Man’s history is building cities. We land on Plymouth Rock. We create new places from dirt. We make society where there was none before. In a normal world, we protect the cities we build. We care for them, expand on them, and re-create them in new generations’ visions. In Las Vegas, it’s temporary and fleeting.

The World Series of Poker is a different society. It’s a seven-week city built up from a foundation of ugly carpet and turned into one of the world’s richest sporting events. It is a thousands-strong civilization with commerce, competition, art, life, and death.

And then slowly, the very people who built the city take it apart under our eyes.

There is a long orange-lit alleyway behind the Rio. Razor wire lines its edge, Chain link fence protects the rest–stacked chairs, banquet tables, and the detritus of conventions past are ready for warehousing. It’s where the Rio puts all the stuff it doesn’t need.

Like the stuff from the WSOP.

See, that’s also where you find a great many stacks of tables. Poker tables. Teetering totems to a crumbling society. For all the utopia one see’s on Day 1, this is the dystopian landscape of the WSOP, remnants under a red neon sun.


It’s a slow disintegration. First the vendors in the hallways start to disappear. There aren’t enough customers to make it it worth their time. Then the poker kitchen closes up and takes its bento boxes with it. Food becomes scare. People get cranky.

It happens quietly. One minute there is a functioning part of this mini-city. The next minute, it’s gone. You can spot it if you look closely enough. As soon as a table in the Amazon Room breaks, two faceless men scurry out from the shadows, flip the table over, collapse its legs, and carry the whole thing away. They work with speed and precision. It’s clinical. It’s mechanical. They’re in and out before most people notice. There was a table, and then there was not a table.

The slow collapse of this society may seem meaningless when people are playing for $8.3 million a few feet away, but if you think for just a second about it, it’s fairly striking what these custodial worker are doing. That table they are carrying was once home to nine people who all believed they would be the last person standing. It was a table where hope thrived. Now, it’s just a remnant, an artifact. It’s…just a table.

As sad as it is to watch it all collapse, there is hope in this: the society won’t disappear completely. There will be a champion here someday, and that champion will be the first ambassador to a replica of this world that will spring up next summer, a new city we can build up and tear down on seven hot Vegas summer weeks.

Brad Willis is the PokerStars Head of Blogging.


Next Story