Well, as you can probably guess, I was not able to to connect to the 'net from my hotel room. Unfortunately, I hadn't signed up for AOL yet and so had no local number for an ISP to call to connect through. Given that Tunica is in the middle of nowhere, there may be no local number anyway.
We left around 6:30 a.m. Thursday for the four-hour drive to Tunica because we wanted to arrive early to ensure a seat in that afternoon's $200 limit hold'em tournament at the Grand Casino. The Grand's Grand American Poker Classic may best be described as the red-headed stepchild of the World Poker Open over at the Shoe (that's a self-given nickname by the PR flacks at The Horseshoe, not some crazy creation of my own.) The buy-ins are less and the entries are limited to 240 at the GAPC so get in early or get left out. As it turns out there were still plenty of entries available when we signed up at 11:30 a.m. Limit just doesn't have the same luster as no limit after the TV craze.
In an attempt to get the tournament over earlier and get players in the live games where the casino really makes its money, tournament officials shortened the levels and increased the blinds at a greater rate than last year. Whereas the 2004 GAPC tournies would start at 4 p.m. and end around 12 to 1 a.m., the ones this year lasted probably around five hours. But I really wouldn't know since I got put out after a couple of hours on a river beat. I'll spare you the details, but I will say the guy who put me out (one of about five fellow Tuscaloosa players in the tournament) had, as I recall, 13 outs on the river. My friend Lane was eliminated shortly afterwards and we headed over to the Horseshoe.
The World Poker Open is quickly becoming a monster. The tournament was initiated by the Horseshoe, but due to the problem of the casino's ballroom not being located over water as state law requires for any gaming activity, the Shoe partnered with the Gold Strike next door. The main tournament area is located in the Gold Strike ballroom and even that is now proving not to be large enough. Lane and I walked up to the ballroom to try and play some satellites for the next day's $500 NL hold'em tourney and found lines that would make Disneyworld blanch. A line to enter into the $500 tournament stretched about the length of a football field, from the desk at one end of the ballroom, out the door and through the hall to another room that serves as a lobby for the concert hall. People waiting to play satellites stood in a line at the back of the ballroom that snaked all the way to the front. I recalled the WPO being busy in 2004, but I would gauge there to be at least twice as many people around for this one. The growing popularity of the game is amazing.
We were finally able to get into a 10-20 game at the Shoe and cemented ourselves to our seats, for a man would leave a game at his own peril. The lists to get in many games at either casino were 100 or more people long and even though there might be many tables dedicated to a certain limit, I heard of people waiting for seven hours or more for a seat.
I walked back over to the WPO tournament area at 3 a.m. and was able to hop right into a $120 satellite. Even though the NL tourney had sold out (at 1110 entries and 400 alternates -- that's right -- 400 alternates) I hoped to win a buy-in chip for the Saturday limit tourney and an extra to sell. I figured also that I could chop half the chips if I made the final two. But I finished 4th and my perfect run of satellite wins at the WPO ended (3 for 3 at the 2004 one.) I was too lucky in 2004.
Before I left for the evening and went to bed I heard the story of some unlucky souls who stood in line for four hours to buy in to the NL tourney and were turned away by tournament officials who said it would fill up. A few hours later, officials decided to form another line for alternates. There were some steaming people after they heard about that. It was apparent after the first day that the casinos had not adequately planned for the poker masses that had descended upon them.
Another thing that puzzles me is the crowds at Tunica compared to those who went to the World Poker Finals at Foxwoods in Connecticut. The $500 buy-in tournies at Foxwoods did not fill up and the crowds were not as large as those in Tunica, where the tournaments were overflowing. This despite Foxwoods' location within four hours of Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Do Southerners have more affection for poker than Yanks?