The WSOP: Do You Remember the First Time?

TAGs: craig mccorkell, Lee Davy, Poker tournament, seth palansky, Victoria Coren, world series of poker, WSOP

Lee Davy wants to know if you remember your first World Series of Poker (WSOP) and if the subsequent years have brought less sparkle and more frustration?

The WSOP: Do You Remember the First Time?Do you remember the first time? I can’t remember a worse time?

Those two sentences are lyrics taken from the Pulp classic Do You Remember the First Time?

A song about losing your virginity.

I’m not about to say that poker is better than sex, but I do want to pinch Jarvis Cocker’s lyrics to ask you a question about the World Series of Poker (WSOP).

Do you remember the first time?

Unless you have been fortunate enough to win a Hummer’s load of cash, and bracelets, in the procession of years that followed, I assume that it was a quite unmatchable experience?

I know mine was.

The 45th Annual WSOP is my fourth consecutive year. I know I have barely grown any WSOP pubes, but you have to start somewhere.

During my first visit I stayed in a mansion with eight of the UK’s finest proponent’s of the art. We even had a butler, and he was bloody good as well.

I had money that year, so I decided to play a little and work a little. I started terribly and did my bollocks, also relapsed and drank alcohol for the first time in three years. Dirty Disneyland had sucked me in, but I loved every day of it.

From an enjoyment perspective each year has been progressively uninspiring, and I didn’t even want to come out here this year. The thoughts of fun and fancy-free frolics had been replaced with the difficulty of trying to do my job whilst living in someone else’s home, and in a foreign country.

As Cocker sang in the song that started this thing off.

“But you know that we’ve changed so much since then, oh yes we’ve grown.”

And the Sheffield songsmith does have a very good point.

Perhaps, I am just getting old?

And yet I am not the only one to think like this.

When Neil Channing started coming out to the WSOP Calvin Anderson was still reading Jack and Jill, and yet we won’t be hearing the dulcet tones of the man who has come so close to winning a WSOP bracelet on several occasions.

Although Channing has other business interests that require his attention back home, plus a whole host of sporting events he would rather not miss. The former Irish Open Champion insists that one of his reasons for not boarding a flight is the attitude of some of the professional players when communicating (or not) with the recreational players.

Channing wants these so-called pros, to act like pros, instead of being ignorant runts.

He is not alone in his thoughts.

Victoria Coren is a lady who is running so hot she has to wear asbestos underwear, and yet she is not coming out to the WSOP. Just like Channing she has her own personal reasons (like her man not having anything to do in the middle of a desert) and yet she echoes some of Channing’s concerns.

Coren points to her past few experiences and believes the decision to move to the Rio – albeit a necessary one – has turned what was once a wonderful social experience into nothing more than a pain in the arse.

Once again Coren wants the pros to act like pros when she says, “Poker is full of people who were ignored or overlooked at school, because they (we) weren’t cool enough or didn’t look right. Half the joy of discovering the poker world is that those stupid old rules don’t apply. Nobody fits in, so everybody fits in.”

And where’s the Hendon Poker Mob?

Barny Boatman is in town, no doubt buoyed by his 2013 victory, but brother Ross has chosen to stay in good Old Blighty to pursue an acting role, Joe Beevers has said he just, “can’t get excited about flying 6,000 miles to play poker every day for a few weeks. It seems like a chore;” and Ram Vaswani left the community a long time ago, although don’t be surprised to see him pop up for the $50k PPC and the Main Event.

I know what you are thinking?

A bunch of old fossils complaining about life passing them by.

But it’s not like that.

In recent conversations with many young folk, they also talked about the lack of sparkle as the years move on. For many of them, they will still continue to come despite the matt finish, because it’s like school sports day when you are a parent: it’s on so you have to be there.

But as each year rolls on, we lose a few more players. Bored, angry, frustrated or just plain broke like the eight lads I stayed with in my first year, only one of which I saw as the first 30 events got underway.

Speaking to Jeff Lisandro, and the multiple WSOP bracelet winner told me that his experience is being affected by the lack of atmosphere in the Rio.

He also expressed a concern that the WSOP were not looking after the media, the spectators or the players. He complained of a lack of food, one night, when deep in a mixed game event, had issues with the morgue like presence in the Amazon Room coupled with the decision to turn out the lights above the Thunderdome.

“Poker has taken a nose dive in the past three years, and I blame the organizers. They aren’t giving enough back.” Said Lisandro.

WSOP bracelet winner, Craig McCorkell, was also complaining about the lack of atmosphere at the final table, because the spectators couldn’t see, or hear, the action because the stand is so far back, and the TV screens are so small.

I reached out to Seth Palansky and shared these views with him, and this is what he had to say.

“Our poker kitchen remains open until 2 am, which is after the last break of the latest bracelet event we hold, and the conclusion of all other events.  This has seemed to work well for the players and we haven’t received any other complaints about this.  Of course, there are dining options in the casino area that are 24 hours, so getting food at our venues have never been difficult.

We feel we provide the biggest stage, the biggest spotlight and the most attention on the game of poker in the business.  We live stream almost all bracelet events, the ESPN stage is the biggest in the business and we give players an opportunity to play there. We have live reporting from each and every event.  We allow spectators free access to come rail our events.  And there is cocktail service for those who want to partake.

We understand that not everyone can make it to the WSOP every year and that is okay.  We do our very best in organizing and running this event and ensuring that it is a positive experience for anyone who interacts with it.  We certainly can’t please 100 percent of the people all of the time, but considering the 200,000 entries across the WSOP throughout the summer and the awarding of over $200 million in prize money, it hurts us to hear some of these comments, and it will help motivate us to continue to better the offering and experience for our guests.

Some of this feedback seems directed at the players and the way they behave.  We believe our rules strike the right balance for fun and ensuring integrity of the events considering the stakes at risk.”

I think that’s a fair shout.

The WSOP is a huge affair, and with over 200,000 people getting involved, Palansky is right, you can’t please them all. For every Neil Channing, who is finding it all a little too much, you have a Brandon Shack Harris who likes the series better than Christmas.

For me, it’s something that is always going to be in my life. Like sex, once I did it, I just wanted to do it again. Some experiences are messier than others, some are sexier, sassier, some are more lacklustre, some are just mechanic and every now and then you come across a frigid bag of cement.

So what about you?

Do you remember the first time, and has your experience changed so much since then?


views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of