WSOP 2015: Dark city dying

There is a man prostrate on a bench in the hallway of the Rio Convention Center. His hands are crossed on his stomach much like a funeral director would lay out his client for a viewing. The man--who might be breathing--has at some point in his long rest lost a moccasin from his left foot. It sits below the bench, forgotten, while the gentleman's bare food dangles. With an hour to go until the beginning of WSOP Day 4, it's impossible to say if this unconscious soul is one who will be playing among the final 661 or one who was dispatched last night and didn't have the will to continue to a hotel room.


If our man were awake, he would open his eyes to see a city transformed. Once a bustling epicenter for the gambling world, this town of 6,420 people is dying. It once was a metropolis with a brightly-lit city center, suburbs called Brasilia and Pavilion, and its own dining district. There was an entire chamber of commerce selling everything from sunglasses to oxygen to tiny crystals that, if you believed just hard enough, might be the pathway to the success you need.

Now, it's all being shuttered. Tired workhorses are slogging through the detritus of the fallen city, putting things into cardboard boxes, black-eyed and careless, apathetic about the once brilliant place they are dismantling. There is woman shilling prepackaged food in the hallway for prices you'd expect during an apocalypse. No one questions it anymore. This is what we've become.

We come to this point because, like a Stephen King plot line, this once great society has been reduced to only ten percent of what it once was. The result is not unlike what you'd see when a city dies. Everything meant to serve the populace becomes less necessary and less profitable, so nearly everything--tables, chairs, burritos--disappears. Everything that's left behind is sold for several times its worth. If Cormac McCarthy were writing it, there would be a child in the corridor who has lost her mother.

And the hallway now, there a beautiful girl who might be seven years old. She's wearing a brightly-colored dress as she stands next to a security officer. Her lips are pursed in firm resolve, a child who knows something is wrong but can't quite bring herself to consider just what.

"Her mother is a cashier," someone said. "She can't find her mother."

This, for better or worse, is the strange paradox that afflicts the World Series of Poker. The nature of its championship means building a city and destroying it. There is no other way.

Maybe this is all just the nature of any civilization over time: It starts with thousands of people who dream about success, people who share conversations and hopes, people who sit with each other smiling as they plot to kill their neighbor. This society rewards greed, ruthlessness, and cunning, and no one can be blamed for bringing his root ruthlessness to bear. When the city finally falls, there is only one citizen left, and he has everything that used to belong to everyone else.

We call that person...the winner.

is the PokerStars Head of Blogging.
Brad Willis
@BradWillis in World Series of Poker