By Simon Young
On the television sets in every Las Vegas hotel room there’s a tourist channel that tells stories of the city’s legends. One I watched only last night featured the rise, rise, fall and then rise again of singing sensation Wayne Newton, whose cheeky face when he was a kid propelled him to stardom. Now somewhat older, but just as chirpy (well a bit croaky, actually), he still looked every inch the star as he officially started the WSOP Main Event.
Marched into the Amazon Room at the Rio hotel by an eye-popping collection of spangly beauties, Mr Newton grabbed the mic and spoke of his passion for Vegas – “My city” – before saying he hoped everybody made loads of money, then uttering the customary “Shuffle up and deal”.
The whoops rang out around the aircraft-hangar-sized room as more than 1,500 starters in Day 1A (there are four Day 1s to accommodate the size of the field), got down to the serious business of playing poker. And it is serious – someone will walk away with an estimated $8 million for being the last survivor of this marathon.
They all start with 20,000 chips with a mouth-watering, slow clock that nudges up the blinds only every two hours. Despite that, the first faller was collecting his coat after only 20 minutes.
Richard Goerner: looking forward to his WSOP debut
PartyPoker has a fair few players here today. We mentioned John Webley in our previous post – and he was spotted after the first hour keep out of danger with his stack intact.
Also here is our qualifier Richard Goerner, 29, who lives near Dresden in Germany. He’s just finished his economics degree, and admits his head for numbers helps his poker game. He’s brought his fiancee, Christina, with him to Vegas, and although no wedding date is set yet, it will be soon if he cashes big here.
Richard, who plays on PartyPoker as MrRichy, got his bumper package to Vegas after spending just $14 on one of our satellites. “I was really pleased to get here,” he said. “It is my second time in Vegas, but I have never played the Main Event before.”
Looking relaxed at the table: Richard Goerner
This is my fourth year at the WSOP, and each year the sheer scale of the Main Event never fails to impress. Dealing with such large number of players – let alone the hoards of spectators – can’t be the simplest job in the world.
Many big names of the poker world are playing today’s flight. So far spotted: Barry Greenstein, Dan Harrington, Scotty Nguyen, the UK’s Dave “Devilfish” Ulliot, and Freddy Deeb. And as I walked down the corridor outside the main playing arena I bumped into Jerry Yang, winner of last year’s Main Event, proudly showing off his bracelet.
I’m off for another tour of the playing area. Such is the size of this place, it could take some time. In the meantime, if you’re curious about Wayne Newton, then you can watch a bio of him here.