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WPT Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic 2009, Day 1
CEO "Rocket Boy" 12.14.2009


City Center vs. Bellagio
I didn't spend too much time at Bellagio railing day 1, but I did do a fair amount of gawking at the new City Center next door. The place is absolutely enormous. It's so big that it has its own police and fire departments. The porte cochère is big enough to service a medium-sized airport.


And, in keeping with that theme, the interior of the complex's shopping mall, The Crystals, looks kind of like an airport. But bigger. It's impersonal, vastly larger than human scale, and you need to do a lot of walking to find the luxury goods you crave. Weirdly, The Crystals looks far bigger on the inside than on the outside.


It also seems like no right angles were allowed. Almost all surfaces are curved or intersect at some angle other than 90 degrees. There are many amusing touches, like person-sized plastic cylinders full of swirling water, enormous stalagmites of ice rising out of a glassy pool of water, and some organic "bird's nest" themed lounge areas.


During the day, City Center is a gelatinous non-rectilinear jumble. Its translucence changes its look with the angle of the sun, which can be rather unflattering. And the wildly angled Crystals suggest that the Veer leaning towers might have partially collapsed into a jagged pile. With high-end brand names slapped on the bigger chunks.


But at night, City Center comes alive. Lighting effects transform its ungainliness into a coherent, shimmering preview of the future. It's what you might expect SF or LA to look like in 100 years.


Thus, taking the high-tech cable car tram to Bellagio or Monte Carlo makes you feel like a time traveler. Arriving at Bellagio gives you the impression that you've been transported from the future back to the past. Because Bellagio has remained pretty much the same since it opened in 1998. And that's perfectly OK. Bellagio creates the aura of an old world resort on Lake Como in Italy. Much like its real-life namesake, which hasn't changed much either.


Bellagio was arguably the first of the mega-resort-casinos on The Strip. Since 1998, there have been two newer generations of mega-resort-casinos. The Wynn might be considered the first of those. It upped the ante in luxury but otherwise was almost the exact opposite of Bellagio.

Bellagio: Italian lakeside villa.
Wynn: bronzed glass monolith.

Bellagio: dancing waters visible by the masses.
Wynn: walled off so only guests can see the water show.

Bellagio: enormous tasteful lobby, conservative old world décor.
Wynn: cramped lobby, wildly baroque décor.

You get the idea.

And City Center is yet another generation beyond Bellagio and Wynn. It doesn't have a golf course or an artificial lake. But it raises the bar way above Wynn or anything else on The Strip. Because it's not just a single hotel plus casino. The sheer number of deluxe hotel rooms, condos, shops, spas, restaurants, etc. is pretty much what you would expect for $11 billion in construction on a single city block.

And if it had opened 4 or 5 years ago, City Center's investors might have already made much of that money back. But the U.S. recession and financial problems with Dubai World, the major investor, have made owners MGM Mirage reach for the Rolaids.

I'll take a look at Aria, which opens in two days, and maybe a few of the other properties in City Cener if time allows.

WPT at Bellagio Day 1
Attendance is down more than 40%, from 497 last year to about 292 this year. Registration is open until day 2, so you can bring your $15,400 and sign up on the 15th. Just think of all the bad beats you could avoid by skipping day 1! We'll see if anyone joins the party late.

Day 1 action at the Fontana lounge

Justin Bonomo and Isaac Haxton being interviewed by Amanda Leatherman

Joe Sebok being interviewed

I'll be back at Bellagio tomorrow, so stay tuned...

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