Vegas as a Tourist

I just got back from two strange weeks in Vegas. My Vegas trips are usually all work, sometimes long tournament days, other times playing cash games all night, but not this one. For part of this trip I was talking to venues about the newly launched Pocket Fives Poker Tour, and for a chunk of time in the middle I was a tourist. Yep, a tourist.

I have an old friend from Michigan who I try to take some sort of trip with every year. Sometimes it’s just meeting up in Chicago for a few days of drinking, sometimes it’s a road trip flipping a coin at every major intersection, and this time it was a week in Vegas. My pal, his name is Scott, had never been to Vegas, so I got to be the tour guide for the week.

The biggest thing I learned was that it sucks to be a tourist in Vegas unless you are hell bent on spending tons of cash. Just hanging out and people watching gets pretty expensive at nicer places, though there are always cheap drinks to be had if you find the right spots. We spent an entertaining evening at The Double Down, my favorite bar in Vegas, but you can’t do too many nights in a row at the Double Down before the hangovers start to add up. A trip out to Hoover Damn, walking around the strip, hanging out on Fremont street and watching the crazy people, all entertaining along with a trip to a Vegan doughnut place (Scott is a Vegan but don’t call him a hippy) and a few other destination activities rounded out the week.

The rest of my time was spent in poker rooms all over the city talking to poker managers and tournament directors about hosting an event for the Pocket Fives Poker Tour. I talked to nearly every major room in town and was surprised at how receptive they all were. I had to skip the rooms that Caesars owns because they are not allowed to book tours other than the WSoPC, and we chose to skip the Golden Nugget as well.

The impression that I got from the biggest rooms was that running a big series is a huge hassle for them. Months of waiting for everything to be approved by the legal department, the marketing department, scheduling a space, food and beverage, and hiring extra temporary dealers, all add up to a lot of work and a ton of scheduling. Even with all that, nearly every room I talked to was interested in having us sponsor at least one tournament as part of a series, and a number of them were interested in having us run an entire series. I liked the way one room in particular was excited to work with us and we booked a potential series in October, but we haven’t put pen to paper yet so I can’t announce the venue yet.

I learned that last year’s WSoP, with more daily events and the Carnivale series, really put a hurt on the rest of the city. The Rio covered so many bases that numbers were down everywhere. Players still think that it’s worth waiting in line for two hours to play a daily event, just because everyone else is doing it and they could win $50,000 for a $235 buy-in. They don’t care how high the rake is, how fast the structure is, or how badly they will get soaked for a $13 burrito, they just go stand in line because everyone else is doing it.

The improved schedule at the WSoP hurt other rooms so badly that a number of rooms are considering not having a summer series this year at all. In addition to non-Caesars rooms dropping their summer schedules, Caesars itself will probably be moving it’s series to Planet Hollywood and some of the regular series will be shorter and smaller. This is bad news for poker players. Less competition is always bad, and when it’s The Rio and their terrible customer service, it’s even worse news.

I didn’t book a summer series for Pocket Fives, which was kind of a relief, because I’m tired of spending half my summer in Vegas. I feel like I just go wherever the weather is worst all year long, spending winters in Minnesota and driving around the Midwest and then I head off to Vegas for the summer where it’s 115 degrees every day. I’m not doing another six weeks in Vegas this summer dealing with ridiculous crowds. Maybe three weeks. Maybe.

For more information on the Pocket Fives Tour, follow us on twitter @P5sPt

And yes, the rumors are true, the upcoming Pocket Fives event at Running Aces in April will include an $1,100 buy-in heads up event. I’ll announce when registration will open on the twitter account, and you will want to register early because registration is limited to 32 spots.

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