WSOP 2015: Welcome Main Event first timers
It's easy to take all the weirdness and wonder for granted on a trip to Las Vegas. It's also easy to forget that it's not the same story for everyone. To a lot of people, first timers to this crazy place in the desert, it's new, weird and filled with things you can't help but point at.
I got a glimpse of this when stepping off the plane from London. Two newcomers were fascinated by the slot machines in McCarran Airport. They'd heard that such things existed but wanted proof. They seemed elated when they got it.
It happened again a short time later stepping out of the air conditioned arrivals hall and into daylight of what is basically a construction site in the desert. That's when the heat makes your face sting while simultaneously turning your eyeballs into dust.
If you're here for the World Series of Poker you're going to get a few more of this first-timer moments, on which all your WSOP stories will be built. And we're not just talking about the resort fee, or the portion sizes, the scale is something to behold.
There are the crowds, the sheer number of people here to play, sweeping up and down the Rio convention halls like a tide. It brings players in one direction and sweeps them out in the other. Then there are those folks caught in between.
People like Sandy Webster, a first timer to the WSOP. She's not here to play, but to serve as the shoulder to cry on for her husband Roy and son Joey, both playing the Main Event for the first time and trying not to let the moment disappear to soon.
"Let me show you my husband first before he gets knocked out."
Actually Roy Webster was doing alright. So was her son Joey Webster on the far side of the Brasilia Room, who had doubled his starting stack. Sandy's hope was that they might both reach Day 2 and postpone the trip home to Southern California. Poker is not life and death, but she knew what it meant for the menfolk to stick around a while longer.
You don't have to be in the Main Event to be excited by the whole experience of being here for the first time. Over at the PokerStars Playhouse this afternoon we met Salvador and Cynthia Cruz, from California, who proved our point.
The Cruzes were PokerStars VIPs of the play money kind. That might not sound much to multi-table grinders, or anyone here with an eye on Main Event glory, but for them, looking forward to playing a first ever live poker tournament, it was all something exciting and slightly scary. They also got to meet ElkY, who was also exciting but slightly less scary.
All this brought home a little something of what this event is all about. This drama - the "mother ship", the noise, the people - is new to someone. Today, the opening day of the Main Event, was the perfect time for a reminder.
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.