WSOP 2016: Feet up, clicking refresh, longing for Las Vegas
The World Series Main Event is now a week away. Ordinarily that would make about now the time when I get office based work wrapped up and a bag packed in preparation for a two week trip to report on the closing stages of the WSOP.
But this summer, for the first time in ten years, I won't be in Las Vegas. My family, used to waving me off, has earned a summer break with me at home, appearing each day in person rather than on Skype.
But while the prospect of swapping poker men in Las Vegas with games of Pokémon with my son at home feels pretty good right now, I haven't been able to entirely shake off thoughts of what I'll miss. Cold turkey for the Vegas fan is not easy, particularly when over ten years you've grown used to having it served to you on wheat, with American cheese, and a Keno ticket.
So while my colleagues Brad Willis and Howard Swains will be in country to bring all the action, I'll use the British summer to put out of mind some of those things I'll miss.
There's the smell, which hovers somewhere between the types of food rich in saturated fat and strong detergent. But also the sound, the unmistakable lullaby of the casino floor and the tide of riffled chips from one end of each tournament room to the other.
I'll miss asking myself--for the fifth and sixth time--whether the poker kitchen burrito is a healthier choice than the poker kitchen tacos.
I'll miss the blast of impossible heat as you step out of the service entrance of the Rio and into the carpark, heat that turns a dark haired man into a mess and a red haired man into dust.
I'll miss the Brooks Brothers sale at the Forum in Caesars, the Cadillac margaritas at Bonito Michoacán, the inevitable defeat after half an hour at the Gold Coast Pai Gow table; and then there's that yearly reminder--as life-saving is it is disappointing--that on the whole I'm a dreadful poker player.
But then there's the job itself.
That always starts with the long walk along the exhibition centre, past the kids happily tapping the glass of the Buzio's lobster tank; past the Starbucks filling station and down towards the atrium selling souvenirs to the defeated; then straight ahead into the Pavilion Room, that cavernous overspill hanger running at permanent full speed.
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It gets second billing to its Amazonian cousin, but while there's great joy to see it full, in turn there comes melancholy when, midway through the Main Event, its tables begin to be packed up, loaded onto articulated trailers by workmen in overalls eager to make room for a name-badged middle management conference of slots players who will never understand that their muffin tray is perched upon hallowed ground.
Out of the Pavilion and passed the Brasilia Room on your right, and now you're into a great current of poker players making their way towards their seat.
Time this wrong, like during a tournament break for instance, and a five minute walk will take your three times that as you try to swim upstream. But here you're with your people, whether they're familiar faces from the feature tables of the EPT, the American guys in shorts and military caps eager to make friends, or the younger wannabes in sports gear, living on what's in their pockets. I can't remember any of their faces, but weirdly I know what they look like.
The people I do know are in the press room, familiar faces all, and last seen one short year ago. The same goes for the tournament staff, never more primed than during the bubble, as I wrote last year, which people like me are permitted to take in with glorious access; the right to walk among the tables, to hear the staccato instructions of the floor staff, and see everything closer than even the players, right until the tournament clock stops at nine.
All of which will pass me by as I relax, feet up and eight hours ahead, endlessly pressing "Refresh" on the PokerStars Blog.
Because while you and I might not be there this year, the PokerStars Blog coverage guarantees you don't really have to be, publishing the best writing from Las Vegas for the duration of the World Series of Poker Main Event.
All of which is now just a little more than a week away. Enough time to find a good burrito recipe, maybe some detergent for atmosphere, and catch up on all the big WSOP stories so far on our coverage pages.
It was once said that a little bit of Las Vegas goes a long way. And it does. But I'll miss the place.
WSOP Photos by PokerPhotoArchive.com
Stephen Bartley is a staff writer for the PokerStars Blog.