WSOP 2014: Ignoring the average
It's around this time every World Series that we start to dig a little deeper into the numbers and statistics that help define the world's biggest poker tournament. No, they can't begin to illustrate the emotion, heartbreak, and eternal hope that go along with the Main Event, but they can...well, they can make a guy feel old. That's what I'm saying.
In the media room of the WSOP, the crack staff has a big white board that helps the assembled world media keep up with the daily happenings here at the Rio. On that board today--written in telling red marker--was a statistic I wasn't prepared to see.
The average age of the the 6,683 players who entered the WSOP is 39.28.
For a great many of you--in fact, I'd venture most of you--that is an age that seems like a distant possibility, like a visit by extraterrestrials or the number of years until the Cubs win a World Series. But for some of us, that number is a needle that goes straight into our ever-curving spines.
It's probably time for some full disclosure.
This is my tenth WSOP Main Event. Between last summer and this summer, I crossed an imaginary line in the desert sand. I turned 40 and now fall on the grayer side of the WSOP player age average. That red marker on the white board was glaring. I'm in the red now with likely fewer years left to live than I've already banked. Get off my lawn.
This average age comes from a pretty damned wide sample. Eighty-three countries have representatives in the WSOP player field. Of the 6,683 entries 6,403 of them are male. The youngest of these people turned 21 years old exactly one day before he started playing the Main Event. I'm trying to remember what I did on the day after I turned 21. Likely regretting something and eating Taco Bell. And regretting that, too.
I could've dwelled on it (okay, I did dwell on it), but I kept reading the numbers the WSOP staff had written on the board. Beneath the next few numbers--$62,820,000 (total prize pool) 200,490,000 (total chips in play), and 693 (number of players who will get paid)--there was another number:
That number represents the age of the oldest person playing in the WSOP field. There is somebody here who has lived two of my full lifetimes and both of my kids' lifetimes, and he is playing the WSOP Main Event.
In Vegas and in poker, it's pretty easy to fall into a selfish trap where we only care about ourselves: our losses, our wins, our space at the table, our jack-high Pai Gow. Poker is a game of individual achievement. Gambling is about Me. vs Them. Every wall looks like a mirror. Losing perspective is easier than losing money.
Our little poker community has suffered a lot in recent days. We lost a legend when he was 52. We lost a young genius before he turned 30. One of our favorite media colleagues lost his mother much too early. They are all people who are gone long before they should've been. Losing them has forced some much-needed perspective on everyone.
When it comes down to it, the numbers are fun to look at, but they don't tell this story. They don't tell mine, and they don't tell the of the dreams people carry here to the WSOP. This little poker world is a dysfunctional microcosm of the world, but it's our dysfunctional microcosm. Any community needs its elders. Without them, who would the young people look to in horror?
So, yeah, the average age of the WSOP player is 39.28 and I'm 40.
Hell...who wants to be below average, anyway?
Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging