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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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World Series of Poker a Spectacle to Behold

13 September 2006

The 37th annual World Series of Poker, a gargantuan competition encompassing 45 individual poker tournaments and well over $100 million in total prize money, was held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas this year. The marathon began on June 25 and didn't end until the wee hours of the morning on August 12.

I was in Vegas in early July to check things out and it's truly a sight to behold. The tournament area is in reality a gigantic convention center big enough to accommodate 208 poker tables. What strikes you when you enter is the incessant din of clicking chips, a symphony from the hands of hundreds of gamblers held captive by their own powers of concentration.

The chip ensemble is interrupted only by the periodic verbal agony and ecstasy of players whose fortunes rest on the turn of a card.

Unlike the clandestine high stakes poker games of yesteryear, the 2006 World Series of Poker was an open window for all to see thanks to a large contingent of journalists and up to 25 ESPN television cameras, including one overhead that traveled the length and width of the tournament area.

Interview rooms and studio set locations straight out of Hollywood serve as a reminder that this is no penny-ante entertainment experience but rather a major production that will fuel some 32 hours of prime time television viewing time and weeks of promotion and hype.

Poker is a big time, high profile, mainstream genre of entertainment and a veritable marketing juggernaut, qualities that Harrah's Entertainment foresaw when it purchased Binion's in downtown Las Vegas a few years back: not for the aging, neglected casino that was the tournament's only home but rather for the rights to the World Series of Poker.

It has become the biggest and richest high stakes poker game in history, attracting not only the legends of another time and place but also young up-and-comers who are becoming pop culture icons thanks to the game's exposure on television and its notoriety via Web-based gambling sites.

In what other pursuit can a champion win a prize of $12 million in cash as Jamie Gold did this year when he captured the high profile Main Event, the No Limit Texas Hold'em World Championship?

The competition was fierce. The original field of over 8,000 players in the Main Event was whittled down to around 3,200 players when the first round of play was completed. Two more days of play brought the field down to 1,400. Only about 600 remained after the first week.

The grueling elimination process went on for another five days until the nine players who remained assembled at the coveted final table at 12 Noon sharp on Thursday, August 10, to begin the epic battle of nerves, know-how and of course, luck.

You'll be able to see edited coverage of the entire main event, including the final table, on ESPN every Tuesday evening in prime time through September 26.

The placement of cameras in the rails which allow viewers to see the cards each player is holding were to professional poker on TV what "talkies" were to the motion picture industry. The specially constructed final table used throughout ESPN's coverage this time around includes not only that technology but the added visual dimension of a "rabbit cam" under the table next to the dealer to reveal to viewers the card that would have been dealt next in the event a player folds.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp