I planned the trip to Las Vegas to attend the 2009 WSOP Main Event Final Table back in late July after having followed the WSOP events online from May 27th – July 15th. Before booking the trip I did research on how to get into the WSOP. The general concensus was that you just had to show up and wait in line. And so, it turned out to be.
Getting into the WSOP was easy. Finding information about the schedule was a challenge. The Final Table was scheduled for November 7 – 10. As the date approached, I visited the WSOP website daily looking for the schedule. I asked around at the poker forums and learned that there were many of us waiting for the schedule to be posted. I finally found it at the WSOP website October 30, 2009. The post was dated October 19th. Hummm… I had scoured the site. WSOP did a site upgrade around that time, so, I think it had been posted on a development site and then made live when the upgrade happened. Anyway – if your planning on going, looks like the schedule is posted 1 – 2 weeks prior to the date of the Final Table.
Saturday, Nov. 7 – 9 players play down to 2 starting at Noon
Monday, Nov.9 – 2 players play for the title starting at 10:00pm
9:45 AM Saturday, 11/07/09
Arrived at the Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. Got in line. In about 200th spot.
My waiting spot was diagonally across from the Theater’s entranceway to the right. I was able to see many poker pros enter. Some stopped for photos and to sign autographs (kudos to Greg Raymer and Phil Gordon who were really generous with their time) and others, well, didn’t have the time (who else but Phil Hellmuth – a true Brat). I didn’t get photos of everyone, but, I’ll post the ones that I did get later.
When I got to the other side of the hall, I got in that line. 10 – 15 people were seated at a time. Before getting into the about-to-be seated line, the ticket was taken and my hand was stamped. I was escorted to a section of the Theater and chose a seat.
So once the line started moving at 11:45 AM, it kept moving with small delays in between. I was in a seat in the second balcony (great view) by 12:30 PM and the ceremony started at 12:40 PM. (Yep, later than the scheduled time.) I was seated behind three rows of Begleiter fans all dressed with their Begs Begs Begs t-shirts.
What do you do while waiting in line to get into the WSOP? Take pictures of the poker pros arriving. Here’s photos of some of the poker pros I saw while in line.
Oh yeah – and I made it into ESPN’s coverage of the 2009 Main Event Final Table. Here’s a YouTube video of the intro. I’m in the section where Lon McEachern says that “thousands waited in line…”.
7:00 – 9:00 PM Saturday, 11/07/09
Players were given 2 hours (7PM – 9PM) . The dinner break was interesting. The Theater was emptied. When you return from dinner, you get back in line. There are a number of lines and the one that you wait in depends on the kind of credential you have. If you are a member of a player’s support team or staff or the press, you have a wrist band or lanyard with photo id, and you go right through. If you are the general public with a stamp on your hand, you wait in one line. If you are general public without a stamp on your hand (i.e. never made it into the Theater earlier), you get into a different line. Once all the credentialed folks are seated, the stamped hand spectators are seated, then the never-been-stamped spectators are seated. During the day, I had a seat in the second balcony. After dinner, I was seated in the first balcony…considered a “promotion” I suppose, but the view was not as good, so I was glad I had binoculars.
9:20 PM Saturday, 11/07/09
Poker commissioner, Jeffrey Pollack introduced Mike Sexton the only 2009 inductee into the Poker Hall of Fame. Joining him on stage were former Poker Hall of Famers Doyle Brunson, Jack Binion, Dewey Tomko, Phil Hellmuth, Billy Baxter and T.J. Cloutier.
9:30 PM Saturday, 11/07/09
11:30 PM Saturday, 11/07/09
Left for the day. I had been bobbing my head since 11:00 PM and getting confused about the hands. Since the play was going so slow, I decided to call it a day and return early in the a.m. to catch the rest of the action. Little did I know that all the action would happen between 12:00 AM and 6:00 AM… and then there were two, Cada and Moon.
If you are going to Las Vegas from any distance, make sure you get plenty of sleep the days prior to the WSOP Final Table. I had flown in the day before, got only 4 hours sleep, hadn’t adjusted to the 3-hour time difference, and then couldn’t see straight at 11:30 PM the night the 9 played down to 2. Had I flown in a day earlier and got a decent amount of sleep, I would not have missed any of the action.
Have the taxi take you around the back of the Rio to the Penn & Teller Theater entrance. The waiting line is just inside. It’ll cost you about $1.00 more, but saves on steps and improves your position in line since you’ll get there sooner. (Taxi from the MGM Grand to the Penn & Teller Theater was $16.00 including tip.)
Eat a hearty breakfast before arriving. Bring a light snack and plenty of water. Water at the closest place (Starbucks) was $5.00 a bottle.
Bring binoculars so that you can see close ups of players’ actions and faces.
Bring a camera that does not require a flash. No flash photography allowed. They announced it several times during the afternoon session. Then again during the night session. Then they announced, “This is the final warning about flash photography”. Then they escorted those who broke the rule out the door.
Seating at the Penn & Teller Theater. This PDF is a very close replica of the seating during the 2009 WSOP.