WSOP 2013: Spending the dinner break the old fashioned way

Players are back from their dinner break after 90 minutes spent running to somewhere that has a free table, eating fast food as quickly as possible, and then running, via the Pepto-Bismol store, back to their seat in time.

With such bustle going on around you it's nice to be able to sit back, watch the world go by, and be stared at. The shoe shine stall was designed with this in mind.

It's not exactly a hot bed of activity for poker players, whose flip flops react badly to a buffing up. But from the hot seat of Bill's shoe shine perch, by the entrance to the Rio pool, the view is altogether different, even if the people passing by consider it a novelty and you an anachronism. Everyone seems to like that it's there but never consider actually taking a seat, picking up an old copy of the Review-Journal and spending 15 minutes on some sartorial re-invigoration.

As the people of Esquire magazine once wrote: "Unshined shoes are the blood stained hands of style." These days the world's footwear is made up of trainers, pumps or, god forbid, espadrilles. But a few of us are still holding the line when it comes to leather footwear. Bill's client list is illustrious, including among his regulars Team PokerStars Pro Marcel Luske and, well, me. But then we're the only two people I know who wear shoes that can't be thrown into a washing machine.

Mine, a pair of battered old wing-tips, were in need of a lot of things. The sole has been peeling away from the upper for six months now, and the stitching has turned to dust. For all intents and purposes this was the last hurrah for this pair before they were replaced after six trips to the World Series. But then, I'd already replaced them, and still preferred them to my new ones.

Post shine

So Bill opened a large draw containing polish, lotions, oils, rags, brushes, cloths, gloves, two tins of Coca-Cola and some reading glasses. Each made an appearance and some point, and each was replaced carefully from where it had come.

With feet in the stirrups I left him to it. Bill takes his time. He doesn't get many customers so what's the rush. While I sat in the chair three people walked passed, each smiling, as if I was humouring this old timer in the bow tie and waistcoat. I looked at their pumps and felt sorry for them. They looked at my shoes and felt sorry for me: two lifestyles clashing on the casino floor - the modern world, with its wipe clean plastic, and the rest of us, clinging on to the past.

So here's what you get for your nine dollars.

First a soap spray, applied with the type of oversized toothbrush that your grandfather might use to scrub his dentures. This is then dried with a hair dryer before polish is applied, by hand, and brushed to a beautiful shine. Then wax is rubbed in, again by hand, before it's given another brush. Then a long strip of cloth is pulled from an apron pocket to bring out the lasting shine, and usually a smile to whomever the shoes belong to. One last blast form the hair dryer and you're done.

All this takes about 15 minutes. In between Bill occupies himself in other ways; chatting to passers- by and handing out sparkly necklaces to kids coming in from the pool. It means you don't get rapid service if you clash with the pool's closing times, and the kids, newly decorated, look at you and wonder why you're sitting in this man's throne.

It's one of the dying arts, along with straight shaves, cursive and bowler hats. But it's worth all the staring to watch the world go by, away from the tournament room, and bring a comfortable old pair of shoes back to life.

Stephen Bartley is a PokerStars Blog reporter. Pictures courtesy of Poker Photo Archive.