Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Harrah's PR Asks Poker Writers for Input on the WSOP

There are mailing lists, and then there are mailing lists. Quite a few (if not all) of the folks who hung around the media room at the WSOP last summer --- preventing Dr. Pauly from having to eat too many stale sandwiches, among other deeds --- have now received a request for input on their media experiences at last year's WSOP.

It was basically top-level stuff, an exercise in politeness if nothing else, or perhaps an effort to see if the items that a few writers made loud noise about are indeed of universal concern to those who attended.

I mean, writers don't always tell you about the good stuff, like how easy the access was most of the time (more on this in a bit), and how open and helpful the Rio's support staff was, from the tournament directiors right down to the security guards. It was my first big poker event, but I've done plenty of other shindigs, and while there were a few big problems, as always, most of the stuff was done well. The wireless access worked as promised. The main media room was secure. The basic needs were close by, and there was always, at the very least, coffee, soda and water available. Good enough. I can work with this.

Yes, the access for red-badged types sucked when the field narrowed, something that Harrah's is well aware of. Earl Burton commented that it was like being allowed to cover the first three quarters of a football game, but not being able to stay for the end... an apt metaphor, at that. Harrah's will always have to do a juggling act as long as they ink 'priority' coverage deals with preferred media such as ESPN and Card Player. But that's nothing I can change. It remains a privately-owned event and it is sold as one, and questionable media tactics or not, it is what it is. I don't expect anything but a corporate shuck from Harrah's in a situation like that, so I wasn't disappointed.

Little stuff. The media room was well-stocked and functional, but way, way too small. It was a third too cramped a week before the WSOP even started, and while Harrah's did open an auxiliary media room, the wireless 'Net access was spotty there. It was also mukluk country, often somewhere below 60 degrees, and worst of all, it was in the main corridor with a security guard only rarely on duty outside, and few or no writers within. At least one camera was stolen during the WSOP, and I had no desire to add my newly-purchased laptop to the list: On several occasions during the main event, I lugged the new laptop down to the main media room, leaving it somewhere behind C.C.'s set-up as I went out on the floor to hunt for stories. I'd find something, go back to media central to fetch my laptop, then lug it back to the other room a couple of hundred yards away to do my work.

It was necessary. After the main event started, if one didn't show up at 7 a.m. to grab one of the few "floater" spots in the main media room, then the only options were the auxiliary room or a seat in the main hallway, resorted to by dozens of writers. That wasn't so great, even for newbies such as me.

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