WSOP 2013: Just like last year, and the year before that
After several trips to the World Series of Poker I'll admit the sights are becoming familiar. You get on a plane and recognise everything that passes for scenery at 38,000 feet. The ice bergs off the coast of Greenland and North Eastern Canada, a country made up more of isolated lakes and wilderness than people.
Then you're over the vast flat land of the northern United States, the landscapes of Minnesota, the Dakotas and Wyoming being the principle reason why there is such a thing as inflight entertainment.
Finally you reach Utah, which gives way to the Grand Canyon as you cross the red desert into Las Vegas, which, isolated in the desert, is where all the people were that you were looking for out the starboard window. Here you cannot escape people, particularly at the Rio, where you're greeted with another familiar sight, images you can count on to refresh the memories you already had from the year before.
Filling up the Pavilion Room
Somehow these feel comforting as you battle weariness. The Rio, with its inoffensive beige carpets and slightly chlorinated hallway smell, makes you feel like you never left, regardless of how much you wanted to 12 months ago.
Then there are the people, hundreds of them for a day one, looking for something with which to occupy themselves in the build-up to the start.
You might expect to see the big name players, but somehow they go by unseen, appearing magically on feature tables. Instead the hallways are the domain of the newly arrived. These aren't the grinders who have occupied the Amazon Room since the Series began in May. These are the main eventers, between the ages of 38 and 60, oblivious to the fortunes of others, who have flown in with the best wishes of friends and family, to have another shot at their dream. They wear t-shirts, shorts and training shoes, the uniform of men away from their wives - an entire Nascar infield in town to play poker.
It's not a great look on men of this age. As PJ O'Rourke once wrote, "you make a public impression that is either Hindenburg or Goodyear blimp." But who cares when your wife can't see you and your only concerns are eating, sleeping and cards.
Yes, it's all so familiar. And while you can never re-live that first time you walked into the Amazon Room and looked across at a thousand players in one room, there is still that tinge of awe, and gratefulness, that these guys, in their baseball caps and elasticated waist bands, have kept us in work all these years. Long may their enthusiasm remain. For in a few days, as the number of players is gradually reduced, the familiar echo will return, chasing away the girls in knee high socks giving out fliers, and the busted players, who one by one bid farewell to this place for another year.
That's all to come. Before that there's plenty of action to fill the hallways. Then we'll all fly home to that equally familiar sense that it all went by so fast.