Off to a Slow Start

Why does the 2011 WSOP feel like it's stuck in neutral?

by , Jun 5, 2011 | 6:14 pm

Jon Katkin


OP-ED

Glitz. Glamor. Excitement. So far, the 2011 WSOP has had none of these things, and honestly, I’m finding the whole thing kind of sad. It’s not the World Series of Poker we all know and love… it’s more like the World Series of Meh.

The thing is that after spending a number of hours wandering around the Rio during the first week, it’s hard to put a finger on what’s different about this year’s event. Maybe it’s fallout from Black Friday and the fact that sites like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker don’t have their usual suites. Maybe it’s the fact that the first week’s events were tailored more toward professional players and featured more mixed games and higher buy ins than the casual player is comfortable playing.

Or maybe I’m just jaded.

The halls feel emptier, the rails aren’t as jammed, and people just seem more serious than usual. Event numbers have been good, but no one appears to be having any fun.

Still, jaded or not, the fact remains that the Rio just doesn’t have the same excited vibe that I’m used to feeling during the first week of the Series. The halls feel emptier, the rails aren’t as jammed, and people just seem more serious than usual. What makes the feel of this year’s Series even stranger is that the event numbers have been good. People are playing cards, but no one appears to be having any fun.

So, is there anything that the Rio and WSOP staff can do to loosen things up and pump some more excitement into the proceedings?

Unfortunately, I don’t really think so. Throughout the first week, the staff has seemed as attentive and responsive to players as I’ve ever seen, and I feel like they’re really working to make this year’s series something special. Sure, the much-hyped grudge matches fell a little flat in real life, but those can be fixed in post. And they took place on that massive, mothership feature table set, which should look awesome in high def. (I fully expect someone will figure out how to replicate the last five minutes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind on that thing before the Series is done.)

Bright lights and forced drama aside, it just feels like Caesar’s is fighting an uphill battle against forces that are out of their control. I mean, when the biggest story of the week is about the player who’s boycotting the WSOP as a big FU to his sponsor, you’ve got some problems on your hands.

It’s way too early to label this year’s WSOP a disappointment, but my hunch is that the suits behind the scenes are getting a little worried about how this year’s Series is going to play on TV and in the press. Without some big names making some deep runs in the next few days, it’s going to be hard for them to convince the general public to pay attention to what’s happening on the felt rather than looking behind the curtain to focus on what’s happening in the courts.

So come on people, lighten up. Sure, you’re playing for a shot at fame, glory and life-changing money, but really, do you have to take things so seriously?


Jon Katkin is a Pokerati contributing editor, industry vet, and aspiring curmudgeon. You can harass him on Twitter @JaKatkin.


  • zero2hero

    Many of the grinders have a chip on their shoulder because their primary source of income was taken away by the government.  Now they have to travel hundreds of miles, double or triple their expenses, be away from their families for longer periods, and play a fraction of their previous volume.  Not to mention the portion of the population that has money tied up on sites and is struggling to survive on a thin roll.  Having all this talent in one place will produce some amazing poker, but you expect us to be a festive mood a couple months after we lost access to global poker economy?  Seriously?