Daniel Negreanu was one of numerous professional poker players worried about the World Series of Poker’s move to the Strip.
Since 2005, the event was held at the Rio Convention Center, and making participants break from their long-standing routines was a risk.
“I was concerned it would be a little bit of a (expletive) show this first time,” Negreanu said. “But it’s pretty flawless so far. Everyone seems to love it.”
One week into the WSOP’s run at its new headquarters in Paris Las Vegas and Bally’s, the change has drawn wide praise from a notoriously fickle group of men and women.
There is no doubt the new venue at the WSOP is better then the RIO. It exceeded all expectations, and I’m excited to play this summer and years to come. ? #wsop
— Joseph Cada (@JoeCada99) June 2, 2022
There have been a few hiccups along the way, which tournament officials acknowledge is to be expected with an event this size.
But with more floor space spread over the two properties compared to the Rio, along with additional dining and entertainment options available, players are quickly adjusting to their new surroundings.
“I think originally there was a lot of pushback from the poker community about moving. But I think people are just afraid of change,” poker pro and broadcast analyst Maria Ho said. “Now that we’re in here, I love it. And being on the Strip makes this event feel a little bit more exciting and elevated.”
Caesars Entertainment, which owns the WSOP, sold the Rio in 2019 and announced the event’s move to the Strip in November.
The new location uses the spacious Paris Ballroom along with the Grand Ballroom and Event Center at Bally’s to house almost 600 poker tables for tournaments, satellites and cash games.
The additional square footage has been necessary, as poker’s popularity enjoyed a resurgence during the coronavirus pandemic.
Dealer quality at the beginning of @WSOP is literally the best it’s ever been (since I’ve been coming)
— Randy Ohel (@randyohel) June 3, 2022
The $1,500 buy-in Omaha Hi-Lo 8 or Better tournament last week had 1,067 entrants, breaking a record for the event set in 2014.
“The flow of the operation seems to be working pretty well,” WSOP vice president Jack Effel said Saturday. “We’re getting tested right now over the weekend with the numbers of people coming in for the first time. We’re learning a lot of stuff.
“Every day seems to be better than the last. From my standpoint, huge success so far. I’m highly optimistic for what’s to come over the next several weeks.”
One of the most commonly heard compliments from players thus far is the temperature at the new location after years in the meat locker known as the Rio’s Amazon Room.
Ironically, there was an issue with the air conditioning at Bally’s on Saturday that led to some complaints about it being too hot.
The well-lit playing rooms are another positive, according to players, and there have been few issues with parking so far.
Want to put some positivity out there: @WSOP has been very well run and prepared to begin the series. The cage, dealers, staff, cards: all exceeding expectations. Well done.
— Daniel Zack (@Dan__Zack) June 2, 2022
However, the “Housewarming” event provided an opportunity for WSOP staff to see where the “pain points” are, Effel said.
The tournament was delayed more than an hour the first day following a mishap with the playing chips at one table during the color-up break. The registration lines also curled out the door for much of the weekend.
“It’s OK to see a line as long as the line is moving,” Effel said. “Other than normal things that come with just being busy and having a lot of people waiting to get in, I haven’t seen any major issues that are not able to be overcome.”
The WSOP runs through July 20 and has a handful of events remaining on the schedule that are expected to attract massive fields to Paris and Bally’s.
The $10,000 buy-in World Championship Main Event is set to begin July 3.
“It’s a luxurious environment to play poker in, and also just a break, a change, a new environment,” British poker pro Sam Grafton said. “For those of us that never managed to win a bracelet at the old place, it seems like a fresh opportunity.”