In modern usage, the terms “pilgrim” and “pilgrimage” have developed to include sites of secular importance. For example, fans of Elvis Presley may choose to visit his home, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee. Visits to war memorials such as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial are often seen as pilgrimages. Similarly one may refer to a cultural center such as Venice as a “tourist Mecca”.

In the poker world, since 1970, the annual pilgrimage is a trip to the World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas, Nevada. Las Vegas during the WSOP is certainly the Mecca of poker. For many years that meant Binion’s Horseshoe in downtown Las Vegas but in 2005 all but the final two days were moved to the Rio where the WSOP is now held. Our modern day pilgrimages are to the Rio and Las Vegas in general.

The last decade has seen poker explode onto the scene of popular culture and gain mainstream acceptance. The 2000 WSOP main event featured a then record number of players at 512 far eclipsing the previous record of 393 from the year before. The 2006 WSOP main event at the height of the internet boom featured 8773 players. The U.S. government got involved in passing legislation to hamper online poker and eliminating direct registration by online poker sites and the number of players in the main event has been between six and seven thousand for the last three years.

I am sure the economic downturn in the United States has affected the number of players at the WSOP for the last couple years and will have an effect this year also. On the other hand, Harrah’s has lowered the buy-in on several of the preliminary events this year to $1000 and those events should be popular. The Rio will be swarming with people for the WSOP. The biggest change is the number of people coming to the WSOP just to look around and see the guys they watch on television. The professional players are now signing autographs and being treated as celebrities.

The 2010 WSOP begins May 28 and runs until July 17 requiring the professional players to stay for 51 days with the final table of the main event returning in November. The cost to stay at the Rio for the entire time from May 27 to July 17 had I chosen to book the room would have been around $8000. I guess Nevada law only allows stays at hotels to be a maximum of 28 days. I am cheap and I have a job so I will pick and choose when I show up for specific events during the WSOP making two or three drives over to Las Vegas and I will stay in rooms I get comped at Hooters, New York New York or the Riviera. I am sure Phil Hellmuth will spend twenty or thirty grand to stay at Bellagio.

There are two weeks before the WSOP begins and I can honestly say that my plans are not firm at the moment. I have yet to call and book my room for June 4-6 for my first visit to Las Vegas and the first event I want to play this year. I am slowly rounding up my team and getting the plan together. Poker players in general are a last minute and rather flaky group so all plans are dynamic and very conceptual in nature.

I will depart from work on Thursday and return to work Tuesday unless I have made a really deep run in the event I am playing the final table on Tuesday or I played so late Monday night that I want to drive home on Tuesday. I guess the strategy is to call in Monday and let the boss know I am in the money and will not be coming to work on Tuesday.

I do own a time share in Las Vegas and could book it for a couple weeks during the WSOP and just live there and play poker for a couple of weeks. I have enough vacation built up to do just that but I still try to keep a balance in my life and I take the wife to stay in the time share for a week at a time and we have a real vacation.

Before anyone jumps on me for the religious undertones of this story I have to tell you that there will be plenty of praying going on at the poker tables during the WSOP.



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