There’s nothing quite like the first time.
For serious poker enthusiasts, there may be nothing more exciting than making your first trip to Las Vegas to participate in, or simply geek out to, the World Series of Poker. For those lucky people making their first trip to the series in 2018, we have some suggestions on how to fully embrace the WSOP experience. You won’t find any Cirque Du Soleil show recommendations or directions to the best sushi restaurants here, this is simply a guide to diving head first into a complete WSOP summer poker experience in Sin City.
Hit The Hall
The first time you head to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, tell your taxi or Uber driver to take you to the front entrance. Sure, they can drop you off at the “poker entrance” but you should experience the walk down the long hallway that leads to Rio convention area at least once. The closer you get to the action the more you’ll be inundated with banners of former WSOP Players of the Year and Main Event Champions. Doyle, Stu, Chris…Moneymaker. And, yes, Ferguson. They’re (almost) all there.
Of the three major tournament areas, the Pavillion is the one you’ll see first. Go inside and take a deep breath in. Yes, some of the smells may be from players who have been up for days, unable or unwilling to shower, but everything in the Pavillion is pure poker. The cricket-like sound of shuffling chips, the floor at the big board announcing a new table of $10-20 Big O and single table satellites filling up and getting underway.
The Pavillion houses cash games, satellites, the Daily Deepstack tournaments and occasionally overflow from WSOP bracelet events. For daily grinders, the Pavillion is where a ton of the action happens.
Walk the hallway with the vendors, but be wary first-timers: try not to let someone attach a magnetic aura bracelet to your wrist or entice you with a whiff of orange colored oxygen.
However, if you see Bart Hanson, Jonathan Little or even PocketFives’ own Lance Bradley spending time in a booth, walk on over and see what’s up. Interested in some “poker sunglasses”? They’ve got those too. It’s a mini poker market and just maybe you’ll find something you like.
Finally, on your first pass check out both the Brazilia and the famed Amazon Room. In 2017 they had moved the televised “mothership” to the Brazilia so make sure you do a slow pass and get a behind the scenes look at what you watch on ESPN or PokerGO. Then hit the Amazon to see the room where so much WSOP history was made.
When it comes to seeing stars, a trip to the WSOP is unlike a trip to Hollywood because poker celebrities are just about everywhere you look on any given day. The personalities you watch on TV like Negreanu, Greenstein, and Raymer are often times at the tables grinding it out to try to win another bracelet. There walkways in each of the tournament rooms where one can quite often spot a noted pro from the rail. Often times if you see one of your favorites in the hallway, they’d be happy to hear what a fan you are and pose for a shot for your Insta.
Of course, use discretion. Quite often these guys are playing for many thousands of dollars, so use that keen poker instinct to pick an appropriate time to introduce yourself.
Get Your Feet Wet, Splash Around
If you came to the World Series to play, then it’s time to play. At the WSOP just about every poker experience is at your fingertips. Small stakes to nosebleed cash games are running 24/7. Want to win your way into a bracelet event? There’s an entire section dedicated to single table satellites that start as low as around $125 that can help you win entries to buy-in to bigger events.
Tournament aficionados may choose to jump into one of the popular Daily Deepstacks. There’s four that fire daily – 1 p.m., 4 p.m., 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. They are all one-day events and have a buy-in ranging from $200 – $365. They are noted for having massive fields and pretty big paydays for those that can make it to the end.
Take That (Gold Bracelet) Shot
It should go without saying that when shot taking, never play with any money you can’t afford to lose.
There’s little in the poker world that feels quite like taking a seat in a WSOP bracelet event for the first time. The WSOP gold bracelet has been one of the most enduring accolades in the game and anyone with the gumption and the buy-in can take a shot, make a run and potentially become a hometown hero, returning with a new piece of jewelry.
Want to outsmart the masses when it comes to registering? It’s way too easy. Hit the cage when there’s no one around. Registration for every event is open around the clock, so take an unscheduled trip to the convention area at the end of the day or late into the night and register for any event days in advance. The lines can get extremely long for events like the Millionaire Maker and Monster Stack on the day of.
Also available, online registering with a credit card via the WSOP’s partnership with Bravo.
See Other People
So you’ve seen the sights, watched the stars and taken a seat in a WSOP event. It’s been great, but you are sick of the Hash House and All American Bar & Grille. Perhaps, the Rio is wearing on you.
Well, for many the entirety of their WSOP experience is actually far more than the series itself. Many major Las Vegas properties throw their own expansive summer poker series and there’s a ton of fun to be had there as well.
The Aria poker room is one of the most acclaimed in the city and their Aria Poker Classic features two events daily (one at 11:00 a.m. one at 7:00 p.m.). If you bust in the tournaments at the Aria, you can hop in a cash game, get a pretty great grass-fed burger or slice of Forester pizza at Five50 Pizza Bar.
The Wynn has a summer series of their own. Their poker room is one of luxury and their tournament area gives one the feeling like they are playing in an island resort.
It doesn’t stop there: the Venetian, Golden Nugget, Binion’s and Planet Hollywood all have an extensive schedule of tournaments and cash game offering to go along with them. So when planning a schedule mix it up and see what’s out there.
Whether you plan on heading to Las Vegas for two days or two weeks (or longer) there’s plenty to do for the complete poker fan.