WSOP 2011: Breath of fresh air to Rio's long walk


For many of those sitting shoulder-to-shoulder into the Amazon Room right now this whole place is just a continuation of their experience over the past few years. Regulars are familiar with the brown carpets, the deserted entrance to the Penn & Teller theatre, the Harrah's typeface on the banners directing players to the tournament room, the long queues and random scenery you come to blank out as Day 1a becomes Day 2, Day 3 and so on.

For the newcomer though all this is something to behold. Look at those brown carpets for example. The rest will gradually become permanently etched onto their memories before too long, regardless of how long they're able to stick around.

The time it takes to walk form the casino floor in the Rio to the Amazon Room is one of those oft discussed parts of the WSOP experience. What's not mentioned is how boring it is, one of the most non-descript corridors in poker history, other than the labyrinthine slalom through the bowels of the Grosvenor Victoria Casino, in London, from the old press room to the gaming floor.

The hallway leading from the Amazon Room at the (deserted) Rio

Apart from the slots competition (removing that awkward element of skill from competition) taking place where the hallway becomes he Rio gaming floor there's little else that stands out. There's a telephone booth and the business centre where you can get things laminated, plus a shop selling a bowl full of bananas.

Perhaps it was designed this way when the Rio opened 21 years ago, the exhibition center specifically non-descript so as to sooth grieving players, or sooth bored corporate conference delegates sneaking off for a comfort break at the roulette table. Players eliminated and required to leave their Amazon Room seat, walk the hallway for a zero-distraction contemplation zone, five minutes to regroup and come to grips with the shame of calling home. Any remaining hangovers can be brushed away by the shoe shine guy with the ruddy face and attentive ear, who'll listen to anything for $8 ($12 for boots). That done, walking past the Rio's Masquerade Show on your way back to your suite is perfectly manageable.

That's how it used to be. There are a couple of new additions this year aimed at reducing the risk that you might be left alone with your thoughts long enough to decide next year's ten grand should be spent on a pool for the back yard or a replacement for the wedding ring you lost three years ago.

First there's the Oxygen bar, an idea originally test driven in a Mel Brooks film where, for a small fee, you can get a dose of the good stuff, unadulterated O2 just as nature intended, and marketed as able to reduce the effects of tiredness, jetlag, hangover as well as general body fatigue. It's the same cure-all claim last used by the tequila people.

Businesses have also cottoned on to the notion that the only thing you can sell to poker players at a tournament like this, apart from gum and Doritos, are sunglasses, headphones and energy products, all of which are for sale alongside the services of massage therapists and barmen; two essential service providers to the poker family.

There will still be the long walk back to the taxi rank, or through the Rio Casino floor past the Masquerade Village back up to your room. But to the regulars it will be as lonely as it ever was but there's no harm in providing a few distractions for the new guys.


Jan Heitmann, Sebastian Ruthenberg Johnny Lodden, all spotted in the past hour playing in today's Day 1A field.

Chris Oliver, second place finisher from the 2011 PCA, currently playing in the tan section of the Amazon Room underneath a sideways flat-brimmed White Sox cap.

One player's hat, reading, "It's all about me."

From WSOP sponsor Jack Link's, the various ways in which you can get your jerky on: Mega Jerky, Ribbon Jerky, Jerk Medallions, Original, Peppered, Terriyaki, Jerky Strips, Long Tally Sally Beef Sticks, Rope-a-Roni, and the 3-foot beef stick.

Searing desert sun, followed by monsoon downpour.

Team PokerStars Pro Sebastian Ruthenberg and Maria Ho.

"I can't believe he called, honey," - man walking unhappily out of the Rio.