaps day three already having fought tooth and nail just to get to Vegas, emerging triumphant from some of the largest, fiercest and most committed fields in online poker.

For those who hail from Europe, you can take all that and multiply it by two. Those WSOP qualification comps might start at a convenient 2pm eastern time, but in Copenhagen, Denmark, for instance, that's already 9pm. Booking a place at the World Series is a nocturnal pursuit, contested sometime between the witching hour and breakfast television. Only then can we brush our chipped and yellow teeth, emerge blinking into the cold European air and jump in our red buses to head to the factories where we all work baking muffins. Or something like that.

Then, of course, there's a flight to Nevada. If you take a direct route from London, you're looking at nine and a half hours. If you're starting somewhere even further east, you're possibly going via New York, Minneapolis or Houston, fuelled only by a bottomless bag of pretsels and She's All That, starring Freddie Prinze Jr. Poker players don't ordinarily do much reading, but on my plane there were more copies of Harrington on Hold 'Em being thumbed than there are in the warehouse.

And then you get here. The time is ... well, what exactly is the time? Who cares. It's round about 2pm for the next twelve days - and there's nothing you can do about it.

But poker, well, that's the same. That's the game that might have been invented in the United States, but received something of a boost in the United Kingdom when some bright spark came up with the idea of putting cameras beneath the table and looking and the players'cards. It may surprise you to learn that televised poker originated in Britain, but ask anyone in the know to talk about Late Night Poker and the word "groundbreaking" is sure to be uttered. ESPN has a lot to be grateful for.

And you know what else? Us Europeans can play this game. The top-placed PokerStars qualifier in last year's event was Daniel Bergsdorf, from Sweden. He finished seventh for $1.3 million, which is a fair amount, no matter what the exchange rate.

This year there are plenty more looking to fill Daniel's shoes - and we'll introduce them over the coming days.

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker