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Dan Podheiser

Dan  Podheiser

Dan Podheiser has covered the gambling industry since 2013, but he has been an avid poker player for more than a decade, starting when he was just 14 years old. When he turned 18, he played online poker regularly on U.S.-friendly sites until Black Friday in April 2011.

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2015 WSOP Main Event kicks off with lackluster atmosphere

5 Jul 2015

By Dan Podheiser
The Main Event of the World Series of Poker is the most heralded poker tournament of the year. Thousands of players flock to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino every year to take part in an experience that is, for many, a once-in-a-lifetime endeavor.

But as the 2015 Main Event kicked off with Day 1A on Sunday afternoon, the atmosphere was, well, lackluster. It didn’t feel like the Main Event of the World Series of Poker. It felt like the next tournament on a long docket of events.

The Main Event is the final event of the summer at the WSOP. It’s the one that everyone cares about. If you’re a pro, and you’ve bricked every flop at the Rio for the past six weeks, you can turn it all around with a deep run in the Main. If you’re a recreational player, simply making the money is enough to carry bragging rights in your home game.

Day 1A of the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event kicked off with all players in the Brasilia room at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.

Day 1A of the 2015 World Series of Poker Main Event kicked off with all players in the Brasilia room at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. (photo by Dan Podheiser/Casino City)

Sure, the other 67 World Series of Poker events are meaningful. If poker is a sport, its scoreboard accounts for tournament wins and cashes, and especially WSOP bracelets.

But the Main Event is the gold standard, and should be treated as such. It’s bothersome, then, that it doesn’t get the main stage to itself.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a realist. I understand that there’s still plenty of side action to be played at the Rio and that Caesars and the WSOP have every right and prerogative to run as many games as possible while the series is still going on. I understand that, on Sunday, there were still three WSOP final tables, dozens of Main Event satellites, Daily Deepstack events and cash games to be played. That is what makes the WSOP so great – if you’re at the Rio, there’s a game 24/7.

But the Main Event should take precedence to any other game. That’s why I, like many others, was irked when the WSOP ran Daily Deepstacks in the Amazon Room right alongside the final few tables of the 2014 Main Event. And this year, I’m equally turned off by the entirety of Day 1A being played in Brasilia, the “silver medalist” of the three Rio convention spaces.

The tournament began with very little fanfare. Donnacha O’Dea, an Irish poker pro who has played every Main Event since 1982, delivered the famous “Shuffle up and deal!” message to start the day. Quite frankly, I’ve never heard of Donnacha O’Dea. And maybe that’s because I’m not as much of a poker insider as I thought – but I’m guessing I’m in the majority, especially amongst the recreational players enjoying the Main Event as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

It felt like business as usual in Brasilia throughout the day – another poker tournament in a long summer of poker tournaments.

That should be a bad sign for WSOP officials. As Casino City Editor-in-chief Vin Narayanan wrote last summer, the WSOP needs to do a better job of rebranding the Main Event as a “bucket list item” to attract new players. I wholeheartedly agreed with Vin’s column at the time, and I still feel that way now. Sadly, Day 1A of the 2015 Main Event did little to help the WSOP’s cause in that regard.

Like I said, I’m a realist. I understand that Day 1A is always the smallest field of the three starting flights by a mile. I understand that many of the game’s biggest names and the movie stars and athletes probably won’t show up until Monday and Tuesday.

But I didn’t get that Main Event vibe on Sunday afternoon at the Rio. It might just be me, but I’m willing to bet I wasn’t alone.
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