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Best of Gary Trask

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Top 10 reasons every poker fan should attend the WSOP

11 July 2016

LAS VEGAS -- The registration line at the World Series of Poker snaked out of the cage area and spilled into the hallways of the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino on Sunday morning. There were people of all ages, genders, ethnicities and backgrounds. But they all had three things in common: An eager smile, $10,000 in cash and a far-flung hope of winning the 47th annual WSOP Main Event.

Seeing giddy fans posing for pictures is a regular occurrence at the WSOP.

Seeing giddy fans posing for pictures is a regular occurrence at the WSOP.

As players got to the window, they happily unloaded the $10k as they officially punched their tickets into poker's most prestigious tournament. They nodded and grinned when the person accepting their cash wished them good luck, and then they exited the cage area with a blissful hop in their step.

There was exhilaration and anticipation gushing through the veins of each and every one of them. This was their Super Bowl, and it didn't matter that within hours, their dreams may very well be crushed and their bankrolls may be much lighter. At this moment, they had a chip and a prayer.

This is what the WSOP is all about. It's about the average Joe who plays at your monthly home game, nutting up and taking his shot. If you're a poker fan, this is a spectacle you simply must witness firsthand. Sure, it would be great to have the cash lying around to enter, but if not, coming out to Las Vegas and attending the WSOP right around the time of the Main Event is a nice consolation prize.

Don't believe me? Read on as we present 10 elements of attending a WSOP Main Event that will most certainly keep you coming back for more.

10. It's free
Yep, it's gratis. As mentioned above, this is the Super Bowl for poker fans, except you don't have to pay thousands of dollars to enter the building. You can come and go as you please, all day, every day.

Grab an adult beverage, snap some photos of your favorite players and enjoy the mayhem. When you get bored, walk down the hall to the Rio casino or sportsbook. Grab a fajita and margarita at Guy Fieri's new El Burro Borracho restaurant, and come back to the Amazon Room when you're ready for more poker. Come and go as you please. What's better than that?

9. You're in Vegas!
As much fun as it is to attend the WSOP, only an extreme diehard is going to spend all day inside the Rio watching the people play poker. So there's a huge benefit in that the event takes place in Las Vegas.

OK, July isn't an ideal time to come to a destination where it is routinely over 100 degrees each day. But the hotel rooms are usually cheaper this time of year, and there is still plenty to do in Las Vegas during the summer months. Just this past week the city hosted UFC 200, the NBA Summer League and the World Series of Beer Pong (yes, it's a real event). And it's always a comfortable temperature in the casinos, so if you don't want to try and beat the heat, settle in for your own session of poker. Watching the WSOP will certainly give you that urge.

8. The conversations
Whether it's Phil Hellmuth pacing the aisles on his cell phone in between hands, three guys at a table inside the Poker Kitchen, or outside standing in the blazing sun smoking a cigarette, no matter where you turn there are people talking about poker. They contemplate a questionable move and look for reassurance. They grumble about a bad beat. They exult about some good fortune. Keep your ears wide open when roaming the halls of the Rio during the WSOP. You will hear it all.

A trip to the WSOP allows you to watch the mannerisms and antics of top poker pros like Phil Hellmuth.

A trip to the WSOP allows you to watch the mannerisms and antics of top poker pros like Phil Hellmuth.

7. The railbirds
It's an interesting dynamic, watching people watch their spouse/girlfriend/best buddy/kid play in the biggest event of their life.

You will see nervous wives living and dying with every hand. Or, you’ll see bored spouses who know nothing about the game, standing there playing Words With Friends on their iPads. There's the devoted fans who wear matching T-shirts in honor of their friend that say something corny like “Take it Down, Tony!” and take in the action politely like they're at golf match, and then there's the 20-something-year-old's rail that's there just to party. They couldn't care less if their buddy flops a set or is drawing dead. They're searching for a cocktail waitress and looking at their watch, wondering when it's time to catch a ride to the Rhino.

6. International flavor
More nations competed in last year's WSOP than in the 2014 Winter Olympics (111 vs. 88). And of the 6,420 unique players in last year's WSOP Main Event field, 80 different nations were represented. Sure the U.S. had far and away the most players (4,778), but there were also participants from Chad to Chile and Serbia to Slovenia.

This diversity is clearly evident as your stroll around the Rio. One of my favorite things to do is strike up a conversation with an international visitor and ask who they are here to see. It's a treat to hear the different backstories and excitement in their voices.

5. The big names
I arrived in Las Vegas late Friday afternoon and went straight to the Rio. Within five minutes, I got to watch Phil Hellmuth, Daniel Negreanu, Antonio Esfandiari and Fedor Holz work their magic at the poker table. There aren't many other sports or games where you'll get this kind of accessibility to the best players in the world.

4. The celebrities
As a bonus to seeing your favorite poker players in the flesh, there's an array of celebrities out there who share the same passion for poker and have no problem throwing down $10,000 for a chance to compete against the best.

Past WSOP participants range from actors and actresses (Ben Affleck, Don Cheadle, Shannon Elizabeth, Tobey Maguire, Adam Sandler) to professional athletes (Charles Barkley, Jose Canseco, and the two ex-NFL stars we saw earlier this week) to musicians and comedians (Nelly, Cedric the Entertainer, George Lopez).

Most of the time these celebs are relaxed and happy to be somewhere other than their particular line of work, so they are typically more than happy to chat or take a picture with you, if you're smart and pick your spots.

3. Gaining perspective
OK, admit it. You've watched more hours of Norm and Lon on the ESPN coverage over the years than you'd like to admit. You deserve to sit at the ESPN featured table area and experience it live, rather than from your couch. Just like when you get to a ballpark or football stadium for the first time and then watch a game on TV from that venue a few weeks later, getting to see the WSOP in person gives you the kind of perspective that you can't get anywhere else.

One of the best parts of attending a WSOP is the chance to watch an event inside the featured table area.

One of the best parts of attending a WSOP is the chance to watch an event inside the featured table area.

2. Watching and learning
One way to take advantage of the "user-friendly" atmosphere of the WSOP is by zeroing on different players and watching how they play the game. This is far better than poker on TV, because you get to see how the players handle themselves at the table or kill time between hands. You get to see their mannerisms from literally a few feet away.

On Monday morning, I stood and watched Phil Ivey play a few hands, and I don't think he said one word the entire time. His mere presence was intimidating, and you could sense that from his opponents. The polar opposites are Hellmuth and Negreanu. They don't shut up. And the entertainment factor is off the charts.

You'll also realize what a grind the game of poker can be, and if you pay close enough attention, you'll learn about the different styles of play. Take notice and you might just become a better poker player as a result of your trip to the WSOP.

1. The wide eyes
Going back to my story at the top of this article, it's truly fascinating to watch and be around people who are living their ultimate dream. Every year there are multiple stories that come out of the WSOP Main Event that are heartwarming and compelling.

A lifetime tennis fan isn't about to get a chance to take on Serena Williams on the grass courts at Wimbledon. Hoop fans have no chance to play 3-on-3 against Steph Curry, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. But the WSOP provides the opportunity to sit down and play the game against poker Hall of Famers, Main Event champs and celebrities. That kind of excitement can be contagious, even if it's not you sitting at the table. And that certainly makes it well worth the price of admission — which, of course, is free (see No. 10).
Top 10 reasons every poker fan should attend the WSOP is republished from CasinoVendors.com.
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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT