WSOP 2014: Ten years in

I joked late last night on Twitter that I was selling my writing action at the WSOP Main Event with no mark-up. It was a poorly-worded and ill-considered dispatch after a day spent under too much sun. I realized my mistake only after I had friends--thinking I was going to play--offering publicly and privately to buy huge chunks for thousands of dollars. I probably could've had half the $10,000 buy-in raised before I crawled beneath the covers.

Here's an admission for people who may not know me too well: I have never played the WSOP Main Event. Sure, I've played the odd preliminary event over the years, but I've never sat for the Main. I'd be lying if I said it hadn't occurred to me to play at one point or the other. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't really wished I could play some years. But I haven't played, and I have the best of reasons for that: I get to write about it. I get to write about people who get to play their favorite game and have a chance of winning millions of dollars in the process.


(Photo: Jayne Furman/Poker Photo Archive)

Back in 2005, I was in bed with my wife somewhere along the Oregon coast. We were celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary and having a grand time. That's when the PokerStars VP of Marketing at the time, Dan Goldman, called.

"You need to get to Vegas," he said. "There's just too much going on."

What he knew--and what my wife certainly knew--was that I'd just left Las Vegas. In fact, I'd spent my actual anniversary sitting at Table 2, Seat 1 of the 2005 WSOP Event #2. The trip up the West Coast was my way of saying, "Thanks, honey, for letting me play poker on our anniversary." I wasn't always the best husband in the world.

And so I told my wife, "I gotta go to Vegas." It's the same thing I've said to her every summer since then. In the years since, I've done the long-haul seven-week trips, and I've come to Vegas for shorter periods. I've never missed the Main, and I hope I never do. I may not be as qualified to comment on the WSOP Main Event as some people who've played it, but as this will be my tenth, I figure I'm close enough to reliable.

It's interesting, really, how things have changed in the ten events since I first arrived here. In the early years, the media room--such as it was--was the rough equivalent of a closet with a bottle of scotch on the shelf. The few writers who were around were free to pull laptops alongside the tables in the Amazon room and report the action as it happened.

Back then, PokerStars sent hundreds and sometimes thousands of players to compete here in Vegas. There was often--literally--a PokerStars story at every table. These days--due the vagaries of world politics and regulation woes--that doesn't happen on such a large scale. Nevertheless, as we have seen in the preliminary events this year, PokerStars has maintained a strong presence. Team Pro won several bracelets this year and has sent many of its players here fight for a Main Event title. We expect we'll have a PokerStars story to follow pretty much all the time.

This year, the WSOP is expecting a $60 million prize pool in the Main Event with $10 million guaranteed for the winner. There are three days of Day 1 starting flights, each of which will have its own Day 2. Play will continue until next week when nine players remain.

I'll be honest. Having now written about this event nine times before, there have been moments today where I've asked myself and my partner in crime, Stephen Bartley, "What am I going to write about now?"

I don't have a ready answer for that, but I know this: there is always a story here, and it's always a pleasure to find it. Some years, that story is poker's most famous names proving again why they are the best. Some years, it's meeting an unknown talent who will soon be a star. And some years, it's meeting someone you'd never expect to see at a poker table and finding inspiration in his or her story. That actually happened today before I'd even written a word. I look forward to writing that story tomorrow and finding more in the coming week.

Indeed, it's possible to find a story almost anywhere. This week, we're going to find a bunch among the people looking to win $10 million.

is the PokerStars Head of Blogging

Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker