The World Series of Poker has already outgrown one venue, and considering the massive fields in many of the tournaments it may be outgrowing its second home, the Rio.
It started in Binions, which was a more than adequate home until the Poker Boom hit and the idea of hosting the World Series of Poker at Binions was about as feasible as hosting the real World Series at your local little league field. Binions simply couldn’t handle it, both in terms of size and management.
In 2004 the WSOP was sold along with the rest of Binion’s assets to Harrah’s (which later became Caesars Entertainment) and 2004 marked the final year of the WSOP at Binion’s, ending a 35 year run.
It’s next stop was the Rio, a big enough but second-tier casino in Las Vegas owned by Harrah’s. Even at the Rio, players would still get odd seating assignments (Buzio’s section anyone?) and the Rio simply doesn’t have the amenities to make playing in the World Series of Poker the monumental experience it should be. The casinos restaurants and bathrooms are simply overrun with players, making every break frenetic, and not the recharging experience it should be.
Don’t get me wrong, the staff does an excellent job marshaling thousands of players and making sure the tournaments run as smoothly as possible. Along the way there have been plenty of changes, so there are no sacred cows at the World Series of Poker.
But here is the thing, Las Vegas hosts massive conventions with thousands and thousands of vendors and guests all the time. Apart from the dealers and floor staff needed there is nothing about the World Series of Poker that should be a logistical challenge.
According to Vegasinc.com, the Consumer Electronics Association will have 155,000 attendees over the course of just four days. I’m certain there is a better way to handle tournaments with 1/20th that amount of people.
I’m pretty sure it’s possible to improve upon the current WSOP, or at least tinker with it a bit to see if we can make the experience more enjoyable for the players.
Yogi Berra nails it
One of the biggest complaints year in and year out regarding the WSOP is the long lines for bathrooms and lack of restaurants (long waits) in the Rio.
The problem with tournaments is everyone stops at the same time, so there is a mad dash to the facilities, which causes frustration. As Yogi Berra once quipped, “nobody goes there anymore, it’s too busy.”
Let’s make sure the WSOP doesn’t turn into the restaurant Yogi was talking about, where wait times exceed two hours and patrons becoming increasingly frustrated. Yes it’s a sign of a good restaurant, but there is a certain trade-off between quality and convenience that needs to be kept.
It’s not that people will stop going, it’s that the experience is frustrating, and people will start to look at other options.
A new home(s)
So where should the World Series of Poker be moved to?
Nowhere and everywhere is the answer.
Caesars owns several properties in Las Vegas so why not split up the World Series of Poker a bit? Why not have Paris, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, or perhaps the soon to be renovated Quad / Linq relieve the burden of the massive starting flights from some of the $1k and $1,500 No limit Holdem tournaments, or even handle one of the less popular formats start to almost finish, like the $1,500 2-7 tournament.
The main action could still take place at the Rio (in the “Thunderdome”) and how cool would it be to have a tournament play down to the final table and the final table participants then be transported from say Planet Hollywood to the Rio via Limo.
To avoid monopolizing Caesars properties for six weeks, one week it could be The Linq that aids the Rio, and the next it could be Caesars Palace that lends a helping hand.
A new attitude toward the customer
Another aspect where I feel the WSOP has perhaps missed the mark is in the treatment of the individual players and spectators.
It’s not that they are mistreated, just that there really isn’t anything that sets the WSOP apart from say a WPT or even a WSOPC tournament.
In my above scenario, where some players may find themselves at a property other than the Rio for their starting flight, why not setup a free shuttle service for players (hang on to those WSOP receipts ladies and gentlemen) to go back to the Rio for satellites and cash games?
How about using some of the now freed up space at the Rio to install a temporary Poker Museum for the duration of the WSOP, something for fans and players to do during the monotony of a 14 hour day of poker. It could be a mobile Hall of Fame of sorts that people with no knowledge of the WSOP might wander in to see, and perhaps become curious enough about the spectacle unfolding in the Amazon Room to watch some poker for a little bit.
To me, this seems like the classic way people get bit by the poker bug.
Instead of the WSOP being a Rio experience let’s make it a Las Vegas and a poker experience.