World Series of Poker a reminder Las Vegas has long been a “big-league” city By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports September 29, 2021 at 8:30 pm The Golden Knights, the Raiders, NASCAR – maybe one day even the Athletics. In 2021, the sports world fully recognizes Las Vegas as a big-league city. Of course, that’s something locals and knowledgeable visitors have known for decades. From major boxing events and Grand Prix races to the dearly departed National Finals Rodeo and professional golf tournaments, Las Vegas has long been the site of over-the-top sports extravaganzas. For more than a generation, it has provided the glitzy setting for such memorable events. The World Series of Poker deserves its own seat at the final table of any mention of the legacy of Las Vegas sports. From its earliest days at Binion’s Horseshoe Club downtown to the crush of activity in store starting Thursday at the 52nd annual WSOP at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, it’s a marathon of skill and guile. Players in multiple events – 88 in all, with 10 more online – might feel liked they’ve finished a marathon by the time the Main Event ends on Nov. 23. It figures to once again live up to its reputation as not only the longest-running event in the world, but the richest as well. Courtesy WSOP It will be the first time since 2019 that the full WSOP will be held in person. Due to the pandemic, last year’s tournament wisely started online and culminated in a Main Event win by Damian Salas. The tournament itself continues to evolve from its colorful days in a smoke-filled poker room with spectators and a handful of reporters standing around straining to get a gander at the action. Characters helped sell the Binion’s bouts and more than half a century later, there’s still no shortage of them. Times and technology have changed. Poker, whether online or in person, has mushroomed into its own industry and has long enjoyed a level of public acceptance that legalized sports betting has gained only in recent years. This year, CBS Sports, in conjunction with PokerGO, will feature more than 50 hours of WSOP coverage, including 15 hours during the Main Event. The network reminds nostalgia buffs that it was the first to provide the WSOP a worldwide stage. This year’s Main Event will justly receive the majority of the coverage, but some will undoubtedly take a sentimental interest in the Poker Hall of Fame Bounty on Nov. 17 with its $1,979 buy-in and appearances by many of the greats. Hall-of-Famer Doyle Brunson is 87. Unlike those baseball old-timers’ games, these players can still get around the bases and put the best of the new generation through their paces. It all starts with Thursday morning’s Casino Employees $500 No-Limit Hold ‘em event. When it began back in 1970, Las Vegas was a very different place. Outside of the nation’s horse and dog tracks, the legal end of the gambling world was limited to Nevada and increasingly defined by what happened in Las Vegas. Year after year, the WSOP changed the image of gambling in America. Final Table of the 2019 World Series of Poker’s Main Event/Courtesy WSOP A decade or so later, the great writer A. Alvarez again expanded the nation’s card-playing consciousness with the publication of The Biggest Game in Town. The characters and subculture of the WSOP came to life at a whole new level. Now that I’ve mentioned Alvarez, let me add a little of his view of the green felt where he spent so much of his time: “I could think of worse ways of going than at a poker table.” He also had something to say to those who planned to “try their luck” at the big poker tournament. “I absolutely don’t believe in anything. Full stop. Including luck.” And a personal favorite: “The fact that we write about it doesn’t mean we play better than ordinary players at all.” In big-league Las Vegas, the number of games has grown. For the next seven weeks, few of the rest will rival the action at the Rio. After all these years, it’s still the biggest game in town.