This year my WSOP experience was the first time I ever attended a major poker tournament. Aside from the unfortunate restroom situation (picture 1,800 people taking a break at the same time), it was run spectacularly. The same complement can not be made for the next tournament I had the good fortune of attending: the United States Poker Championship (USPC) at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City.
For anyone who wants to know how not to run a poker tournament, pay attention. Where am I? I will preface my biting criticism by saying that the blind structure for the UPSC’s Main Event was excellent. $20,000 starting chip stack, tiny starting blinds, and ninety minute levels lent itself well to good poker. The biggest problem, however, was that the tournament itself was organized terribly.
From the get-go, it was a jumbled mess. The table numbers were not in plain view, so in order to find their assigned seats, players had to weave between tables, squinting at the placards placed on the felt, all the time bumping into each other. Some tables still had side game action running minutes before the scheduled tournament time, so many players were left holding their seat cards, wondering if that seat even exists.
On top of that, there was a featured table in an arena down the hall, a fact that most players did not even realize until a couple hours into play. One of the most common questions heard during the first level was, “Where is Phil Ivey? I saw him here right before we started.” I had to do some scouting to help players figure out that he was down the hall.
Bring a book. You know how, without fail, you arrive at your doctor’s appointment on time, only to wait another half hour before being seen, and then another fifteen minutes in the exam room? That’s what it was like coming back from every break.
It was bad enough that the breaks between levels were only ten minutes instead of the customary fifteen and the dinner break was only an hour instead of the usual hour and a half, but without fail, the tournament resumed late after every single intermission. And we’re not talking about “just let me finish this last bite of my sandwich” delays. We’re talking “take a shower, pick out an outfit, put it on, check yourself out in the mirror, chose another outfit, try that one on, brush your hair, take the dog out, get stuck in traffic, and still get to the Taj with time to spare” delays. Completely inconsiderate to the players who paid $10,000 for the right to play.