My last WSOP at the Rio

The World Series of Poker is the cornerstone of the poker tournament circuit. Every year tens of thousands of players from all over the world converge on Las Vegas to compete for the most prestigious prize in poker, a WSOP Gold Bracelet. This year was the 50th anniversary of the WSOP and, as you would expect, the Rio did everything possible to live up to the legacy of poker’s premier event. Except they didn’t. 

I love live tournament poker. That’s one of the reasons I moved to Las Vegas. There are lots of great poker rooms here, including the Wynn, Venetian, Aria, Mirage, and my local Red Rock rooms. The Rio is not one of them. The Rio doesn’t even pretend to support poker outside of WSOP season. Even their parent casino, Caesars Palace, downgraded their poker room from its former first-class glory to its current afterthought of a sad, pathetic little room sandwiched between the sports bet and slot-machine floor. 

The Rio remains the most craptastic hotel in Vegas. They have invested nothing beyond the bare minimum in infrastructure for years. Besides the fact that their so-called convention center smells of sewage (literally), the WSOP has simply grown out of the facility. There are more events and more players than can be reasonably accommodated in the provided space. 

Overselling events

Case in point (and the straw that broke this camel’s back): Due to a family emergency I was unable to register in advance for a large event, so I showed up an hour before the event to buy-in. I stood in queue for almost two hours before reaching one of the nine cashiers on hand for the hundreds of players waiting to buy-in.

After paying my fee, I was given an entry slip that said “late entry” (I arrived an hour before start time, but okay) and I was assigned a table, not in the convention center, but in the Rio’s poker room on the casino floor. I spent another twenty minutes navigating the convention center, past hundreds of players waiting for seats in an overcrowded room in the main tournament area, past hundreds more waiting for seats in the auxiliary area just inside the casino, and finally to the poker room where I was told to queue up with about a hundred more players waiting for a seat at one of the two-dozen tables in the poker room overflow area. When I asked how long I could expect to wait for a seat, I was told it would be at least four hours. Yes, that’s not a typo. At least four hours. Four hours would put me at around level 12, sitting down with 24 big blinds. Longer would be worse, and not unlikely.

Yeah, that’s right. They sold me a full-price buy-in so I could stand around for several hours and start the tournament short-stacked. Thanks but no thanks. 

The reality is they vastly oversold the tournament, and it’s not the first time. They do this pretty much every day. And I expect they’ll do the same for the main event. This would be tolerable if they were honest about it, but the cashiers have no idea how bad it is. I returned to the cashier’s cage and talked about it with a supervisor (and had my entry fee refunded). The cashiers simply don’t have any information about tournament capacity. As far as they know, everything is fine. Everything is definitely not fine. 

I’m out for now

That’s why this is my last WSOP until they move to a better facility. Rumors are that the WSOP will move to the new Caesars Forum convention center, scheduled to open next year across the strip, near the Linq and the High Roller. The new convention center will have about ten times the floor space as the Rio, and could easily accommodate the growing WSOP attendance. 

Until then, I will not be returning to the WSOP. 

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